January 05, 2004
Everyone can be considered a manager–of one’s time, money, assets, debts. In the context of organizations, however, management refers to the art of getting things done through people. It involves planning, organizing people and resources, and controlling performance against approved plans. These tasks are performed at all levels of the organization and in the functional areas of an organization, normally identified as production, marketing, finance and personnel.
In its broad sense, culture refers to the way of life of a people or of a community, encompassing their values and attitudes, belief system, language, behavior, occupation, their performing, visual and literary arts, and all the other components of their daily life. One might also look at the arts, in particular, as an economic activity that provides income to artists and value to consumers who directly or indirectly pay for them. There are organizations that seek to strengthen desired values and attitudes, to encourage artistic creativity and public appreciation of creative work, to increase cultural literacy, or to increase the rewards of a cultural or artistic career.
The great variety in type, complexity, size, and purpose of culture and arts organizations is easily illustrated—to cite the ones with which I have first hand experience: (a) the Intramuros Administration is a government agency concerned with architectural heritage restoration, museum development and city planning; (b) the Bayanihan Folk Arts Association and Opera Guild of the Philippines are in the performing arts; (c) the U.P. Press is in cultural communication and the literary arts; (d) the Cofradia de la Inmaculada Concepcion sponsors the annual Marian Procession at Intramuros, a form of the traditional arts; (e) the Museum of the History of the Filipino People involves museum conceptualization and planning in the areas of archaeology and anthropology; and (f) the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) which is concerned with policy making and grants giving.
This paper surveys how management principles might be applicable to culture and arts organizations.
The Elements of Management
Many culture and arts organizations operate as for-profit enterprises: book and magazine publishers, film producers and movie houses, media organizations, music recording companies, organizers of pop concerts, architecture firms, fashion and garments companies, handicraft exporters and stores, and art galleries. Other organizations (e.g., the theater companies under Philstage) are primarily artistic in character but have tightly run marketing and finance organizations and have regular seasons funded primarily by a paying audience. In effect, artists, craftsmen, administrators and managers gather and work together in these permanent organizations to earn a living and to do cultural and artistic work that are enjoyed by their respective audiences.
Some organizations exist primarily to reach a basic production or operations objective. These include our traditional fiestas and celebrations of cultural communities where participants and audience are one and the same. Events where admission is free likewise involve mainly production work, e.g., piano recitals for family and friends, school-based presentations and exhibits.
Other more administratively and logistically complex cultural events also require primarily production management and only secondarily financial and marketing management, because they do not sell tickets to the public. These include the Annual Marian Procession held in Intramuros by the Cofradia de la Inmaculada Concepcion, and festivals such as Ati-Atihan and Sinulog celebrated by local government units and groups. The Philippine Festival of Culture and the Arts held throughout 2000 also falls in this category. Music, dance, drama, and visual arts events were held nationwide, including Dayaw, which brought together hundreds of cultural community members from all over the country for a weeklong festival of the traditional arts at the Rizal Park.
The task of management is the same in such arts and culture organizations or projects as it is in a manufacturing corporation organized for profit, in a non-government organization (NGO), in a private company, or in government.
Managerial work differs from substantive work. The director of a hospital need not attend to patients, in the same way that a university president need not teach class. The best dancer is not necessarily a good dance company manager and vice versa. The best director is probably not even a good actor. An arts company could lose its best artist and gain a terrible manager when it transfers the former to a managerial position.
A manager has to have credentials, of course, and he needs to know something about the substantive work of the organization, but primarily, a manager does management work. He does so at all levels of the organization. A president, a division chief, a foreman, all exercise managerial functions vis-à-vis their subordinates. Obviously, the president’s authority and responsibility is for the entire organization, while the foreman is concerned with a smaller part of the organization. Both do the same work in the sense that each is responsible for the attainment of whatever objective was assigned to him and the people who report to him.
