Culture » Overview

Exploring the transformative power of the arts – building bridges across cultures – supporting young cultural innovators

The Salzburg Global Seminar’s Culture and the Arts Program focuses on the transformative power of the arts, facilitates cultural exchange at multiple levels, and provides capacity-building opportunities through the annual Young Cultural Innovators Forum. Through multi-year projects and strategic convenings, the Culture and Arts Program seeks to secure a more prominent role for the arts on policy agendas and to support the continuously evolving needs of the creative sector – as a major driver of sustainable economic development and social improvement – through the multi-year Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators.

Sessions in 2018:

The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology, and Making Sense of the Future - February 20 to 25, 2018

Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators V - October 16 to 21, 2018

For past sessions, click here

Salzburg Global Fellow to take part in Dara film screening and panel discussion
Salzburg Global Fellow to take part in Dara film screening and panel discussion
Oscar Tollast 
Salzburg Global Fellow Anwar Akhtar will take part in a panel discussion and Q&A following a screening of the highly applauded Dara later this week. The play, adapted from work by Ajoka Theatre, is a portrayal of the seventeenth century Moghul Royals the Shah Jahan family and addresses debates surrounding religious freedom and practice. Dara was the first Pakistani play to be chosen and adapted by the UK's National Theatre in London. This came to fruition after Akhtar brought a CD of Dara to the theater's attention. On Friday, May 5, a free film screening of the play will take place in Oxford at All Souls College, The Old Library, starting at 6 pm.  Akhtar, having played a key role in Dara's creative team, will take part in a panel discussion and audience Q&A after the screening.

Akhtar, director of The Samosa and production consultant to the National Theatre and Ajoka Theatre, is a multi-time Salzburg Global Fellow, and most recently a participant at the December 2016 session, Promoting Pluralism and Countering Extremism. Prior to this, Akhtar also helped facilitate working groups at the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators both in 2014 and 2015, where he premiered the filmed recording of the critically acclaimed play.  The play was praised for its ability to "reach people that political debate cannot" with the central trial scene especially applauded. It created much public debate on culture, history and religious tolerance.  This Friday, in addition to the screening of the play, Akhtar will take part in a discussion with Polly O’Hanlon, Professor of Indian History and Culture at the Oriental Institute, Oxford University. This discussion will be moderated by Salzburg Global senior advisor Edward Mortimer, author of Faith and Power: the Politics of Islam, and former Director of Communications for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

To book a ticket for this event, please visit

Entrance is on a first come first serve basis. You must register for the event and arrive at 5.40pm to be seated. The screening will begin at 6 pm. Latecomers may not be able to enter if capacity is reached.
Fellow launches thriller novel at Schloss Leopoldskron
Manjiri Prabhu (second from left) with Salzburg Global Seminar staff at her European launch of the thriller, The Trail of Four.
Fellow launches thriller novel at Schloss Leopoldskron
Salzburg Global Seminar 

Schloss Leopoldskron has long been a place of "pure inspiration" - from its original owner, Prince-Archbishop Leopold von Firmian, to theater impresario Max Reinhardt and the Hollywood producers of The Sound of Music, and now for the award-winning Indian crime fiction writer, Manjiri Prabhu.

Described as the "Desi Agatha Christie" and now hailed as India's answer to Dan Brown, Prabhu first came to the Schloss to attend the session From Page to Screen: Adapting Literature to Film in 2002. She remained engaged with Salzburg Global over the years and returned to the Schloss for research purposes in 2014.

The subsequent thriller, The Trail of Four has now been published by Bloomsbury India. With much of the action taking place not only in Salzburg, but directly in Schloss Leopoldskron and featuring the Archbishop, Reinhardt and Salzburg Global Seminar, the Great Hall of the Schloss was a fitting location for the book's European launch. 

At the event, held on April 5 in partnership with the local chapter of expat network InterNations, Prabhu gave a reading and signed copies of her book, speaking warmly of the support she has received for her novel from Salzburg Global Seminar, in particular from Director of Marketing and Communications, Thomas Biebl and Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron General Manager, Daniel Szelényi - who features as a character in the novel.

Inspired by her Salzburg Global experience, Prabhu also founded the Pune International Literary Festival (PILF). Since 2016 Salzburg Global Seminar has been an partner of the festival, bringing international Fellows to India. Read more about the 2017 festival here.

