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Culture, a business almost like any other

They learn to budget, develop a marketing plan, and understand the logic of their financial partners. Business leaders? Not really, or not like the others. Because the company of these “students” is a festival, a theater, a cinema… in short, everything related to the field of culture.

These students follow a Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS) in cultural management offered by the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne. This continuous training was launched twenty years ago at the initiative of the Association Romande technical show organization (Artos). “Our students are members of cultural administrations, school directors or even artists who also want management skills”, summarizes Stéphanie Missonier, HEC project management professor at the University of Lausanne and co-director of the DAS.

“They always ask us for more results”

All students have in common several years of experience in the field of culture. Among them, Béatrice Demenet-Gugelmann, collaborator of the Nestlé Foundation for Art. In July she finished the course started two years ago. “I worked for a long time in France and Germany, especially for the cultural channel ARTE. I wanted to understand how Swiss institutions work, create a network, and my employer found this training relevant.” She continues: “We often have access to cultural positions thanks to our experience in the field. But more and more people ask us for figures and results, and we are not necessarily equipped for that.

In twenty years, the cultural environment has changed a lot. Olivier Moeschler is a cultural sociologist, researcher at the University of Lausanne and professor at this DAS. “Culture today must meet a whole series of expectations: it must entertain and make people think, but it must also be a social cement or even be profitable. Therefore, we have imported tools from other economic fields to achieve objectives, particularly financial, but also social cohesion”.

But if the culture is getting closer to more traditional businesses, the differences persist. “We must remember that if cultural management is effective, it allows us to achieve the desired objective, which lies elsewhere: that art moves us or worries us, that what happens on stage, for example, escapes expectations. We don’t go to the theater like we go to the supermarket, we become much more than a simple consumer.

The special status of culture, between creation and business, is fully assumed by lifelong learning, since it is a collaboration between the Faculty of Letters of the University of Geneva and the Faculty of Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC) of the University from Lausanne. An amazing alliance that Ana Rodríguez, coordinator of the DAS, considers obvious: “Yes, these two faculties can work together. We want to show that this transversality can be a true enrichment. In culture you have to be a good manager, even if the goal is less profit than a human and artistic question. Money is a means”.

Still, at the start of training twenty years ago, the marriage between culture and business was not so simple. “At that time, the idea of ​​calling training “cultural management” was shocking, because the word management did not belong to that universe, recalls Ana Rodríguez. Today, those boundaries are blurring.”

a midfielder

The midfielder remains very attached to the field, however, and some still (almost) swear by him. This is the case for Sébastien Olesen, director of the PALP Festival, an interdisciplinary event in Valais. “I started at the age of 18, as a volunteer at the Caves du Manoir de Martigny, serving at the bar.” He will then be a PTR programmer at Usine, in Geneva. “I have never done any training but I have held many different positions, it seems to me the best of schools. I am not necessarily interested in having profiles in my team that have this type of training, I really look at the practical side. But the Valaisan admits that the administrative, in the culture, has become increasingly heavy. “As such, training can help.” He says that he now spends about 60% of his work time on administration and 40% on the creative side.

our portrait of Sébastien Olesen, Valais in the wind

The students experience the countryside along with class hours: “It was decided that it would be a matter of continuous training to bring professionals already in position to evolve in their daily practices”, specifies Stéphanie Missonier. This is also the choice of the University of Basel in offering another type of continuing education, a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in cultural management. While in France several schools offer prior training in university studies.

However, the DAS in cultural management is subject to change. “For each class, we reconsider the courses to adapt them to cultural practices and policies,” says Stéphanie Missonier. We have introduced a course on innovation, for example, we want to teach our students to be visionaries. And we plan to transform our training into CAS or MAS, a more substantial continuing education.”

“Swiss knife”

In any case, continuing education is a good middle ground between theory and practice, says Nataly Sugnaux Hernandez, co-director of the Rütli theater in Geneva. She herself trained in cultural and social management at the Swiss Marketing Hub & Schools (SAWI) in Lausanne, in addition to a previous job. But she, above all, has extensive experience in the field, including having created an association that accompanies young artists and has worked with several independent companies.

“Training is always a plus, but many times what is missing is the ground, emphasizes Nataly Sugnaux Hernandez. The mixture of the two is an ideal.” She adds: “Culture professionals are Swiss Army knives. They must master a very wide range of knowledge, from cultural policy to the management of institutions, passing through administrative aspects. And above all, they must be passionate.

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