Session 573

Session Overview

Today's world is disrupted by manifold sources of shock, violence and conflict. The complexity and sheer speed of change are testing the limits of people, place and community. Increasing social inequality, accelerating urbanization, unprecedented migration flows, rapidly evolving technologies and climate-related changes are generating physical, virtual, and cultural challenges that have no precedent in recent history. To add to the complexity, these trends are playing out against a backdrop of exceptionally low trust and widening polarization in societies worldwide.

Resilience refers to the capacity of nature and of humankind to withstand shocks and to adapt and renew dynamically in the face of adverse and potentially destructive conditions. Historically, most efforts to better understand capacities for resilience have focused on material responses, whether technological, scientific, physical, socio-political, or economic. More recently, however, the roles of culture - writ large - and the arts have become a new source of inquiry. The creative sector, as a source of unconventional thinking and innovation, opens up promising opportunities to harness civic imagination for greater cohesion and resilience. The goal of this Salzburg Global Seminar session was to identify and better understand ways in which artists, cultural workers, and creatives may inspire and strengthen capacities of individuals, communities, and our societies at large to confront the unexpected, and to respond creatively and courageously to seemingly infinite sources of shock and disruption.

The founding of Salzburg Global Seminar seventy years ago - in the wake of the Second World War at a moment of massive global disruption - was itself a creative and courageous response to conflict. This session continues our commitment to bridge barriers in the mind and on the ground in conditions of trust and openness. Its goal is to connect path-breaking efforts to explore relationships between culture, the arts, and resilience and to identify how creative practitioners can inspire individuals and communities to confront the unexpected and define their own futures.

Against this challenging backdrop, pioneer thinking and holistic approaches to problem-solving will be critical to navigate ever-shifting boundaries of global interdependence. Artists and cultural innovators are uniquely positioned to envision positive change and foster collaborative engagement and empowerment across sectors and scales. How can their strengths, talents and imaginative power help us re-imagine the possible and enhance the resilience of our shared planet?

Program Format and Key Questions

The highly interactive program combined theory, policy and practice across sectoral silos, opening up new perspectives and intensive learning opportunities. Participants explored cross-cutting questions during short plenary sessions featuring presentations and demonstrations by groundbreaking practitioners. They then worked flexibly in small groups, examining new tools and approaches for collaboration across urban design and planning, policy development, education, research, and community engagement.

Overarching questions to kick-start open discussion included:

  • What do we mean by resilience, and how far does current research shed light on its relationship with culture and the arts? Where are the main gaps we need to address?
  • What are we learning from the ability of cultures to survive, adapt, and renew themselves, especially in post-conflict settings?
  • What happens to culture as a result of disruption or conflict?
  • Can we apply these insights to better manage complex challenges and trends in the 21st century
  • Can the arts act as an early-warning system to help “future-proof” our societies?

The session then examined relationships between culture, the arts, and resilience through the lens of problem-solving at different scales. In line with Salzburg Global’s strategic vision, participants focused on:

Human Transformation: Discussions examined how the arts and creative endeavor can contribute to resilience and renewal at the personal level, including enhancement of treatments and therapies of trauma, mental illnesses, and psychological disorders leading to violent behavior. Recent neuroscientific research and innovative social, health, and juvenile justice policy initiatives and case-studies informed the discussions.

Urban Transformation: As the world moves towards 75% urbanization, cities are widely recognized as playing a pivotal role in advancing strategies for resilience. Discussions will focus on how culture and the arts can expand the capacity of cities, urban leaders and citizens to anticipate and collaborate on key trends and risks. Which cities have already embraced the efforts of artists and the creative sector in their resilience planning, and how might more mayors and community leaders follow suit? What evidence is available on the impact of human-centered design upon community cohesion, health and wellbeing? What best practices in urban planning and public space have emerged and how can they be replicated or adapted elsewhere?

Conflict Transformation: Arts and culture are increasingly understood to play a promising role in peace-building and reconciliation for conflict and post-conflict settings, although most initiatives remain fragmented and rarely broach issues of region-building and fostering regional community. As pressures on human security rise around the world, discussions will center around issues of displacement, migration, destruction of cultural heritage and community cohesion. The particular needs for resilience among indigenous populations and refugees will be given special consideration, including issues of belonging, multiple identities, allegiance, language, and of cultural fabric and expression.

