Kultursenatorin Prof. Barbara Kisseler: Creating space for creativity – Promoting culture as business promotion

Culture and creativity are playing an increasingly important role for many cities as a social and economic factor, for major successes often result from a fleeting idea.

Business and culture – two incompatible worlds that collide? On the one hand, if subscribing to the idea of journalist Thomas Steinfeld, who wrote in the Süddeutsche Zeitung news­­paper:

“Subjugating culture to a strictly economic approach equalises it; it transforms every single cultural performance and service into a contribution to future added value. This robs culture of its best attribute, specifically the triumph over the existing; propelling culture beyond the bare essentials.”

This is a perspective that – especially for me as an “advocate of culture” and proponent of the state promoting culture – is certainly legitimate. On the other hand, one can follow the opinion of cultural scientist Nina Johanna Haltern, who describes avant-garde culture as the origin of creativity with economic ex­ploitation. In short, economics and culture are often at odds, but they depend on one another; they can benefit from each other, and they are more closely intertwined than would appear at first glance.

Culture and creativity play an increasingly important role as social and economic factors for a city. The reputation of regions and cities due to their creative potential has become, in some cases, an economic factor in it­self, because this attracts creative industrial and commercial enterprises, which are generally very growth and labour intensive. At the same time, creative mi­lieus establish their own environment which is attractive for domestic and international tourists as well as for residents of the city, and which makes the city especially liveable.

The creative industry is often an innovations pioneer. This not only refers to technological innovations, but also to social, procedural and cultural innovations: When observing current developments, especially in an urban context, one recognises that the culture and creative sector in particular frequently develop and pursue models that are also relevant for other areas of social life. The creative sector is heterogeneous and compartmentalised and highlights the most diverse issues. At the centre of it all are often highly motivated persons who move about the interfaces of various disciplines. This is also re­flected in the numbers: turnover and employment figures are impressive: approximately 87,000 people work in Hamburg’s creative industry, who generate an annual turnover totalling almost 11 billion euros (in 2013). The majority of the turnover comes from the software/games industry, which is an important submarket for the creative in­dustry; and: life is good for the creative industry in Hamburg.

Providing a significant contribution to this are the cultural-political stimuli for expanding the creative industry’s infrastructure. Changing framework conditions result in creative minds being able to establish themselves in ways not possible a few years ago. The Senate of Hamburg established the municipal institution, Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft, whose primary objective is to improve the framework conditions for the creative industry in Hamburg, thereby contributing to creating and securing jobs in this young, but constantly expanding business sector. This is achieved through offers to students and graduates, consulting and coaching, advanced education offers, information on financing and funding options as well as networking formats.

In addition, the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft supports creatives in one aspect that is of particular relevance in Hamburg: finding affordable work and studio spaces and brokering favourable rental agreements. The city is not as large and spacious as Berlin is, for example. The square metre prices for downtown areas are extremely high and larger spaces for creative work are rare.

On the one hand, the creative industry; on the other hand, the objective of developing and strengthening of the creative milieu and spaces. Art needs space. Since commencing its activities six years ago, the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft has succeeded in finding over 80,000 square metres of space for artists and creatives. There are currently approx. 500 studio sites that have been created with municipal funding. The Senate has also ratified a concept for the future development of the Speicherstadt, which calls for creating 10,000 square metres for artistic and creative industry use at affordable costs. The proposed long-term usage perspective is an important issue for the creative scene. All of this stabilises the cultural infrastructure of a city – a vital aspect for creative and artistic work. Thus, cultural promotion can also be seen as business promotion. But this only works if art remains free. Otherwise, Thomas Steinfeld’s concern may become a reality. Or, in the words of Theodor W. Adorno: “The task of art today is to bring chaos to order.” Hamburg is excited.

Prof Prof. Barbara Kisseler
The author headed the culture office for the cities of Hilden (1982 to 1986) and Düsseldorf (1986 to 1993). From 1993 to 2003, she was responsible for the Culture department at the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture. Up to 2006, she was State Secretary for Cultural Affairs in the Senate administration for science, research and culture for the State of Berlin. From 2006 to 2011, Barbara Kisseler headed the Senate Chancellery of the State of Berlin before being appointed as Senator for Culture for the Hanseatic City of Hamburg.