- a comment from Scenekunstbruket

On Thursday, June 12, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education invite you to an input seminar in connection with the report The Art of the Possible - from the expert group on art and culture in education. Here you will find Scenekunstbrukets comment.

THE POSSIBLE ART - increased ownership, increased enthusiasm?

- Ådne Sekkelsten and Elin O. Rekdal

We've sometimes sighed with resignation at the fact that the education sector isn't aware of its responsibility when it comes to the Cultural Rucksack, but we ask ourselves: have we given them the opportunity? And on the other hand, have they seized the opportunity well enough?

We offer the art experiences and more or less expect the school to gratefully stand with open arms whenever necessary. This does not provide a good breeding ground for enthusiasm in schools - an enthusiasm we are completely dependent on for The Cultural Rucksack (DKS) to continue as the fantastic project it is. However, the education sector has had opportunities over the past 12 years to implement the offers from the Cultural Rucksack far better.

Scenekunstbruket is the national actor for performing arts in DKS, and we have read the advice in the report "The Art of the Possible", which the Expert Group for Art and Culture in Education delivered to the Ministers of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education and Research on April 24 this year.



With ownership comes influence, and with influence comes responsibility. In order to feel a sense of ownership, schools need increased expertise and knowledge of the art field. In the same way, it is important that the arts field is provided with expertise in the field of education and curricula. As the report states, "It is an advantage if leaders in the cultural sector know how the arts and culture area is designed in the curriculum".

DKS is in a special situation compared to the rest of school life. It is an element that is largely not controlled by the school field or by the teachers themselves. In addition, aesthetic subjects have been downgraded in both teacher training and the curriculum. The Cultural Rucksack is not the responsibility of the arts sector alone, but it is the arts and culture sector that has most clearly embraced it, seen the opportunities and gained the greatest sense of ownership. Without this effort, DKS would not have the enormous scope it has today. "We've always said that we want the education sector to get more involved. We offer art, and perhaps even suggested educational programs, but without the school itself being able to decide when it is best to present it, both practically and emotionally where the student is in the educational process. This creates an imbalance in ownership.

We believe that the time is ripe for the education sector to be aware of its responsibility and to take greater responsibility for implementing DKS in schools and education.

We believe this will strengthen the arts, and not least children and young people's experience of them. A clearer sense of responsibility for the Cultural Rucksack on the part of both sectors could lead to greater synergy between the arts in schools than is currently the case. A greater opportunity for relevant preparatory and follow-up work on several of the offerings through DKS, at times that fit into the curriculum, can help to make art more valuable and can give children and young people an even better encounter with professional art, which is one of the main objectives of the Cultural Rucksack.


Democratic spirit

In the school curriculum, one of the major overarching goals is for students to become active participants in democracy. Understanding contexts and thinking beyond oneself is an important component in shaping a democratic mindset. Art can help provide perspectives and contribute to independent thinking, language in all subjects and provide non-linguistic experiences.

As an example, we can mention our project SUS - Scenekunstbrukets Unge Stemmer, where young people blog and reflect on their experience of the performing arts they are served. Here, both Norwegian and the secondary language have been put to use, and the young people have developed their democratic mindset by encountering opinions and impressions outside their own comfort zone, and they have learned that it is fruitful to be open to new impressions. These are all important qualities beyond being interested in art. In the SUS project, we have given the partner schools free rein in terms of how they want to use it in their teaching, as this is where their expertise lies. SUS and other similar projects can be implemented in several school subjects.

Another example is that criticism courses have been held at several schools, linked to music, performing arts and literature. Firda upper secondary school has an interdisciplinary non-fiction initiative called "Writing in all subjects", which includes using music criticism in Norwegian lessons. Østfold Cultural Development presents all its performances with relevance to the curriculum, as well as a video in which the artists talk about their work. This is also something Scenekunstbruket wants to follow up. We have started a project where we create trailers for the performances in our repertoire; with interviews with the artists and clips from the performance. All these measures help to 'open up the work' to a greater extent for the viewer.

Our children are competing in a much more complex labor market than before, and creativity and openness are valued alongside cultural understanding and global thinking. Just as we've seen that it's not dangerous to ask for young people's honest opinions and allow them to exert influence through SUS, we don't think the art field needs to be worried about what will happen if the education field takes greater responsibility for how the art communicated to students can be used in school.


Collaboration and shared field understanding

We believe that the SUS project and other similar projects are good examples of projects that combine expertise and field understanding in good collaboration between the arts and culture field and schools.

Such interaction is possible, and is already happening today in the day-to-day work of art education, independently of an overarching national competence center. The development takes place in interactions between the actors who operate the dissemination of the Cultural Rucksack on a daily basis: Individual schools, municipalities, counties, national stakeholders and the Arts Council Norway through the DKS secretariat.


New competence center

One of the main proposals in the expert group's advice is to re-establish a national center for art and culture in education. There is currently such a center in Bodø, established in 2006, which has had little of the function many hoped for. When it comes to aesthetic subjects and increased focus on art and culture in education, there are many good solutions, as we read the report.

We believe that art education now needs to take greater account of the fact that many of the artists they train will be working with an audience of children and young people. Many artists currently have their biggest job market through assignments in the Cultural Rucksack. This is very little reflected in art education.

A unified competence center may perhaps lead to greater responsibility being taken for researching and gathering knowledge about children as a target group. This is knowledge that can be of great benefit to both the education sector and the art field, and which will hopefully help to promote art, aesthetic subjects and schools as educational institutions and art arenas. If a competence center is established, we believe it is important that the location is closely linked to art education.

It is also said that there is a lack of a broader support function that looks holistically at art and culture in education, which the expert group has tried to solve by gathering knowledge in a competence center. Scenekunstbruket believes that there are many good intentions and ideas behind such a proposal. When it comes to the challenges in the Cultural Rucksack as a structure and dissemination scheme, we are unsure whether this will be solved by such an overall superstructure, but we still want to support that this is investigated further to look at the consequences of the various proposals.


Terms of reference

The expert group points out that the principles of the Cultural Rucksack should be simplified. Scenekunstbruket believes that it is very important that the Cultural Rucksack should be the pupils' encounter with professional art, and that it should be of high quality, great diversity and breadth, and reach all pupils. The offers through DKS are not intended to replace Estonian subjects or offers in Schools of Music and Performing Arts, but to be an important supplement that can create ripple effects to e.g. aesthetic subjects - and vice versa. Art encounters and experiences should be the mainstay, and the art field should be stimulated to create a great diversity of art productions.

The structures already in place in the Cultural Rucksack, which are exemplarily built from the bottom up, now need a clearer mandate at all levels, including the national players.

We believe that the simplest and least resource-intensive measure that can be implemented immediately would be to strengthen the current structure. Give stakeholders at all levels a clearer mission and mandate - clarify expectations.


National players

Today, the national players perform a significant support function for their counterparts within each artistic expression. This has been an important role for Scenekunstbruket to take on, after being awarded the task as a national player. We will be a coordinating and supporting link for counties, other organizers and artists, and provide advice upwards in the system, such as to the secretariat for DKS and the ministries. It is very important that we focus on quality, both in the art itself, but also in the dissemination of it. Scenekunstbruket must have the best overview and expertise in the field of performing arts for children and young people, which we do by constantly maintaining a close relationship with the field of performing arts - both in terms of institutions and performing companies. That closeness and support function must exist within each art field. Clarifying what should be expected of a national player will hopefully also make us even clearer to the outside world.


The diverse art

Finally, we would like to point out that it is positive that the expert group also emphasizes the importance of providing a broad range of arts to students. Scenekunstbruket is therefore of the opinion that better financial arrangements should be made for pupils to be able to experience dance and theater at the country's many performing arts institutions, at the same time as more institutions seize the opportunities that lie in DKS. "We are committed to artistic diversity, and a diversity of arenas and meeting places. That's why it's important to use both the theater hall and the gymnasium. Performing arts in a theater hall can have just as much value as in a gymnasium or another room. It's all about the quality of what is produced and being conscious of your relationship with the arena and the audience. For example, street theater can be a poor fit for the main stage at Det norske teatret, but can be absolutely perfect in a schoolyard. It is important that this opportunity for a diversity of artistic experiences is exploited.


Good intentions

Scenekunstbruket thinks there are many good proposals in the expert group's report, and we are pleased that the desire to strengthen the Cultural Rucksack and achieve better cooperation between the various actors is so clear. Despite the fact that the expert group has had such a limited amount of time in its work, we hope that several of the proposals will be investigated further for possible implementation.

As a national actor for performing arts in the Cultural Rucksack, Scenekunstbruket looks forward to discussing and providing input to find the best possible solutions and structures for everyone who wants to further develop the world's best school bag. Together, we will take this even further to create continued interest and enthusiasm for the arts, and provide our young audience with good art experiences also in the future.