Published on Friday 1 December 2017

Toni Attard reflects on his experience with ACM as he embarks on a new venture within the independent cultural sector

When I started conducting research in policies for the Maltese cultural and creative sectors, Malta had no cultural policy, Valletta 2018 was not even a concept let alone an organisation and open public funding programmes for the arts were inconceivable. 12 years later, Malta registers an unprecedented 1.6% public investment in the cultural and creative sectors, with a portfolio of 10 public funding programmes based on a restructured Arts Council set on a five-year strategy, a cultural policy and a creative economy strategy.
As I reflect on this journey shared with five different Ministers for Culture and numerous colleagues in different public and private institutions in Malta and abroad, the developments in culture are due to stronger advocacy over the years by the cultural sector and the political will of different administrations to commit to the arts.
The public sector is blessed to have dedicated people with technical expertise and knowledge that adds value to the delivery of programmes and initiatives. This expertise should not be underestimated because human capital is the most important asset for better policies and programmes. The next generation of Maltese cultural policy should embrace this together with the challenges of cultural governance and cultural infrastructure that continue to be flagged up as the weakest aspects of our creative ecology.
In recent years we have also seen a stronger shift towards the independent sector as a driver of culture, in partnership with the public sector. This needs to be sustained to create a balanced and healthy sector. Ultimately, a stable and competitive creative economy cannot be monopolized by the public sector both in economic and creative terms.
As I am about to embark on my own private venture focusing on arts advisory, production and management, I would like to thank the Chairman and the Board members of the Council for their unstinting support and the other two directorates for sharing our vision. I am indebted to the amazing team I had the privilege to work with in the development and implementation of the first strategy for Arts Council Malta.
The team is the only technical expert team currently working in the strategic development of the cultural and creative sectors in Malta – it provides the necessary intelligence for evidence-based policymaking; it fosters European and international connections for artists; it positions cultural diversity and communities at the heart of its work; it ensures that children and young people enjoy their right to access culture; it instills creative entrepreneurship in the process of professionalisation; it manages and develops grants and investments so that Malta’s cultural and creative sectors continue to thrive.
Working closely with the team was both an honour and an exceptional learning experience. Trusted with its leadership for a three-year period helped me consolidate a way forward with like-minded people that have the arts at heart and a strategic cap in hand.
As I now continue to advocate for culture from outside the public sector, the invitation remains open for artists and arts organisations and Arts Council Malta to keep an open dialogue that guarantees the ongoing quality service and transparent funding processes. I am confident that the Create2020 vision to place the arts and creativity at the heart of Malta’s future and the 70-action plan, implemented by the team and my successor, will continue to leave a positive impact towards the generation of the post-2020 cultural policy.