Except for top managers who have overall responsibility for the organization’s success, a manager is usually assigned to a particular functional area—production, marketing or finance. Production means the design and manufacture of the organization’s products. In an arts organization, this would mean, for example: the writing, editing, design, and printing of a book; or the composition, orchestration, rehearsals, and performance in the case of a musical performance; or the painting or sculpting of an art object, etc. The marketing function would refer to matters such as pricing, advertising, selling, packing, delivery. Finance would mean budgeting, raising funds to cover production and marketing costs, including capital equipment and overhead costs, the collection of receivables, safeguarding cash, investment of excess cash, accounting and financial reporting, and related activities.
A manager is called upon to make decisions. Regardless of his area of assignment, decision-making means: (a) defining the problem; (b) identifying alternative options in the context of the desired objective; (c) analyzing the alternatives; and (d) making the decision. A person is a good manager if (most of the time) he makes the right decisions in the course of planning, organizing, and controlling, leading to the most efficient use of available resources and the attainment of the objectives established by the organization’s stakeholders.
In sum, there are managers with production, marketing or finance responsibilities. In all cases, they plan, organize and control, and in the course of which, they make decisions. They adjust to specific situations, of course, but for all intents and purposes they apply a common set of principles.
Planning refers to the determination in advance of the objectives to be attained, the best strategy to achieve these objectives considering the external and internal environment of the organization, and eventually the quantity of people, material, capital, and technology needed and how these will be employed. Objectives, priorities, strategy, programs, projects, activities, budgets, and timetables are standard components of any plan. In large and multi-task operations, industrial engineering techniques are employed, including such techniques as PERT-CPM (program evaluation and review technique/critical path method), linear programming, and other operations research or mathematics-based analytical techniques.
Production plans are fairly straightforward, involving mainly a listing of activities needed to attain the final objective, attaching these to a time frame, and providing for contingencies. Marketing plans involve the identification of target markets and of the appeal that would most likely succeed in penetrating each market segment. A financial plan would be based on the production and marketing assumptions and pull everything together in a projection of receipts, disbursements and some indication of how to cover any deficit or how to use any surplus.
A business mind in an arts organization would most likely plan on a reliable source of income to cover overhead and the development of a paying audience for ultimate self-sufficiency. This has already been successfully done by performing arts companies such as Repertory Philippines, Bayanihan, Powerdance, Ballet Philippines, and the Madrigal Singers.
Projects sometimes begin with the support of just one or a few strong supporters. The project peters out when the enthusiasm of the supporters start to wane. To encourage planning for self-sufficiency, the NCCA initiated multi-year grants in diminishing amounts. A five-year grant, for example, would be approved, in the amount of P500,000 in the first year, P400,000 in the second, down to P100,000 in the fifth, the idea being to encourage the organization to continue its activities while relying more and more on the development of a paying audience and on a larger number of sponsors. Among those who rose to the challenge were organizers of continuing events (including traditional arts festivals) and diverse organizations that had a strong local base.
Planning for culture and arts development is a different matter altogether. The NCCA planning effort involved the various government cultural agencies and the NCCA Committee network, with input from eminent persons and other government agencies whose basic responsibilities have a culture interface. The result was the Medium and Long Term Culture and Arts Development Plan that forms part of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Socio-Economic Development Plan. For the first time, culture and arts development was recognized as an area of development planning, spelling out the objectives for the sector and the policy and resource needs for the plan period.
The principal tool of the NCCA is its grants budget: it can encourage or discourage certain types of activities through the nature of the grants it makes. In the first years of its existence, the grants budget was allocated mathematically. Each of the four (4) NCCA SubCommissions received 20% of the total budget and the remaining 20% was held in reserve to augment Committee projects or for special projects developed by the NCCA Secretariat. The Sub-Commission allocations were further divided equally among their respective component Committees. The computation meant that music, dance, drama, visual arts, literature, architecture, and cinema each got 2.86% of the total grants budget; museums, art galleries, libraries and information services, historical research, monuments and sites, and archives each got 3.33%; the cultural communities categories (Agta, Northern, Southern, Muslim, and Kapatagan Cultural Communities) received 4%; and cultural education, cultural communication, cultural information, and language and translation each received a 5% share.
