Mary Ann Cauchi: "We work to support the cultural and creative sectors in Malta"

What is Malta presenting at the Venice Biennale 2019? Who can be nominated for the ‘Il-Premju għall-Arti’? How can local artists find support for their projects? Director for Funding and Strategy at the Arts Council Malta, Mary Ann Cauchi answers the questions.

Mary Ann Cauchi: "We work to support the cultural and creative sectors in Malta"

Mary Ann Cauchi

Director for Funding and Strategy at the Arts Council Malta

Throughout her career, Mary Ann held various positions in the cultural and creative sectors. Previous to her current appointment as Director Funding and Strategy. she was Head of the Malta School of Music where she designed internal and external school policies and updated the teaching and learning processes amongst other duties; she led and implemented the accreditation of all courses at European level. For ten years, Mary Ann directed her company Artsphere International, based in Malta with international networks. During this time, she gained a strong reputation for her project consultation expertise, as well as for management and artistic direction of concerts, festivals and large-scale public celebrations, including the first edition of the Malta Children’s Festival, the European Year of Creativity and Innovation and the revamping of the Premju Nazzjonali Ħaddiem tas-Sena. Prior to that, Mary Ann worked at the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, where she founded Notte Bianca Lejl Imdawwal and worked on numerous large-scale artistic and cultural events. She administered the initial arts funding programme, the Cultural Support Programme. Mary Ann holds a Master of Philosophy in Musicology and a Bachelor of Arts with distinction in Music Studies and History of Art from the University of Malta. She has experience in the performing arts, particularly as a musician.

What is your personal role in the Arts Council Malta and what is the structure of the organisation?

I have been working as Director, Funding and Strategy, at the Arts Council Malta (ACM) for the past year. It is a comeback for me because I used to work here as an Art Executive 13 years ago.

Through its funding unit, ACM manages a public investment of €2 million per year. The strategy unit manages and overseas the implementation of the Create2020 strategy. Create2020 is based on five important pillars focusing on creativity, artistic excellence, internationalisation, community engagement and public cultural organisations.

The Arts Council Malta’s remit encompasses 11 Public Cultural Organisations, including Festivals Malta, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, KorMalta, Mediterranean Conference Centre, Malta International Contemporary Art Space (MICAS), Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Spazju Kreattiv, Teatru Malta, Teatru Manoel, Valletta Cultural Agency and ŻfinMalta – the National Dance Company.

Mary Ann Cauchi: "We work to support the cultural and creative sectors in Malta"

The Pavilion received critical acclaim by local and international experts in the visual arts field. Preparations for the next edition have already started. In addition, ACM is also preparing its participation in the London Design Biennale 2022.

What are the main goals of the Arts Council Malta?

Arts Council Malta has five main goals: 1) nurturing the creative potential and support for its development; 2) investing in artistic excellence; 3) connecting Malta to the international artistic community; 4) providing more opportunities for people to engage in creativity; and 5) building the capacity of public cultural organisations.

These five goals are implemented using specific strategic tools being Internationalisation, Education and Development, Creative Industries Diversity and Communities, Funding and Brokerage, Research, Communication and EU Projects.

As part of the internationalisation strategic tool, ACM is currently a member of 7 platforms and networks including: International Federation for Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA), EU National Institutions for Culture (EUNIC), the Compendium for Cultural Policies and Trends, IETM – International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts, Salzburg Global Forum, and ENCATC – European Network on Cultural Management and Policy.

IETM, for instance is a network of over 450 performing arts organisations and individual members working in the contemporary performing arts worldwide: theatre, dance, circus, performance, interdisciplinary live art forms, new media. This offers the possibility for artists to build new connections with the international counterparts. ACM’s membership in such a network and those mentioned also means that Malta is represented in the ongoing debates and conversations on matters that impact cultural policy and practice. ACM already supported six participants from Malta to attend Salzburg Global Forum. The latter forum offers an opportunity for training, master-classes and conferences, allowing our artists to promote and develop their projects.

In 2017, Malta has returned to the Venice Biennale after 17 years. Arts Council Malta commissioned and co-ordinated the 2019 Venice Biennale.

Where does Malta present the creations of local artists?

In 2017, Malta has returned to the Venice Biennale after 17 years. Arts Council Malta commissioned and co-ordinated the 2019 Venice Biennale. The Malta Pavilion Maleth/Haven/Port – Heterotopias of Evocation, commissioned by the Arts Council Malta and curated by Hesperia Iliadou, was inspired by the Odyssey and saw three artists from Malta – Vince Briffa, Klitsa Antoniou and Trevor Borg. The Pavilion received critical acclaim by local and international experts in the visual arts field. Preparations for the next edition have already started. In addition, ACM is also preparing its participation in the London Design Biennale 2022. The latter projects all form part of reaching our Internationalisation goals.

Mary Ann Cauchi: "We work to support the cultural and creative sectors in Malta"

How do you work with Education and Development programmes?