Program Goals and Outcomes

  • Raise awareness of the unique and still-untapped potential of the arts to enhance resilience across sectors and scales and to increase the effectiveness of existing resilience initiatives.
  • Generate dialogue and new forms of networking and collaboration between cultural activators and representatives of other sectors working on resilience, including policymakers, NGOs, scholars, and the media.
  • Inspire, catalyze and sustain creative and unorthodox projects and practical alliances at the nexus of the arts, culture, and resilience over the next five years, engaging the broader Salzburg Global Fellowship to help take the most innovative actions to scale.
  • Share learning and new ideas from the session with a broad international group of stakeholders through blogs, newsletters, and substantive reporting.

Session Newsletters

Days 1 & 2

Days 3 & 4

Session Photos

View full set on Flickr

All images are available for download. Please credit Salzburg Global Seminar/Herman Seidl. Unwatermarked images are available on request.

Resource List

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Ainsworth, Peroline, and Kiran Nihalani. “Five ways to build solidarity across our differences.” Transformation, 16 January 2017. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.

“Immunity to Change: An Exploration in Self Awareness” Allen, Scott J. n.p. n.d. Print.

Apffel-Marglin, Frederique with PRATEC, ed. The Spirit of Regeneration: Andean Culture Confronting Western Notions of Development. London: Zed Books, 1998. Print.

Appignanesi, Richard. ed. Beyond Cultural Diversity: The Case for Creativity. London: Third Text, 2011. Web. 1 Feb 2017.

Arts Council England. Create 1. 2014. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.

Bartatilas, Loukas. “Kypseli: Researching and mapping of the neighbourhood.” NEON, 2015. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.

Bartlett, Ken. ed. Animated: The Community Dance Magazine, 2013 Web. 2 Feb. 2017.  

Basaninyenzi, Uwimana. “From Kigali to Kabul: The Role of Art in Post-Conflict Reconciliation.” The World Bank, 2012. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.

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Bird, Clara.“The Art of Resilience: How Current developments in the environmental art world can better inform and improve natural resource management". Stockholm University. 2007.

Blasim, Hassan. A Refugee in the Paradise that is Europe. Trans. Jonathan Wright. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.

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Keidan, Lois, and CJ Mitchell. Eds. Access All Areas: Live Art and Disability. London: Live Art Development Agency, 2012. Print

Kokache, Mokhtar. “Creation out of Crisis, A Historic Moment to Leverage Arts and Culture’s Contribution to Social Change in the Arab Region.” Centre for Culture and Development, 10 Nov. 2015. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.

“MENA-rapport: Kunst og kultur skaber engagement og social forandring.” Centre for Culture and Development, n.d. 1 Feb. 2017.

Miranda, Mario. ed. “Mapping Mapusa Market: Exploring the Histories, Mysteries and Peculiarities of Mapusa Market.” Wordpress. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.

Moore, Jina. “In the ‘Book Of Life,’ Rwandans Write Letters To The Dead.” Buzzfeed, Apr. 2014. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.

Nwachukwu, Tony and Mark Robinson. “The Role of Diversity in building adaptive resilience.” Arts Council England. (2011) Web. 1 Feb 2017.

Pleasant, Amy. “Artists as Activists: Pursing Social Justice.” The Huffington Post, 2016. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.

Ramon, Marta. “Integration of Immigrants into Cities through Culture: The Case of Barcelona.” Quaderns de la Mediterrania 12, 2012. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.

Rathwell, Kaitlyn J. and Derek Armitage. “Art and Artistic Processes bridge knowledge systems about social-ecological change: An empirical examination with Inuit artists from Nunavut, Canada.” Ecology and Society, vol. 21, no. 2, 2016. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.  

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Sidford, Holly. And Alexis Frasz. “Beyond Green: The Arts as a Catalyst for Sustainability.” Salzburg Global Seminar. 2016. Print.

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Multi-Year Series


Salzburg Global Seminar’s long-running series on Culture, Arts and Society focuses on the transformative power of the arts within and across sectors, acilitates cultural exchange at multiple levels, and provides unique networking and capacitybuilding opportunities. Culture and the arts have had  a prominent place in Salzburg  Global Seminar’s programs since its beginnings as the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies in 1947. Today, through multi-year projects and strategic convenings, the Culture, Arts and Society series seeks to secure a more prominent role for the arts on policy agendas and to bring creative change-makers, influencers, and communities together to drive lasting change at scale. As part of our deep commitment to next-generation talent, we support the continuously evolving needs of the creative  sector as a major driver of sustainable economic development and social improvement, particularly through the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators

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