Each Committee was, for the most part, allowed to decide on the disposition of its share. Much of the funds were used for performance grants, conferences, training programs, and travel grants. In some cases, much or all of the available funds were used for projects of Committee members. The Commission felt that such an approach skirted the question of where Philippine arts and culture should go and a decision was made to shift from a system of equal sharing to a system of grants programs, each with budget allocations determined on the basis of an explicit decision based on priorities and objectives.
An effort was made to formulate goals for culture and arts development and to translate these to guidelines that Committees and all others could follow. After a period of transition, Committees could indorse any number of grants proposals as long as these were within the approved priority structure. A budget was approved for each program and all Committees were encouraged to identify and develop projects within the established programs. Therefore, aggregate program ceilings took the place of Committee ceilings. The concept of a grants cycle was also introduced as efforts were made to encourage more and more grant proponents to compete within the announced grants program. Through this means, it was hoped that the available funds would be used in support of recognized priorities and for the best ideas and implementers.
The major priorities spelled out in the plan are as follows:
1. Culture and development. Social cohesion and thus economic development is enhanced by greater mutual understanding among the country’s numerous cultural communities. Experience in other countries has shown that a strong social infrastructure enhances networking and cooperation and thus contributes to development. Other countries have demonstrated that active culture and arts organizations and activities are an important component of social infrastructure. Appreciation of local culture likewise enhances the effectiveness of government in infrastructure projects, peace and order, and generally the provision of basic services. In economic terms, the arts—performing, literary, visual, and traditional—generate goods and services that form part of the national product while providing income and employment to artists and cultural workers and the many support personnel that work in the culture industries.
2. Artistic Creation. The imagination of a people emerges in its art and it is the responsibility of any society to identify talented individuals and to provide them sufficient opportunity to realize their full creative potential. Young artists, in particular, should be allowed and encouraged to explore new ways of self-expression, even as established artists are encouraged to grow in their art. In a culturally diverse society such as the Philippines, traditional artists need to be given special attention so that they may pass on their legacy to the young, while enjoying the same opportunities to enlarge their horizons through contemporary means of artistic expression. Artists in the countryside should be given the same opportunities as those who are in the urban areas. The most talented should be encouraged to aspire for international recognition in highly regarded competitions and festivals.
3. Culture and Education. Education plays a key role in the twin tasks of identification and early development of future artists, and enhancement of the cultural literacy of Filipinos in order that the arts and culture become part of their daily lives. It is also the responsibility of education to familiarize young Filipinos with world culture and arts so that they may become well-rounded international citizens. The culture and arts component of the education curriculum, particularly in basic education, needs to be enriched. This requires teachers who are deeply grounded in the humanities and social sciences, and textbooks and teaching material for class use. The strengthening of the culture and arts subjects of teacher training institutions is essential for the upgrading of teacher competence. Our museums, historical monuments and sites, art galleries, and libraries can reinforce classroom work. Their educational functions can be enhanced with improved exhibits, guidebooks, and closer relationship with school authorities. Particular attention needs to be given to the upgrading of the culture and arts collections of public and school libraries as a means of opening intellectual windows to the Filipino youth.
4. Conservation of Cultural Heritage. The trend towards globalization and the very process of economic development make the preservation of cultural diversity more and more difficult. Both our tangible and intangible heritage are discarded for new trends. The major landmarks of Filipino creativity, some of them inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list, have to be protected, conserved, and appreciated by the Filipino people. The traditional arts need to be passed on to the younger generation. In some cases, the pride of a cultural community in its heritage and culture need to be restored. Scholarly work needs to be done on many aspects of Philippine history and pre-history that are still unknown or little understood. Artifacts that illustrate our heritage need to be properly cared for in our museums, libraries, art galleries, and archives in order that they may help teach the young and the public on our cultural heritage.
