Oct
13

Cultural Capital

I’m participating in a symposium this week entitled PARTNERSHIPS FOR PURPOSE: INNOVATION, CULTURAL CAPITAL, AND RESILIENCE. The panel I’ve been asked to facilitate is organized around the question “How should the university contribute to the development of cultural capital/talent in the region?” “Cultural Captial” isn’t a phrase that I use very often, so of course I looked it up. I was surprised to find that it’s a common sociological term, taken to mean (and I’m broadly paraphrasing from multiple sources), the non-economic “worth” of a family, an institution, or a society, often associated with educational attainment and socialization. This, of course, is not how the conference organizers are using the term or they wouldn’t have invited a museum director, a public art director, me, and others to be on this panel.
Cultural capital as I envision it for the purposes of my panel is a two part infrastructure made up of people and institutions. And, these people and institutions have BOTH economic and intrinsic non-economic worth. In a city such as Phoenix with only one large (public) university and several community colleges, the cultural capital of the city is inexorably intertwined with the university.
It is a fact not widely recognized that universities, especially public research universities, indirectly support arts and culture nationally by providing institutional homes — and the salaries and benefits attendant to them — for creative artists. Cultural institutions such as Actors Theatre of Phoenix, for example, draw regularly from the “human” capital of my school. Because the faculty ranks at universities include the artists, designers, directors, etc who create the work we see at the museums and performing arts venues throughout a region, the region is richer for the presence of the university (and, I would add, the faculty have an outlet for their creative work).
To build cultural capital, existing institutions need to be supported and new ones created. That’s why I’m so proud of our p.a.v.e. program in arts entrepreneurship. Through that program we’ve seed funding and mentorship to students with great ideas for arts-based ventures. Some of these, like the Phoenix Fringe Festival and the Sustainable Symphony are already making their marks on the regional cultural landscape in Phoenix.

  • Howard Burkons

    If I have learned anything working in the business of the arts over the past 25 years, it’s that “Cultural Capital” – when done right – generates actual capital. When the University and its supporters successfully grow new artistic talent (be they writers, actors, directors, composers, painters, dancers, etc.), they often create new artistic products and “producers” of these products, who are now able to earn a living while working in the arts. This allows for the advancement of the greater arts culture, as value is created for more artists and their “fans” to be supporters of Cultural Capital, which helps the University create opportunities to grow more new talent, and so on and so on.

  • Linda- All I can say is “Rock On Sister!”

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