Young Cultural Innovators Depart Salzburg With a Smile

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Oct 25, 2018
by Oscar Tollast
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Young Cultural Innovators Depart Salzburg With a Smile

Fifth program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators reaches a successful conclusion Participants and faculty of the fifth program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators

Fifty cultural practitioners have left Salzburg emboldened, hopeful, and optimistic following the conclusion of the fifth program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators.

The five-day program came to an end on Sunday morning, as participants from 14 regions and cities departed for their next destination.

Participants spent the previous five days taking part in capacity building sessions focusing on human-centered design processes, communication, and leadership. They also took part in peer mentoring sessions and explored the local art scene in Salzburg.

On Friday evening, participants came together to perform in Schloss Leopoldskron’s Great Hall for the second incarnation of The Schloss is Alive. Audience members were treated to poetry, dance, live music, and improv.

The following day, participants took part in two final plenary sessions. Before discussions started, however, artist and muralist Phillip Simpson presented a canvas he had painted the previous evening. The “Smile" received a positive reaction from the group. Simpson invited his peers to add their signatures and messages to the painting, which he decided to gift to Salzburg Global.  

The first session of the day involved participants reflecting on the capacity building workshops they had taken part in and discussing the need for self-care.

Part of self-care is being able to ask for help, participants heard. Much of the damage we can inflict on ourselves is because of the expectations we set. One participant discussed how he felt like a “living contradiction.” He discussed doing 100 things at once in a space by himself with no staff. When others ask if there is anything they can do, he would reply, “I got it.” The reality was he didn’t. He said he needed to open up more upon returning home and learn it was not weak to ask for help.

Another participant reminded the group that self-care was a privilege and participants had to be conscious about the position they were in.

Burnout is not a badge of honor, one participant argued. It may feel as if you should change everything at once, but she suggested tackling one thing at a time to reduce the risk of being overwhelmed.

On Saturday afternoon, participants gave brief reports of their experiences in the peer mentoring groups and discussed what they had learned from one another. This year’s groups were facilitated by Marcos Amadeo, Toni Attard, Christine Gitau, and Hiroko Kikuchi.

Each of the facilitators enabled participants to feel vulnerable and connected. The peer mentoring groups acted as a safe space for participants to learn from one another and learn about themselves. For one participant, the peer mentoring exercise was the favorite part of their experience.

Following the group reports, the discussion focus turned to systems transformation. Participants were asked to consider the systems they were trying to change in each of their contexts.

Participants were told systems don’t transform overnight, and change is often incremental. One of the facilitators suggested transformation needed to be value-based and reminded participants of the values discussed at the beginning of the program: humor, empathy, transparency, generosity, courage, and humility.

At times, participants may feel frustrated about the systems they are fighting against. However, it is important to remember that there are people within these systems who also seek to make positive steps within communities. When possible, participants should look for connections which can be made where change can be achieved together.

Change is a learning process, but as Fellows of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators, participants have incredible potential to transform communities, cities, and regions across the world.

As discussions came to a close, participants were asked to make a commitment to themselves. As a symbolic gesture, they were each given an acorn to take away once that commitment was made. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, after all.

Reflecting on the program, Susanna Seidl-Fox, program director for arts and culture at Salzburg Global Seminar, said, “Fifty creative changemakers – from Tirana to Tokyo, from Buenos Aires to Baltimore, from New Orleans to Nairobi, and from Salzburg to Seoul and beyond –  left this week’s YCI Forum inspired, energized, and eager to engage with their 200 YCI colleagues around the world. Together they form the YCI Forum network, with its incredible potential for using creativity as an opportunity for societal transformation. Salzburg Global looks forward to supporting, expanding, and empowering this dynamic network over the next five years.”


The Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators V 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, Arts Council Korea, Asia-Europe Foundation,  Bush Foundation, Cambodian Living Arts, Canada Council for the Arts, Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, Foundation Adelman pour l’Education, Fulbright Greece, Japan Foundation, Korea Foundation, the Llewellyn Thompson Memorial Fellowship, Robert Bosch Stiftung, The Kresge Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Nippon Foundation, World Culture Open, Adena and David Testa, and the U.S. Embassy Valetta, Malta. More information on the program 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.