5. Promotion of Culture and Arts. The broadcast, print, and electronic media are potent tools in bringing culture and arts to the common man and in providing greater exposure to the results of artistic creation. Radio and television offer the possibility of large audiences for performances and cultural promotion. The electronic media, in particular, offers great possibilities in providing information on our culture and arts to students, the general public and the international community, including second generation communities overseas. New research needs to be published. Material on culture and the arts are wanting in magazines and periodicals, particularly those intended for young readers. The public, particularly in the outlying areas, are hungry for traveling exhibits and other cultural events. Traditional culture and arts of our cultural communities, including festivals, need to be promoted to encourage deeper appreciation by all Filipinos, provide more opportunities for people-to-people contact, revive dying traditions, and help promote understanding about cultural communities. The general objectives are simultaneously the development of audiences and audience appreciation for current creative work. People will buy paintings, books, sculpture, and tickets to performing arts events only if they understand and like them. With the development of an appreciative audience, the artists concerned would be able to earn more, and be encouraged by both the acclaim and the income.
6. Culture and Diplomacy. The country’s cultural exchange agreements with various countries can be more systematically implemented through exchanges of performing groups, art works, and scholars, and international lecture tours of authorities in culture and the arts. The Philippines should participate in international festivals and competitions, which offer our best artists the opportunity to test themselves against the best in the world and allow foreign audiences to see firsthand the talent and creativity of the Filipino people.
One outcome of the NCCA’s strategic thinking is the identification of a number of major projects that would have long lasting impact on Philippine culture and the arts. These include: (a) the Institute of Cultural and Arts Management (ICAM); (b) upgrading cultural literacy in the public schools system and, in particular, in teacher-training institutions; (c) projects intended to safeguard tangible cultural heritage, notably the Ifugao Rice Terraces and the best surviving examples of Philippine architecture, beginning with Spanish colonial period churches; (d) a National Gallery of Art; (e) a culture and arts publications program; (f) an integrated program for the reinforcement of traditional cultures; (g) enrichment of the culture and arts collections in the public and school library system; (h) culture industries development, including cultural tourism; and (i) values reorientation through the media and the schools system.
Organizing involves the design and assignment of authority and responsibility to the people who comprise the organization. One who is responsible for the success of an undertaking must have the authority over the people and resources needed for the purpose. Similarly, the person who decides on the use of people’s time and the organization’s resources cannot disclaim responsibility should something go wrong.
Organizations are usually designed to have groups to handle each of the major organizational functions: operations, marketing and finance, and personnel or human resources work. In a centralized organization, the heads of the various groups report to a single person who makes the final decision. In more consultative organizations, the group leaders sometimes constitute themselves into a Committee that makes the final decision.
A good example is the typical university press which has an editorial department (which is in effect the production department), a marketing department that takes care of distribution, a finance department that performs accounting functions and a cash unit, and a personnel and administration department. In some cases, there would be a printing operation and a bookstore, although typically these are outsourced from commercial printing presses and distribution is handled through the major bookstores.
Consider also the way a fiesta or a procession is organized. There would be a Comite de Festejos, a Committee on Ways and Means, a Committee on the Souvenir Program, a Committee on Sponsors, a Reception Committee, an Invitation Committee, and so on. The Comite de Festejos is responsible for operations, while the others are responsible for marketing, finance, and the other tasks.
The broad responsibilities of the NCCA in terms of geographic coverage, number and variety of sectors and organizations with which it relates, and the unusual Committee system meant an interesting organizational design exercise.
1. Secretariat. The NCCA Secretariat is intended for the administrative and day-to-day operations of the Commission. Secretariat personnel were originally organized in parallel with the various Sub-Commissions and Committees, such that the same persons would prepare the agenda for Committee meetings, take Minutes, summarize project proposals for Committee action, implement Committee projects, prepare monitoring reports on grants, account for committee project expenses, and so on.
After extensive study, an alternative scheme was adopted and the Secretariat was reorganized to have a group specifically assigned to assess project proposals in the light of Commission policies and priorities. This was accompanied by the adoption of grants programs and policies to guide proponents and staff alike. Another group was responsible for Committee affairs, including the compilation and updating of Committee membership records and the like. A third group was made responsible for project monitoring and assessment. A staff-training program was also designed to develop project preparation, implementation, and evaluation skills.
