Three Days at Budapest Training Session

The IICCA Art Commissioners Joint Training took place in Budapest this year from September 28 to October 1 at the Bethlen Theatre, facilitated by our external expert, the former Queens Council on the Arts’ Art Commissioning Program Manager Daniel Valtueña in collaboration with advisors and attended by all the project managers, art commissioners, and some external experts from the Bethlen Theatre/ Pro-Progressione (HU), Art Transparent (PL), and New Theatre Institute of Latvia (LV).

Aiming for the goal to build a stronger DemArt community and to empower our Art Commissioners in their role as community leaders, the training defined the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved, helping us to understand how to draft open calls for artists for each location and how to set a clear calendar for future steps.

The training programme started with an invitation by Daniel to picture an Art Commissioner and ask ourselves some important, but complex questions: who were the people historically involved in the process of art commissioning? If culture is for everyone, shouldn’t everyone be a part of it – not just as consumers, but as active decision makers? And why would you want to support the arts if they are not included within it?

On the first day, the participants collectively discussed the DemArt methodology and got introduced to the Administration folders and Communication strategy. We did a walking tour of the Bethlen Theatre building, and consulted with the ACP Art Commissioner Sharon Chin who has served as an Art Commissioner in Queens about her experience. On the second day we addressed some of the myths and preconceptions about art commissioning, participated in the workshops about artistic proposals evaluation, budgeting, tech and went over methods to intersect with the community, but the third day was devoted to writing Open Calls.

So far we’ve only covered the days, but what about the nights… The Art Commissioners, Project Managers and their Advisors also spent wonderful evenings and late nights together attending an exclusive show of the One Two Many Collective participatory circus performance In This Together that, at several points, relied on the audience and made us pull the rope together with all our hands. The whole bunch went to the award-winning Dan Daw Show that explores bodies, power and submission through the perspective of self-described ‘38-year-old crip’ Dan Daw himself. This was a show about care and intimacy which did not cause an unequivocal attitude among the audience.

As the most useful bits of this training, the participants named the opportunity to meet everyone in person and to learn about other communities, getting all the practical suggestions, advice, and the most important information for setting up an open call. We heard only the best feedback about the dance lesson 3i by Sándor Petrovics & Márton Csuzi or the ‘weekend jam, a matinee party, a safe space, a challenge, a meeting point and much more: a way to yourself’. Everyone was enjoying the hearty Hungarian meals and tonnes of coffee served by Zlotan, the best waiter in town.

By socializing over coffee, the newly baked Art Commissioners were able to learn a lot about the practices of the more experienced production companies as the New Theatre Institute, Pro-Progressione and Art Transparent and gain a deeper understanding of how art projects are selected and a better insight into some myths and stereotypes in the cultural field. About challenges working with communities like the Roma community in Budapest or children and residents of apartment blocks in Poland, but also learning how to make this cooperation possible. And as one of our Commissioners admitted, one of the greatest learnings from this training was: “That other people are so nice, creative, strong and beautiful!”

The IICCA aims to democratize art funding by developing an innovative, replicable participatory process for municipalities to enable community members to award commissions to selected artists. The proposed method empowers citizens to commission artworks that respond to local priorities, explore untold stories and celebrate diverse perspectives, identities and experiences.