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Embarrassing affairs: expectations and irritations in a culture profile city
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
2014 (English)Other (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Umeå in northern Sweden was appointed European Capital of Culture for 2014, as part of conscious efforts to build a specific “city of culture” image. On one level, artists and culture activists, even public servants in the culture administration, are expecting the city to actively promote better conditions for cultural activities. Thus, the reactions to actions and decisions going the other way become extra strong and also get quite an impact on public discussion. The two years preceding 2014 saw some “embarrassing affairs” where the ambitions of the city to promote culture and give it an important place in the plans for the city, were contrasted with situations where local art and local artists were obstructed, censored, devalued, given worse conditions to work under, due to some general principle or rule decided upon by the municipality. The affairs include: one librarian who was not allowed to have an extra income from speaking about her own books; attempts to sell an old building that previously had been available for craftsmen’s shops; the closing down of another building used for alternative music concerts, and a case of censorship of a new art work. The media reports and public reactions are discussed and point to certain expectations that the municipality is supposed to live up to: respect of the artist’s need of supporting incomes; respect for the artistic work; support in form of infrastructure such as cheap and flexible locales and support in form of a permitting climate. The analysis points to how success of or failure to engage local artists in the municipality’s long-term planning may be just as dependent on communicating a positive attitude as on number and sizes of economic efforts.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
European Capital of Culture, cultural policy as development, cultural participation, artists’ conditions
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-111227OAI: diva2:868458

paper read at the 6th Nordic Conference on Cultural Policy Research, Copenhagen, August 14-16 2013.

Available from: 2015-11-10 Created: 2015-11-10 Last updated: 2016-01-19Bibliographically approved

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Arvidsson, Alf
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