2. Relationship with Government Cultural Agencies. Prior to the issuance of Executive Order No. 80 in 1999, the heads of the major cultural agencies were members of the NCCA Board. The cultural agencies also received grants on application. Relationships were not the best (no National Artist was named for seven years due to a jurisdictional dispute). With the transfer of the cultural agencies to the NCCA under E.O. No. 80, a mechanism was devised to better coordinate the priorities and programs of the agencies in an integrated government program for culture and the arts. Benefits of the new process included the periodic updating of the culture and arts components of the NEDA plan and the preparation of a coordinated budget proposal of all cultural agencies. The Commission also explicitly considered ways through which it could assist cultural agencies in major long-term activities.
3. Cooperative Undertakings with other Government Agencies. Under its Charter, the NCCA is mandated to work with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Tourism (DOT). In addition, the Commission reached out to agencies that interface with various aspects of culture, including the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA). The idea was to broaden the reach of the NCCA by working with (and not duplicating the function of) these agencies. Local government units have their respective culture and arts institutions and activities, the NCIP has responsibilities over cultural communities, while the PIA runs government media facilities. Getting these agencies to be conscious of and to work within the national policy and priorities on culture and the arts would clearly be a big step in culture and arts development and promotion. For starters, the NCCA has entered into discussions on culture and arts programs that could possibly lead to the development of an educational/cultural station.
4. Regional Organization. The initial approach of the NCCA was to mirror, at regional and provincial levels, the national NCCA Committee type organization, with Committees at each level of the local government network. A review of the pilot project established in Cebu led to the conclusion that this approach was unwieldy. The alternative decided upon was to work with other government agencies and to encourage direct communication between the NCCA and cultural organizations and grants proponents. A system of regional liaison officers was thought to be more effective and less costly, and a pilot project was developed for Visayas and Mindanao.
A deliberate effort was made to develop joint programs and a close working relationship among the NCCA, DILG and local government units (LGUs). In particular, it was felt that these agencies have a common objective of supporting culture and the arts including the identification and support of talented individuals, safeguarding cultural heritage, and developing audiences for culture and arts activities. The initial discussions identified the following activities jointly supported by the NCCA and LGUs: (a) national and local tours of LGU-supported performing groups; (b) multi-year grants in diminishing amounts for performing arts seasons fully or partly sponsored by LGUs; (c) exchange of cultural groups among LGUs, including members of cultural communities; (d) technical assistance to local museums, libraries and historical associations; (e) partial sponsorship of the publication of books or monographs on the history, culture, and arts of the LGU; and (f) assistance to enable local groups to perform at suitable national events in Metro Manila.
The NCCA also created models for culture-based development that LGUs can follow. An approach was developed for Bohol that involved its provincial and city governments, the Church, NGOs, culture and arts organizations, private individuals, and local and national business communities. The objective was to deploy a carefully devised set of NCCA grants to catalyze inputs from all concerned. Among other things, the strategy called for building cultural awareness through a curated exhibit on the arts of Bohol which would open in Manila and travel to Tagbilaran City, conservation and restoration of heritage structures, improvement of existing museums, assistance in town heritage planning for a heritage village and associated facilities, a series of arts festivals centering on local groups and an old church organ restored with NCCA help, culture publications, and the revival of traditional industries such as jewelry-making and terra cotta.
Control means making sure that work proceeds according to plan, that there is no slippage in the timetable, that attainment of the objectives and resource expenditure are aligned, and that the objectives are always kept in sight. Corrective measures are then decided upon should there be any deviation from the plan. The approved plan is the benchmark against which performance is measured.
A well-managed project, organization, or sector would generally establish goals for the planning period, expressed, whenever possible, in measurable terms. The targets of a performing arts project, for example, could be in terms of number of performances, critical acclaim, size and profile of audience, ticket sales, sponsorship proceeds or net revenue, and so on. A culture or arts organization, for its part, could similarly express its goals in terms of number of activities for the year, number of participants, operating results for the year (revenues and costs), and so on, depending on the nature of the organization and the specific areas of emphasis for the year. Culture agencies compile information on matters like number of readers and new acquisitions (libraries), number of visitors (museums), and number of performance and attendance (theatres). Obviously, organization performance in a given year can be gauged in terms of how close they were to the targets originally established.