Copies of the novel can be bought online or directly from the Reception at Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron.

More about The Trail of Four:

In the thriller Prabhu asks her audience to investigate a secret left behind by one of Europe’s most famous theater directors, Max Reinhardt, the previous owner of Schloss Leopoldskron. The drama unfolds once a three-hundred-year-old heart of a prince-archbishop is taken from its sacred place of burial. In the following series of events, there are threats of the destruction of Salzburg’s ‘Pillars' and a French-Indian investigative journalist, a historian, a police chief, and a hotelier find themselves drawn together to get to the bottom of things, while Salzburg’s future remains in doubt. They have 48 hours to solve Reinhardt's “Trail.”

Chadi Bahouth - “It is very hard to stand your ground inside a newsroom where you are the only person coming from an ethnic minority in a big group of middle-class, white people”
Chadi Bahouth - “It is very hard to stand your ground inside a newsroom where you are the only person coming from an ethnic minority in a big group of middle-class, white people”
Andrea Abellan 
Over the past couple of years, countries in Europe have been coming to terms with a rising increase in the number of migrants and refugees crossing borders. As the fourth estate, the media plays an important role keeping the public informed on the issues which arise out of this influx of people. Some news coverage has drawn criticism however for being limited and portraying one side of the story. Chadi Bahouth, a German journalist with Palestinian-Lebanese roots, advocates for the importance of diversity in the newsroom and for the media's role in facilitating integration and social inclusion of ethnic minorities. Bahouth spoke to Salzburg Global while he was a participant at Session 573 The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage and Renewal. AA: You are a member of the New German Media-makers (Neuen deutschen Medienmacher – NDM), an organization that aims to promote diversity and inclusion in German newsrooms. What projects do you carry out as part of the NDM? Ethnic minorities are still very marginalized in German media. At Neue deutsche Medienmacher (NdM) we try to raise awareness about this situation and lobby for greater diversity within the profession. This is our main ambition but we are currently working in other projects, too. One of them, called Vielfaltfinder, which translate as “Diversity Finder,” consists of a database of journalists and institutions who are looking for interview partners or panelists for different purposes. The members included in this database have a huge expertise and they all come from ethnic minorities.

We also run a mentoring program for refugee journalists. These professionals frequently come from countries with very high levels of repression where media freedom is not understood as in Europe. For this reason, we first explain them how things work – or should work – in Germany. We introduce them to our political and media system. It can feel like going back to school and relearning what for us should be the principles of “good journalism.” Unfortunately, these values frequently remain only ideals, and when they start to look closer at what the German media are doing, they realize that things do not always function as they should. We seek to reinforce their critical voices. AA: What do you think is the influence of the media on the rise of populist movements in Europe? CB: In my opinion, the media have a high-level of responsibility on the rise of votes that rightwing populist movements are reaching. These groups are receiving larger visibility, which obviously increases their popularity. For instance, in Germany there have been many demonstrations against the trade deal between Europe and the US – TTIP – but they have been barely covered by mainstream media. In contrast, the actions carried out by of the highly racist PEGIDA group are constantly in the spotlight.

Apart from this, I fear that media editors are increasingly adapting the language used by the rightwing populist parties. They both tend to oversimplify complex issues by asking very dangerous questions such as the common “Is Islam dangerous?” What would happen if we exchange Islam by other terms such as Jews or Judaism? It would be breathtaking and unimaginable; I don’t think anybody would dare to ask that. Some Jewish activists keep saying that Islam is the new Judaism and, in a certain way, I agree. The stereotypization and discrimination that happened in the past seems to be repeated nowadays. AA: What do you think that could be done to improve media coverage of minorities? CB: I totally believe in the main goal of our organization: bringing more diversity. It is very hard to stand your ground inside a newsroom where you are the only person coming from an ethnic minority within a big group of middle-class, white people. It is extremely complicated to manage to have your point of view represented under these circumstances.

I talk from my own experience as a German journalist with a Palestinian-Lebanese background. I have been asked so many times to cover Islamic related subjects just because of my origins. Furthermore, I am Christian and all I know about Islam is because I have studied about it by myself. In general, I think that there is a lack of empathy and knowledge that ends up generating this type of situations. AA: Have you seen this situation become worse through the increasing use of social media channels as a medium to get information? CB: Definitely. A couple of years ago, people would not write discriminatory, racist comments using their real names, at least they would feel like they had to “hide” under an avatar or a nickname as what they were saying felt wrong. However, nowadays these attitudes seem to be that fully accepted that users feel it is their right to write and share anything.

