Mapping out a unified strategy at last

Many say that after the fuss at the Public Order Ministry over the wire-tapping scandal that the prime minister gave you a «harmless» ministry. I asked for the Culture Ministry. But when I got here I was confused. I had never seen a less-organized ministry. I couldn’t put more than three numbers in the telephone memory. The legal section wasn’t developed enough to support the minister’s initiatives. When you have a disorganized body, you can’t produce policy. I had to clear up outstanding financial matters, to continue with those that were happening – even with shortcomings – and plan new ones. Besides, the entire sector was in uproar, from theater to cinema. We needed calm so I could hear them and they could hear me. I had to deal with juries, change managers and get funds for things that would have had to close down if they didn’t get any money, like the Orchestra of Colors or the National Opera. It was a mess and I like things that are organized. Did I need something for the theater? I phoned [directors] Lefteris Voyiatzis, Vassilis Papavassiliou, [Theodoros] Terzopoulos. People in the field that have a certain way about them that I like. And I can communicate at their level. Did you know them beforehand? I got to know them; that’s my job. And I consulted people who didn’t have a partial understanding. I didn’t want filtered information. I wanted it raw. All people in the culture field are potentially my advisors. The Academy of Arts is one of the ministry’s most talked about plans. But it seems a little bit vague. How much will the Education Ministry be involved? It was a good idea that was never elaborated on. I took the findings and set up a committee with the Education Ministry to work on it. I realized that there was no way not to involve them. But we are getting away from the free creation approach toward a system with Panhellenic exams. That already applies at the School of Fine Arts and the theater and music departments at universities. What we lack are opportunities for talented people without the intermediary of exams. Arts people don’t want the Education Ministry involved either. They think the value of graduates is independent of their degree. That’s the direction we’re going in. I gave the findings to the arts committees, which did the initial studies for the academy and I’m expecting their opinions this Friday. We might have a bill voted in by the end of the year. At the same time you are preparing to move the ministry to Rendi. When will that happen? In July. I’m also doing a major sorting out of the ministry’s buildings in Plaka. I want them to go from being infrastructure buildings to venues for cultural action – to operate as galleries, interactive spaces and exhibition spaces. I want Athens to get what it lacks. Subsidy issue That’s not the only thing that is lacking. Subsidies are a constant drain on the ministry, but instead of cutting them off you announce the creation of the National Theater and Dance Center (EKETHEX). Who will play the decisive role and what good will it do? At first I was not convinced of the need for yet another state body, even if it would fill a large gap. I was convinced by the chaos I observed, the total lack of strategy in this large cultural field and the total acceptance of the initiative by people in the field. I will include my views in the final draft bill that I shall soon present to Parliament. EKETHEX is not being established purely to hand out state subsidies, but to map out, at long last, a unified strategy.

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