Production control has to do with output quality, people and resources used in the production process, and compliance with the timetable and other details of the production plan. Marketing control is concerned with the attainment of sales and revenue targets. While financial control has to do with the determination and explanation of variances between the budgeted revenues and costs and actual performance. At the very least, exercise of financial control requires proper accounting of revenues and expenditures. Books of account should be kept and each receipt and disbursement properly acknowledged and supported. Financial reports should be prepared for the information and guidance of all concerned.
Government control systems have to do mainly with compliance with accounting and auditing regulations, particularly those in relation to procurement, payment, and settlement of advances. The rules are necessarily formulated to be of general applicability to the bureaucracy. The NCCA grants system is unique in many respects and the application of general rules resulted in certain inefficiencies, and increased stress from grant recipients. Careful study of past experience led to a proposal that was ultimately approved by the Commission on Audit, for the adoption of special NCCA grants liquidation procedures, for the following sectors: (a) NGOs and public organizations with a track record of reliability in project implementation; (b) indigenous peoples’ groups (cultural communities) recognized by competent authority (e.g., the NCIP or the National Museum) in areas where economic activity is done outside the monetary system; (c) school-based culture groups; and (d) creative artists meeting certain substantive and administrative criteria.
An evaluation of national progress in the culture and arts requires some form of cultural statistics. NCCA efforts to develop cultural indicators have thus far identified the following categories: (a) production of material goods and services; (b) consumption of material goods and services; (c) development/stock of physical and human capital; (d) the public’s time allocation for culture and arts activities; and (e) indicators of quality of culture and arts output. These can be organized in industry data and expressed in monetary or physical terms.
1. Industry data. The total value of a particular type of activity for a given year, whether cultural and artistic or otherwise, can be computed on the basis of the volume of production and price. In a culture industry, the value of a given year’s output would be the total of the industry’s revenues from the sale of commodities, from services produced, from private sponsors and from government subsidies. Alternatively, the value of the culture industry’s production can be determined by estimating the income earned by all the resource providers – actors, painters, composers, scriptwriters, crew, ticket sellers – who made the output possible.
2. Regional data. It would be useful to gather information by geographic area, possibly to have industry information by region. It is understood, however, that it would be difficult to gather statistics on the economic basis of cultural communities that consist principally of subsistence agriculture, hunting and fishing, and gathering of forest products. It is therefore understood that transactions captured in the statistics are most likely to be understated because traditional cultural communities are for the most part outside the monetized economy.
3. Volume Indicators. Activity in culture and arts can also be measured through physical or volume indicators, such as number of performances, book titles published, and motion pictures released. While these are subsumed in financial measures, volume data are useful particularly where financial indicators are inadequate. In non-monetized sectors of the economy, volume indicators may be the best available means to measure activity, particularly in the performing and literary arts.
The cultural and communications agencies of government maintain regular statistical series and conduct surveys, regularly or as need arises. The available series are generally limited to the number of museums, public libraries and archives, classified by location and financing source. Data is also available on number of visitors or users and in the case of libraries, number of volumes in the collection. In the communications sector, data is compiled on media infrastructure, on the number of radio stations, television stations, newspapers, magazines, and movie houses, classified by location. Market surveys are also conducted occasionally on readership or audience preferences.
4. Input measures. It is simpler to measure resource input as a surrogate measure for output, on the assumption—not always correct—of a direct relation between size of input and the quality and volume of output. Government budget for cultural agencies and cultural activities are available, as are the number of teachers, textbooks, school rooms and equipment, and other resource input.
5. Cultural Literacy. The ultimate culture and arts plan objective is to achieve national unity while maintaining cultural diversity, including encouragement of artistic expression and public appreciation and patronage of artistic and cultural activities. The degree of success in these objectives can be gauged by carefully structured surveys intended to reveal the cultural literacy of key groups.