The NdM is involved in a movement called “No Hate Speech” With it, we aim to report the questionable attitudes enhanced by social media that contradictorily have become a platform for very unsocial behaviors. AA: During one of the talks you mentioned that “arts are not enough” to solve the problems that were discussed at The Art of Resilience session, namely climate change and cultural integration. Do you have any ideas on how other fields and actions should be integrated? CB: I do believe in the strong potential that the arts can have, but I think this strength can be increased with a strong companion nearby. This could be translated into having artists working together with psychologists, policy maker or activists, for instance. Art is just one of the multiple factors needed to make real changes happen.
The Salzburg Global program The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage, and Renewal was part of the multi-year Culture, Arts and Society series. The session was supported by the Edward T. Cone Foundation. More information on the session can be found here:
Inés Sanguinetti -“We should redesign past models of learning”
Inés Sanguinetti -“We should redesign past models of learning”
Andrea Abellan 

The arts have a powerful role to play in enriching education, explained Argentinian dancer-cum-educator Inés Sanguinetti when attending the recent Salzburg Global Seminar program The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage and Renewal. Sanguinetti made the switch from dancer to educator through Crear Vale la Pena (“Creating is Worth It”), an association that aims to put arts at the core of the learning process.

Sanguinetti believes students today are all too often educated in the opposite of bonding, making them isolated and constrained by too many prejudices and too little empathy – and the arts can help change this. Through Art, Wellbeing and Creativity, one of the projects developed by Crear Vale la Pena, Sanguinetti and her team are trying to change this situation. 

“We try to develop a kind of new laboratory of teaching and learning between schools and communities,” she explains. 

Through the project, “social actors” and “creative agents” – typically community artists coming from a variety of different backgrounds including visual arts, dance, music, and even technology – are brought into schools where they help teachers design their classes. The methodology is based on involving arts in the curriculum and encouraging dialogue between artists, teachers, and the community.

Sanguinetti compares this project with what used to occur in Ancient Greece, when going to the gymnasium was routine for students looking to train their body and mind. At that time, exercising was not viewed that far away from other subjects, namely philosophy and poetry.

“Now we are taught that everything must be clearly differentiated,” she laments. “I do enjoy mixing different styles even in my choreography, ranging from martial arts to rugby or tango. I trust the power of moving together minds and bodies to explain any kind of topic and this can be very helpful to learn about new subjects,” she explains.

Sanguinetti is not a supporter of the education system still being followed in some areas. In her view, traditional teaching methods are not capable of satisfying the needs of the students anymore. 

“I see traditional schools as a dying institution. We should redesign past models of learning and teach the students the skills they actually need to survive to the 21st Century.” 

Research conducted by the University of San Andrés based in Buenos Aires together with the University of Aberdeen in Scotland has reinforced Sanguinetti’s program. The increase in the students’ motivation, the improvement in the coexistence inside the classroom, and the positive attitude of the community towards the arts as a suitable form of learning and not only as an entertainment were all highlighted as positive outcomes from her programs. 

Sanguinetti is now exchanging experiences and collaborating with other associations. These are based in different countries, namely Colombia and Chile. Soon she will start cooperating with organizations outside of Latin America, such as in Germany, where similar programs are being carried out. In her home country of Argentina, Crear Vale la Pena will start receiving support from the government. Thanks to this, the number of schools and associations implementing the program will grow from 20 to more than 150. 

Through her experience in Salzburg, Sanguinetti had the opportunity to learn about similar projects conducted in Morocco and Cambodia, presented by Salzburg Global Fellows Karima Kadaoui, co-founder of Tamkeen (“Empowerment”) Community Foundation for Human Development, and Bun Rith Suon, manager of the culture and arts education project at Cambodian Living Arts, respectively. Sanguinetti expects to be able to start working with them too in the near future. 

“We are already planning our next meeting to keep working on what arts can do for resilience. We are looking forward to keep exchanging ideas and collaborating between us.”

Dawn Casey – “Museums usually talk about dead things... Contemporary issues should also fit in these spaces”
Dawn Casey – “Museums usually talk about dead things... Contemporary issues should also fit in these spaces”
Andrea Abellan 
Dawn Casey, currently the chief operating officer for the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), has a solid background across multiple sectors. However, it is her experience within the arts that is especially remarkable. She has been in charge of the direction of three of the largest Australian museums: The National Museum of Australia, Western Australia Museum and the Powerhouse Museum. Unquestionably, one of her bigger achievements has been her contribution to what she calls the “democratization of museums.” Or, in other words, her assistance to “make the arts and museums more stimulating and accessible to bigger audiences.” Raised in Cairns, Australia, Casey comes from the Tagalaka clan. As she explains, her personal experience and professional background has been determined because of her indigenous and female identity. She was denied access to education. “I always wanted to study French but it was not possible for indigenous people to take that course. Also, my parents would have never allowed me to do it,” she remembers. Casey’s story is a tale of hard work and overcoming obstacles. Her persistence had a clear intention. “I know what been discriminated means. My own experience showed me how unfair and wrong the system was.” Being a woman made things even more complicated. “Sometimes I didn’t even have the opportunity to be interviewed,” Casey recognizes. Despite these difficulties, she has not allowed them to stop her having a successful career. Her career and contributions have been acknowledged with a number of awards, such as three Commonwealth Public Service Australia Day Medals. She describes her current role with NACCHO as “going back to her roots” after many years working for the museum sector. At NACCHO she looks at health care policies seeking to promote health for Aboriginal communities. “Indigenous people are much more affected by chronic diseases because of their genetics so we try to help them and improve their situation,” she explains. Remarkably for someone who has worked with so many of Australia’s leading museums, Casey admits that she only stepped into a museum for the first time when she was 30. “It was quite a boring experience,” she admits, but this experience convinced her of the power that these institutions could have to act as effective communicative tools able to make communities understand both their pasts and presents. “Museums usually talk about dead things, explorers and settlers,” says Casey. “They are the place to showcase very well-researched materials that make us aware of our history. These are extremely relevant. But I think that contemporary issues – that can be more accessible and interesting to everyone – should also fit in these spaces,” she adds. Casey has thus worked very hard to this end. While working as a director at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney she helped to organize Muslim cultural exhibitions aiming to attract people from diverse communities to come together, techno-nights looking to engage younger generations, and even Harry Potter exhibitions seeking to capture the attention of children. “I think it is a matter of combining very in-depth researched topics with lighter subjects that can arrive to other types of audiences,” she explains. Casey’s work towards integration does not stop here. She has always followed a strategy to involve professionals from different origins into her teams. “I always wanted to be sure that our job vacancies were advertised on those media easy to access by migrant and indigenous communities.” This is how she has managed to develop greatly multicultural teams. At the Salzburg Global Seminar session in February 2017, The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage, and Renewal, Casey helped to link the challenges affecting indigenous communities with other current issues such as the difficulties that refugees all over the world are facing. “They might look as opposite problems. But in my opinion they are both issues saying a lot about the nature of a country. In both situations, either when we stop a boat and do not allow people to enter our country, or when we do not recognize the rights of certain groups of people in their own land, we are disrespectful with human beings and this says a lot about the nature of a nation,” she states. This was the second time that Casey attended a session at Salzburg Global Seminar. She was a previously a participant in 2011 at the session Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture. She fondly remembers that the session was “a great opportunity to share and exchange ideas – something that does not happen frequently when you are a museum director and it is always you who is supposed to sell things to others. This is one of the reasons why I appreciate being part of this open space again to enjoy the dialogue and be able to exchange ideas.”

Rajan Kotru - “If the Himalayan ecosystem remains intact, there will be people rushing there to pursue their spiritual ideals...”
Rajan Kotru - “If the Himalayan ecosystem remains intact, there will be people rushing there to pursue their spiritual ideals...”
Christopher Hamill-Stewart 

Rajan Kotru, head of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) program on Transboundary Landscapes, attended the Salzburg Global Seminar session The Next Frontier: Transboundary Conservation for Biodiversity and Peace. His project “Kailash Sacred Landscape” is a transboundary conservation initiative covering an area in the Himalayas where China, India, and Nepal all have territory.

The project focuses on the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity, but with an additional emphasis on cultural conservation – conservation aimed at maintaining the culturally and spiritually significant parts of the landscape. While in Salzburg, Kotru took some time to discuss the importance of integrating spiritual and cultural conservation with more traditional conservation.

