YCIs Reflect on the Best Practices for Anchor Institutions

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Oct 18, 2017
by Mirva Villa
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YCIs Reflect on the Best Practices for Anchor Institutions

Panelists discuss the global challenges faced by cultural practitioners and the key strategies for anchor institutions to best serve their communities Participants at the fourth Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators.

The issues faced by cultural practitioners and the best practices for anchor cultural institutions in
communities were among the topics discussed on the third day of the fourth Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators.

Alberta Arthurs, a multi-time Salzburg Global Fellow, and member of Salzburg Global’s Advisory Council on Culture and Arts kick-started the discussion by reflecting on today’s global challenges.

Arthurs suggested the world had recently experienced significant geopolitical and geoeconomic changes alongside the rise of new leaders. With that in mind, culture and the arts could act as unifying forces.

How to harness that power to build connections on a global scale is – in Arthurs’ view – one of the biggest challenges for today’s cultural practitioners. She said, “We need proximity, the sense of
likeness and kinship that artists and activists create across countries and borders.”

Arthurs said the cultural sector also required more research to support and advance the work people do on a practical level. Sat next to Arthurs were Karen Brooks Hopkins, president emerita at the
Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Steven A. Wolff, principal at the AMS Planning & Research Corp.

Discussing research conducted by the Anchor Cultural Institutions Project, both Hopkins and Wolff focused on the question: How can anchor cultural institutions in low-income areas and communities in transition make maximum social, economic and artistic impact?

Several conclusions were drawn from studying three U.S.-based anchor institutions: The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, AS220 on Rhode Island, and MASS MoCA in Massachusetts. Key strategies included building meaningful partnerships in the community and “speaking in one voice.” This strategy
meant having a consistent and clear message reflected in all aspects of the institution. It was also essential to remove obstacles and make room for everyone in the community.

An ideal vision of a 21st-century cultural district is one where different institutions can co-exist side by side, creating a hub consisting of all levels of arts and culture. Hopkins cited the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, England, as a successful example of cultural collaboration. The historic area consists of hundreds of jewelry stores, but also has a mix of other businesses and a vibrant community event scene, attracting visitors with tours, performances, and creative activities.

Wolff discussed further the role anchor cultural institutions play in their community. The three case studies highlighted in the research thought the most impact they had was on the city identity, diverse programming, and youth education. Wolff suggested the institutions can continue to enable cultural awareness and understanding – “things that we desperately need today.”

The presentation raised a lot of thoughts among participants on the role large anchor institutions should hold in their communities and the relationship and exchange between smaller community initiatives and more prominent organizations.


The Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators IV is part of a ten-year multi-year series. This year's program is supported by the Albanian-American Development Foundation, American Express, Arts Council Malta, Cambodian Living Arts, Canada Council for the Arts, Edward T. Cone Foundation, Fulbright Greece, Japan Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, Adena and David Testa, and the U.S. Embassy Valetta, Malta. More information on the session can be found here. More information on the series can be found here. You can follow all the discussions on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by using the hashtag #SGSyci.