A Look Back at the 12th Annual Conference of the Association of Cultural Management at the mdw, 9 – 12 January 2019

Dagmar Abfalter, Katharina Pfennigstorf, Anke Schad

Helen Marriage
Helen Marriage ©Sibylle Zwins

Cultural diversity—and “diversity” as a fashionable term in and of itself, a societal goal, and a politically polarising concept—can be encountered in the most varied contexts. What meanings are attached to diversity by the cultural policy field, cultural managers, and the cultural sector at large? Where do policymakers, organisations, and other protagonists stand in terms of implementing related goals, such as those described in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which was adopted in 2005? And how do they deal with counter-developments such as populism and nationalism?

This international conference dealt with cultural diversity by directly linking it not only to the relationship between the arts and other cultural expressions but also to democratic political concepts pertaining to citizens’ active involvement. In terms of content, this gives rise to a multitude of interesting questions that were taken up and discussed by over 100 participants in various formats.

PhD Colloquium

The conference began with a PhD Colloquium in which six participants from Austria, Germany, France, and the Czech Republic presented their ongoing research projects and put them up for discussion by the audience, professors from the Association, Leticia Labaronne and Anke Schad (organisers of the Association’s working group on the promotion of early-career academics), as well as other interested parties. This showed not only the thematic breadth of the cultural management field but also the broad diversity of the PhD candidates’ methodological approaches and institutional ties: marketing and digitisation, leadership and outreach, funding and public policy, methods that are qualitative, experimental, statistics-related, and/or combinations thereof, psychology, design research, social sciences and economics-related disciplines, education, etc. Research on cultural management, a trans- and interdisciplinary field, is indeed diverse by its very nature. In this colloquium, however, the need also became apparent to establish genuine ties to the field’s own discourse as well as examine cultural management’s special qualities by also looking at other disciplines and approaches.

Meet the Editors

The organisers from the Department of Cultural Management and Gender Studies (IKM), supported by the mdw’s Office of Research Promotion, for the first time staged a “Meet the Editors” session as part of the Association’s conference. The editors of six renowned international journals (the International Journal of Cultural Policy, Poetics, the International Journal of Arts Management, the International Journal of Music Business Research, The Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, and the Journal of Cultural Management: Arts, Economics, Policy) introduced their publications and engaged in discussion with the conference participants concerning processes involved in publishing as well as current conditions and challenges faced by researchers, with moderation provided by Dagmar Abfalter and Therese Kaufmann. As part of this, participants had the opportunity to become acquainted with the conditions governing the process of academic publishing and these journals’ specific profiles first-hand.

Opening and Keynotes

For the conference’s official opening, percussion students from the mdw performed an acoustically and visually captivating piece composed by Vincent Vogel for eight dustbins, which embodied a direct reference to how this conference was organised as a “Green Meeting” in order to fulfil the aspiration of socially responsible behaviour on the organisational level. Thereafter, the guests were treated to performances by two more artists: Agnes Hvizdalek impressed them with her abstract vocal music, while Renald Deppe did the same with his improvisation played on part of a clarinet.

In their words of greeting, Rector Ulrike Sych and Vice Rector Gerda Müller emphasised the non-negotiable values of the mdw that are being implemented in its Diversity Strategy, the formulation of which is currently being undertaken by numerous members of the university community working in several focus groups.

In the first keynote address, Michael Duscher (General Manager of NÖ Kulturlandeshauptstadt St Pölten GmbH) provided detailed insight into St. Pölten’s bid to become a European Capital of Culture in 2024. Involvement of citizens in the entire process, itself touched off by a citizens’ initiative, remains central to all of his team’s considerations. It was with a fair measure of self-criticism that Duscher questioned which segments of the populace had actually been involved in the process and been reached by the various activities so far—and which segments had not (yet) been.

In the second keynote address, Helen Marriage (director of the UK-based arts organisation Artichoke) introduced her aspiration to overwhelm people with her large-scale public space projects. She spoke of the perseverance required to get such projects realised, also letting her listeners in on how she persuades those with whom she negotiates to say “yes” and make their respective contributions to a project’s success. She felt it important to admonish young cultural managers to initiate projects themselves rather than wait for others to take action.

In the subsequent discussion, moderated by Monika Mokre of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Veronika Kaup-Hasler (Vienna’s Executive City Councillor for Cultural Affairs and Science) conversed with the two lecturers about the interplay of politics and art, especially with regard to implicit and explicit mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. Their conclusion: “We need a kind of anarchy in the city!”