Despite a range of conservation efforts in the region beginning in 2005, issues of cultural conservation have remained largely ignored. The majority of efforts focused on tangible or measurable issues, such as ensuring the preservation of natural resources. Rajan Kotru wants to change this.

Kotru believes “the cultural legacy of the Indian sub-continent is linked to the ecosystems and the geographic assets that we have,” with the most important “sacred asset” being the Himalayas. The degradation of geographic assets can have a similar effect on the area's cultural history and significance. These assets are valuable to the local populations, and they are a large source of income for the region: “people are rushing to the Himalayas to meet Buddhists and to meditate.” 

Kotru claims many of the services coming from the Kailash Sacred Landscape are quickly degrading. Nevertheless, there is cause to remain optimistic. Kotru says, "Despite all this degradation that has been happening in the recent years, people are still coming to the Himalayas for spiritual reasons.”

The Himalayas clearly still have great value to many individuals from a spiritual perspective, but, because of this rapid degradation of the ecosystems and environment, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to preserve this cultural heritage. The narrow lens of protecting physical resources, like wood and water, is leaving valuable but less tangible assets, like sacred landscapes and important religious sites, to be eroded away. Kotru believes that to change the way we preserve these precious areas, we need to “change the way we think.”

The example of the Bhutanese model, which measures the happiness of the nation as an important factor in assessing the effectiveness of government, is one example that Kotru studied when looking at the value of cultural preservation. “Culture and spirituality are pillars of happiness,” he says, and so this model is one that is worth studying. In Bhutan, the preservation of cultural heritage is important to the people and the state, because they measure the nation’s happiness. He concedes, “It would be difficult to emulate Bhutan’s model in other countries,” but the emphasis on “respect for culture and for nature” is a lesson that can be almost universally applied.

Kotru makes it clear that “if the Himalayan ecosystem remains intact, there will be people rushing there to pursue their spiritual ideals.” If we change our way of thinking, as Bhutan has, by emphasizing the protection of cultural and spiritual landscapes this will have benefits for biodiversity conservation, for the economic well-being of the areas and its inhabitants, and for the ancient cultures and traditions that are so important in these regions.

Rajan Kotru was a participant in the Salzburg Global session The Next Frontier: Transboundary Cooperation for Biodiversity and Peace, which is part of the multi-year Parks for the Planet Forum. This session was hosted in partnership with IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), MAVA Foundation, Arcus Foundation, Aga Khan Foundation, German cooperation (Deutsche Zusammenarbeit), Huffington Foundation, Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Foundation, and others. More information on the session can be found here.

Eileen Briggs - "We are definitely in a reactionary mode"
Eileen Briggs spoke to FM4 while she attended The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage and Renewal
Eileen Briggs - "We are definitely in a reactionary mode"
Oscar Tollast 
Salzburg Global Fellow Eileen Briggs has revealed how art and creativity is being used to express opposition to the controversial Dakota oil pipeline. Briggs, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, spoke to Bethany Bell for FM4 while attending Salzburg Global's session The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage and Renewal. US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order for the construction of the Dakota oil pipeline to be completed.  Protestors from the Standing Rock movement believe the construction of the pipeline will affect the quality of drinking water. Briggs tells FM4 that she's "fiercely" part of the protection of her water and, "We are definitely in a reactionary mode." Prayer and songs have been used to express opposition. While being interviewed, Briggs performs a song that talks about walking on Mother Earth in a gentle way. You can listen to the full interview below. 
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How should cultural institutions approach the creation and articulation of value?
Albino Jopela, archaelogist and lecturer at Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique suggests that considering the values of all of the stakeholders in a community will help ensure relevance and sustainability.

Why is it important for arts leaders to engage in cross-cultural conversations?
Jimena Lara Estrada, program coordinator for the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York, talks about connecting with other leaders and the hope that it instills.

How do you articulate value of arts in a society where it is largely seen as a commodity?
Eyad Houssami, founding director of Masrah Ensemble in Lebanon, talks about the challenges of making a case for the arts in a society where the concept of public value is very limited.

What role should orchestras play in their communities?
Mark Gillespie, general and artistic manager of Orchestra of the Americas and Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Leaders Fellow, suggests that orchestras should connect with youth at a very early age so that musicians grow out of the community.