Young Cultural Innovators Leave With Big Plans For Future




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Oct 29, 2015
by Louise Hallman and Heather Jaber
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Young Cultural Innovators Leave With Big Plans For Future

The new cultural vanguard gathered in Austria last week for the second annual Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCIs).

The sixty artists, photographers, theatre producers, inventors, cultural entrepreneurs, doctoral students and city officials, traveled to Salzburg from cities including Athens, Baltimore, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Oxford, Phnom Penh, Rotterdam, Seoul and Tokyo, with a shared mission: expand cultural innovation and positive social change in their home cities and connect with cultural change-makers across the world.

Held at the historic palace of Schloss Leopoldskron, former home of theater impresario and Salzburg Festival founder Max Reinhardt, and led by an expert faculty, this was the second installment of the ten-year YCI Forum led by Salzburg Global Seminar.

The five-day session (October 17 to 22, 2015) combined theory and praxis through lectures, group discussions and skills workshops to help 50 of the world’s most dynamic young minds in the cultural sector develop the entrepreneurial, leadership, communication, problem-solving and technological skills, vision, and global networks needed to advance their organizations, their causes and their communities. A faculty of experts from Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Korea, Japan, the UK and the US led the program. Participants were also encouraged to showcase their own work and projects in a nightly open forum, and were given a tour of the city of Salzburg by local artists and cultural change-makers.

"Day one, session one, felt completely like I was in the right place, because that’s the thing about social impact or impact entrepreneurs…you’re meant have something larger than a bottom line governing your parameters of operation, and that was a big validation for me.”

-- Rowan Pybus, co-founder of Sunshine Cinema and
Greenpop and a founder and director of Makhulu Media

The Forum not only gathers participants annually in Salzburg, but also encourages Fellows to continue engagement throughout the year in their local city “hubs”. Since last year’s session, there have been hub-led events including a mini-YCI Forum in Athens on “Nurturing the New Creator,” a “Baltimore after Freddie Gray” salon, and a public artwork competition in Rotterdam. 

At this year’s Forum, plans for future hub-based projects included regular recurring cultural salons in Salzburg and Baltimore; participation in the Rotterdam “Viert De Stad” festival, marking 75 years since the rebuilding of the city post-WWII; a conference on conflict transformation through the arts in Cambodia; team- and skills-building classes in Athens, starting with a cooking class at the Museum of Greek Gastronomy; continued networking and planning for future events to tie in with the upcoming Summer Olympics and Rugby World Cup tournament in Japan; hosting Salzburg Global staff during upcoming trips to Cape Town and Seoul; and a “pay-it-forward” skills exchange program in Argentina.

“Our second annual Young Cultural Innovators Forum bought together another outstanding group of dynamic cultural change-makers from our growing YCI Hub network around the world,” said Susana Seidl-Fox, Salzburg Global Program Director for Culture and the Arts, “We look forward to connecting this year’s and last year’s Fellows both virtually and on the ground in their respective YCI city hubs, and we are more than ever committed to making the YCI Forum an ongoing vibrant focal point for international exchange, emerging leadership, urban transformation, and innovation in the cultural sector.”

“I want to take back what I learned from here — how to talk, how to communicate...and instead of looking at the small section that I’m in over in Baltimore — even the United States — but also looking at global issues and taking my work global…If I can do this in two years, what could I do for the rest of the world if I had the chance to?” 

-- Devin Allen, self-taught photographer whose photographs of
the 2015 Baltimore protests landed the cover of TIME Magazine

Margaret Mead, renowned anthropologist and chair of the first ever Salzburg Global Seminar session in 1947 once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Closing this year’s program, session facilitator Shelagh Wright echoed this sentiment saying: “Every time I leave here, I think maybe the world will be alright after all because it's in the hands of people like you!”

The YCI Forum grew from the 2012 program “The Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Leaders,” held in collaboration with the US-based National Arts Strategies. Salzburg Global Seminar has a long history in programs around culture and the arts. Founded in 1947 as the “Salzburg Seminar in American Studies”, the independent, non-profit organization has held more than 70 programs dedicated to the cultural sector, including theater and cinema, literature and libraries, museums and galleries, and cultural heritage.

The YCI Forum is held by Salzburg Global Seminar and was supported this year by The Edward T. Cone Foundation, the Fondation Adelman pour l’Education, the American Express Foundation, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, Fulbright Greece, the Japan Foundation, the Korea Foundation, Elizabeth S. MacMillan Fellowship, the Mexican Business Council Fellowship Program, the Nippon Foundation, Red Bull Amaphiko, the Stichting De Verre Bergen, Adena and David Testa, the US Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia and the HDH Wills (1965) Charitable Trust. More information on the session can be found here: