In the framework of discussion and educational platform 'Culture Management: level up' for professional development of culture managers, initiated by Culture & Creativity international association, a discussion took place with participation of Oksana Khmeliovska, head of "Book Arsenal", Olha Raiter, head of WIZ-ART film festival and Marko Pogačar, director of poetry festival in Croatia. We publish the most interesting parts of the discussion.

On self-organization and motivation

Oksana: I represent the Book Arsenal and coordinate it for 4 years now. It is a project of Mystetskyi Arsenal (The Art Arsenal), in other words we are subordinate to the state enterprise. Accountability is very strict. As a curator I have to be knowledgeable about budgets, statements, agreements, etc.

Generally speaking, managing an event on this scale, one has to master various skills to perform tasks. Sometimes it seems like I fly an airplane.

Olha: I work at WIZ-ART film festival that exists for 10 years and is international. Authors that visit the festival can interact with the viewers and can also win in the national and international competitions. Out of 1500 applications from the entire planet we select 150 films for demonstration.

It seems to me that our society has some kind of a strange idea about the people working in culture industry.  They are deemed special. Although business management and cultural project management is more or less the same. You have to properly organize the process, do everything timely. And it is advisable to review your plan from time to time. You simply have to be multifunctional and know your way around everything — from accounting to developing a programme.

Marko: I am a president and programme director of the oldest and biggest Poetry Festival in Croatia. I have to admit that I do not know much about culture management. I am not a project manager of the festival, but just determine which poets are needed in a certain year for the festival and I delegate organizational processes to the culture managers.

Only poets manage the Croatian Poetry festival. It is an honour to be a member of the Board of Directors. This work is not paid, even though we perform various duties. When I was elected the president of organization by vote, I had a choice: do nothing and go with the flow, or try to create something new.

The thing is the festival was launches in 1962 (back then it was called Yugoslavian poetry festival). After the war it became Croatian, and I could not get rid of the feeling that we were guided by obsolete principles. We were repeating the same things to the same audience. I wanted to turn our event into a truly international poetry festival, I wanted to prove myself that I could do it and for quite a long time it was my personal motivation.

On team-building and search for partners

Olha: Considering that we operate as a public organization, our team is small during the year (4 persons). But during the events we have an army of volunteers joining us. And we really depend on this resource.

We also engage contractors and outsource many tasks. For instance, design, website development, technical support.

Programme partners are individuals who have similar political and value-based position, view of the world. From the viewpoint of the programme as well as the organization, every partnership should have a goal. Why do we do it? Not for nice photographs or reports. We are an independent company, therefore, we can choose our goals, what we want, instead of what would be good for sponsors.

Oksana: In project management everything depends on the first stage — planning. It is necessary to oversee timely submission of all applications. Then the programme is drafted. What is the festival focus and what we should concentrate upon? Then the printwork, PR campaign, exhibitions, art objects. When you have everything planned, it is easier to keep up with all these stages.

Among the programs that help controlling everything I recommend Worksection — it is a Ukrainian management program. For instance, it includes Gantt chart that provides project breakdown and timeline, with hundreds of items denoting what should be done together with respective people.

As for the team it means sensitivity, values and expertise.  The Art Arsenal has a dedicated department that works with the volunteers. A lot of interesting people come to us. This year we had people aged 60+ among them. It was incredible to see how much they were enjoying the festival.

Special feature of the Book Arsenal is that every year we have a different team of curators. It is very good as it brings different visions and diverse views. Also, three years in a row we invite foreign curators and each of them shows their own programme. It is always worth signing an agreement with partners for no one would have any erroneous expectations.

Marko: We as an institution outsource almost everything: design, web-design, publication of books. Our organization is financed by the state. Work of coordinators and other festival personnel is paid. These amounts might not be that big, but nevertheless. We, the directorate, are the only ones who work free of charge. But again, it is considered to be an honorable position for us.

I live off of my poetic activity, by no means from the organization of events. But of course, it is not an institutional solution of a problem. Institutionally, it has to be organized in a different way, professionalism should be paid for, certain structure has to be developed.

On monetization of literary events in Ukraine

Oksana: More than five years ago attendees were complaining that it was necessary to pay an entry fee to the Book Arsenal or Publishers' Forum. Over the course of time certain fashion emerged that this work should be paid for — for access to the fair and events. 

We have a literary laboratory at Arsenal, and this year we have held several paid events with participation of Oksana Zabuzhko, Taras Prokhasko, in an experimental fashion. We were selling tickets at 60-70 UAH. These events had good promo campaign and people came and paid money. Not sure about other cities, but people in Kyiv are ready to pay for such product, because they understand that it is a cultural event, it is time of a lecturer and poet. Literary events should be monetized.

Other interesting stories: