Dr. Violeta Simjanovska is a prominent scholar and an active cultural manager. She holds a Bachelor degree from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and she also has education in the field of music. Her PhD is in the field of Cultural policy and Management from the University of Arts in Belgrade. Dr. Simjanovska has significant experience in managing international programmes and projects in the cultural field. During her career, she has been working as cultural activist in Macedonia and the Balkans, and as a consultant, cultural expert and researcher on diverse international projects such as Creative Europe and Horizon 2020. She is a visiting Professor at the University of Euro- Balkan in Skopje. At the moment she is the Head of Arts Management department and Lecturer in Arts Management at Sibelius Academy, University of Arts in Helsinki.

I had the pleasure to interview her during my visit to Uniarts in November 2019-teaching a module on Entrepreneurship in the Arts as part of the Master Program.

1. As a Head of Arts Management Department  at UNIARTS/ Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, how could you describe  the uniqueness and the key characteristics  of the Master Program in Arts Management?

The Program provides students with new perspectives and approaches for evolving in the arts and culture field. The programme is international and the students have an opportunity to meet and learn from renowned experts and academics from all over the world. It is a great chance for the students to develop their competences and skills with colleagues and professionals from the field all around the globe. After graduation, they expand their work opportunities in leading positions in the public, private and the third sector. They also have an option to work as entrepreneurs in the creative sector. According to 2018 QS World University Rankings by Subject, Sibelius Academy is ranked as sixth. Other special angle for our programme, as part of the Finish education system, is the Values that we all are sharing, based on: equal opportunity, creativity, critical thinking, gender balance and nature friendly. In summary: the whole environment at the Sibelius Academy, its values, and the possibilities for personal development that students are offered, make this place very unique.

2. How the program methodology combines the theoretical approaches with cultural management practice and with the future professional development of the students?

We tried to balance the theoretical and “learning by doing” approaches. Students have a chance to listen prominent and world recognized experts in different fields in Arts Management, but they also have the opportunity to work and meet with high level professionals, people working in the field, not only in Finland, but also abroad. For example, as part of the study programme, we have study visits and the students choose the placement. We try to provide them with direct contacts with CEO’s, artists and arts managers of the most prominent arts organizations. In 2018 we visited New York, so they had an opportunity to meet with the CEOs from MOMA, Metropolitan Museum, Kichen, Lincoln Jazz Department, New York University, etc…We also try to provide the same for placements in Europe and Finland.

3. What are the main strategic directions in the development of the Master Program in Arts Management for the next few years?

Sibelius Academy is working on the new strategy at the moment, and it will be publicly announce soon. What we would like to improve at our department in the near future, is the international cooperation, focusing more on research, as well as giving more space to creativity and creative solutions for all current issues in arts management.

4. You have a significant experience in managing international programmes and projects in the cultural field. What in your opinion are the key traits and competences of a cultural manager to cross borders and go international? Why is this important?

The skills and competences that will be important for the future arts managers will be: flexibility, adaptability and intercultural communication skills. The changes happen so fast that if we are not capable to adapt and to be flexible, it will be difficult to sustain a successful career in the field of arts management

5. In your essay in the publication “Making Sense of Arts Management” (2017) you provide arguments for defending artistic and cultural values in open and diverse societies and “the need for a new debate which invites public policies to rethink their values and courses of action”. Could you please elaborate briefly why this is an important issue in today’s cultural policies and practices?

I am from the generation of art managers, that witnessed the huge shift of the discourse of cultural polices in general and in particular when the concept of creative industries (cultural industries as an older term) was introduced. In the meantime, the economic impact of culture and art were very important, particularly to the decision-makers. But now, again, there is a new shift, where arts and culture are more and more seen as something that has societal impact, so the discussion should go on and we will explore what will come up as a framework. Arts and Culture are more and more seen as significant forces that could deal with many important issues, such as mental health, climate changes, migration, etc. My personal opinion is that this shift is good for the arts management field, as the recognition of the values of Arts and Culture are becoming more visible and relevant, so the role of arts managers will be more valued as well.

6. What is your current research topic? Why did you chose it and what do you expect as a result of the research process?

There are two areas that I am interesting in at the moment: the impact of art on the wellbeing of the society and the other one is digitalization, in particular how the process of digitalization influences cultural policy framework and arts management practice. At the moment I am part of two research projects at Sibelius Academy, related to these topics, so as soon as I have the results, I can share more about it!

Photo credit: University of Arts / SIbelius Academy website: https://www.uniarts.fi/en/sibelius-academy

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