Paper Sessions, Workshops, and Film Screening

The Paper Sessions offered presenters the opportunity to share their research on questions pertaining to cultural diversity and citizen activism with a specialist audience in a focused manner. The selection of papers to be presented was based on a double-blind peer review process. Present-day trends such as crowdfunding and co-creation in connection with encouraging cultural diversity, diversity and migration as a challenge for cultural institutions, diversity in terms of specific forms of expression such as music and the visual arts, social questions relating to participation and urban development, concepts of artistic citizenship and artistic practices, corporate citizenship with its underlying intentions and motivations, and conditions of governance and cultural policy were dealt with using numerous examples from the cultural field. Both the research canon and cultural management curricula were also given critical discussion with an eye to questions of diversity. The conference’s workshop formats involved the participants actively and creatively, giving them opportunities to try out methods of artistic research for themselves. And an Open Space event on diversity and a film screening plus discussion with the film’s director, co-financed by the Administrative Department for Equality, Gender Studies & Diversity, rounded out the conference programme.


The roundtable discussion on the topic of corporate citizenship put its focus on the question of what motivates entrepreneurs and companies to involve themselves in society and, here, particularly in the arts. Moderator Annemarie Türk, in her conversation with the guests (Volkmar Klien, composer, JKU Linz; Gabriele Schor, head of the SAMMLUNG VERBUND Collection; Christian Steinmayr, Steinmayr & Co Insurance Brokers GmbH), succeeded outstandingly in bringing out just what motives and specific logics are brought to bear, how these are linked to the involved individuals, and what forms their collaboration with artists can take when such collaboration takes place on an equal footing.

Study Trips  

This conference included two afternoons that offered opportunities to immerse oneself in Vienna’s cultural landscape. A visit to the Vienna State Opera included a guided tour in which participants were led through the building by State Opera Director Meyer himself, who thereafter devoted considerable additional time to his Director’s Talk. At WUK, Esther Holland-Merten and Ulli Koch introduced their institution’s performing arts programme and engaged their guests in a comprehensive discussion of WUK’s structures that also included a member of WUK’s management team and a representative of WUK’s “autonomous” protagonists. At the Zentrum für Musikvermittlung (ZMV 14), Director Nicole Marte provided insights on this private centre of music education and outreach, which originally grew out of a citizens’ initiative. The school, with its self-chosen mission of filling a gap in instrumental teaching in Vienna’s 14th district, continues to be strongly centred on the way in which it is locally embedded. Some international visitors who were present spoke of their plans to set up similar structures in their respective home cities. At the exil.arte Centre of the mdw, founder and director Gerold Gruber provided a short history of the Centre’s origins followed by a tour through its current exhibition I Return to Vienna When I Compose. Thereafter, he discussed with participants the possibilities and challenges involved in filling the major gaps in Austrian music history left behind by the Third Reich.

Board Election by the Association of Cultural Management

The conference concluded with a general assembly of Association members to elect the Association of Cultural Management’s new board. The Association itself brings together cultural managers from the German-speaking region (Germany-Austria-Switzerland) who also engage in academic instruction and research. For the coming five years, the Association will be led by a five-person board consisting of Dagmar Abfalter (mdw), Vera Allmanritter (cultural manager / researcher, Berlin), Leticia Labaronne (Zurich University of Applied Sciences), Anke Schad (mdw / researcher, evaluator, and consultant, Vienna), and Nina Tessa Zahner (Düsseldorf Academy of the Arts).

In keeping with the conference theme—and with support from grüne mdw—this conference was conducted as a (certified) Green Meeting. And its social events, from the Meet & Greet session at the mdw on Thursday evening to the Conference Party on Friday evening at the lounge of Kunsthalle Wien, were complemented by outstanding organic wines and edible delicacies from the region.

ACMC – Arts and Cultural Management Conference for Students and Young Professionals

Just as successful as the Association’s conference was the second edition of the Arts and Cultural Management Conference for Students and Young Professionals. This conference, organised by three students from the IKM’s Cultural Management programme, brought together 145 participants from 10 countries (representing 21 nationalities!) for an intense three days of exchange. The formats here ranged from keynote addresses (delivered by Milena Dragićević Šešić and Raphaela Henze) and roundtable discussions to paper presentations and workshops, and it also included a “Fuck-Up Night” and an artists’ breakfast. Additionally, there were abundant opportunities for networking in a coffeehouse atmosphere as well as for partying together. Further information: acmconference.com


The 3rd ACMC, to take place in 2020, will once again be international in character and is to take place in Groningen, the Netherlands, where it will likewise be organised by cultural management students.

The 13th Annual Conference of the Association of Cultural Management, for its part, will also take place in 2020 and remain in the DACH Region, with the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts as its prospective host.

More information about these upcoming conferences as well as the Call for Papers can be found soon on the Association’s website:

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