Amongst other initiatives such as Artivisti and Young Artists’ Development Programme, ACM organised monthly workshops and talks under the ACMlab series. This is Arts Council Malta’s regular platform for information, networking and matchmaking sessions, as well as discussions and regular meetings practitioners within the sector. Topics aim at reaching the wider spectrum of creative practitioners and audiences. Latest topics include Using Social Media for Artists, European Cultural Networks, Intellectual Property and Music Rights. Another initiative is the Culture Pass in collaboration with the Culture Directorate allowing primary and secondary students to attend performances for free of charge.

Speaking about Diversity and Communities, and EU Projects, how do these programmes work?

ACM is currently working on setting up a Cultural Rights’ Programme through research and focus groups amongst children, older people, youth, people with different abilities, people active in traditional culture and other groups.

Research and also Communications play an important role within ACM as they both are crucial operative pillars so as to understand and disseminate information amongst our creatives, audiences and the general public.

ACM is currently leading a €1 million European Social Fund (ESF) project, investing in the cultural and creative capacity skills in Malta’s public sector. This ESF project provides specialised training programmes. These programmes are aimed at public sector employees involved in the cultural and creative sectors, to render public administration and public service on a regional, local and national level more efficient in line with the Create 2020 Strategy and National Priorities.

In just a few months 2019 will draw to a close, so is it time to speak about Strategy 2020 and 2021–2025?

Next year, Arts Council will be evaluating the Create 2020 strategy. A consultation about the 2021–2025 strategy will be carried out to reflect the National Cultural Policy that will be launched soon. Preliminary discussions indicate that sustainability and wellbeing will be key in the upcoming strategy.

As from 2016 ACM has been investing in various cultural organisations in Malta such as the META Foundation, Teatru Salesjan, the Opening Doors Association, BLITZ, Kinemastik, the Mediterranean Literature Festival, the Malta Short Film Festival, the Designers’ at the Malta Fashion Week, the Valletta Film Festival, L-Għanja tal-Poplu, and the Beland Music Festival. Given that the latter 3-year partnerships are coming to a close, we have evaluated the impact of this programme on the organisations to see how it can be improved for the next call. The new call for interested organisations was launched in October 2019.

We started our interview with Funding programmes. What are the grants local artists can apply for?

First of all, I would like to mention that the Malta Arts Fund is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019. This fund focuses on two strands of artistic excellence. The first strand on research and the second on the implementation of projects that are considered to have innovative elements.

The Cultural Export Fund focuses on travel, presentation and touring and translation aiding ACM to reach its internationalisation goals.

The Creative Communities focus on the creative projects within communities. Kreattiv addresses creative projects in school settings. The Young Talent Fund targets a specific age group – young people under the age of 18 who train, compete or perform overseas.

Mary Ann Cauchi: "We work to support the cultural and creative sectors in Malta"

One of the most interesting projects is KulturaTV. Who can ask for support from the fund?

The KulturaTV funding programme supports private TV stations only. Innovative cultural programmes, documentaries about culture in Malta or drama or series intended primarily for television and also digital platform operation are examples of projects supported by Kultura TV. Beneficiaries are provided with coaching and mentoring throughout the duration of the project.

Creative artists are based not only in Malta but also Gozo; which programmes support artistic life on Gozo?

Gozo, Malta’s sister island is small but with a very active cultural life. In fact, it is worth pointing out that two opera houses, a few meters away and opposite each other have sold out opera nights during the October – Gozo’s Opera Month. ACM supports the Leone Philharmonic Society and the La Stella Philharmonic Society. Other supporting investments in Gozo include the Victoria International Arts Festival, the Gaulitanus Festival, Feel the Magic Chorus Urbanus Festival and the DCapitals Cittadella Arts Festival which all invite international and local performing artists and collaborations.

Arts Council Malta works with the Creative Industries Platform. What is the aim of the platform?

This programme facilitates the creation of sector support platforms within the Culture & Creative Industries that will provide targeted assistance to help the sector grow in a sustainable manner. The scope of these platforms is to provide support and services to help creative professionals improve their product and take their creative ideas to market. Currently the programme is specifically addressing filmmakers, visual and literary artists.

In October 2019, the Third edition of ‘Il-Premju għall-Arti’ was launched. It is quite a new project. What is the aim of the ‘Il-Premju għall-Arti’ and what is new in the third edition of the award?

‘Il-Premju għall-Arti’ is a national awards programme to celebrate the achievements of Malta’s cultural and creative sectors. Il-Premju għall-Arti is Malta’s most prestigious award acknowledging excellence in artistic work that premiered during the year. The eleven categories include Artist of the Year, Production of the Year, Best Creative Enterprise, and an Award for Innovation. Il-Premju għall-Arti also awards four non-competitive honours including the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Honour for Cultural Promoters, the Honour for Artistic Legacy and the Ambassador of the Arts.

This year, the nomination system is more accessible whereby the public may submit nominations of their preferred artists and artistic works.

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