Achievement tests administered to school children could include questions on Philippine, Asian, and Western culture and the arts, in effect, on the minimum information that every educated Filipino should know. These have not yet been systematically analyzed and there is need to identify both the state of cultural literacy among the general public and key groups such as schoolchildren, teachers, and students of teacher-training institutions.
Good corporate governance—in terms of integrity, fairness, accountability, and transparency—is being actively encouraged worldwide by regulators, investors, companies, academicians, and the general public. All concerned are expected to be sensitive to ethical matters, particularly potential conflicts of interest. In business, violation of ethical standards could be cause for dismissal or prosecution. In the professions, both the Professional Regulations Commission and professional associations enforce codes of ethics, violation of which could mean suspension of the right to practice one’s profession. Certain management and professional organizations also explicitly include in their rules a specific prohibition against campaigning for office, on the theory that a position seeks the person and not the other way around.
For various reasons, arts organizations sometimes take governance practices for granted. Many are small and individual centered, paying more attention to artistic creation than to accountability or transparency. Conflicts of interest are sometimes ignored and in some organizations, it is not unknown for the same person to propose a project, participate in its evaluation and recommend approval, expect higher authority to go along, and then implement and monitor the project. Politics also seems strong in many cultural organizations, where factionalism and aggressive pursuit of position often exist, sometimes involving media abuse.
In the interest of good governance, the NCCA has adopted a Code of Ethics that highlights the importance of civility and the avoidance of conflict of interest or even the semblance thereof. It also decided on full transparency with respect to Commission discussions, purpose and amount of grants, and their recipients. Probably alone among government agencies, minutes of Commission meetings are posted on the NCCA website immediately upon confirmation and approval.
The NCCA is an interesting experiment in trying to combine people empowerment and government bureaucracy. Rep. Act No. 7356, or the NCCA Charter assigns to the Commission full responsibility and authority. As such, they are liable for violations of law and regulations, including Rep. Act No. 3019, “The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.” At the same time, the Charter creates Committees consisting of representatives of the artists and cultural workers within a particular sector. Membership and elections were initially informal and election controversies were not unusual. In my first Commission meeting, there was one member too many—there were two (2) SubCommission Heads for Cultural Communication.
In practice, Committees had significant authority over grants and NCCA-administered projects. However, as volunteers and theoretically with no decision making power, Committee members had no responsibility. This led to doubts over Committee actions, e.g., when Committee funding went to their projects and foreign travel. The rules did not provide for a routine turnover mechanism, such that the composition of certain committees remained practically unchanged since the NCCA was created. The system was also vulnerable to politicking. Some went to great lengths to retain Committee posts, equaled only by others’ contortions to get elected to leadership positions. There where also instances when people materialized at Committee election time, reportedly brought in by eager aspirants. Certain Committees mirrored government cultural agencies and there were distracting disagreements over cultural agency and Committee members’ priorities and projects.
It was an exceptionally difficult situation but after lengthy nationwide consultations (and over the objections of a small group), the rules were changed to limit the terms of individual members of Committee Executive Councils, to provide for ex-officio representation from recognized associations within the Committee’s area, and to provide for a formal linkage between Committees and their corresponding government cultural agencies.
The statistics are incomplete, but it would be fair to generalize that in the Philippines, the performing arts and cultural heritage preservation are supported largely by sponsorships and government subsidy. The literary and visual arts are supported mainly by paying customers, but the level of support is relatively low. The traditional arts, being practiced by and for the cultural communities themselves, continue (such as they are) as part of the way of life of the people concerned, with negligible income generated from the commercialized crafts. Cultural literacy and demand for culture and arts products and services are low. The income and employment generated by the culture and arts sector is certainly far below what it should be, considering Filipino artistry.
In contrast, the employment and income generated by cultural industries account for a significant part of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of other countries. One can only note the employment and income generated by Broadway and West End theater productions, by the book and magazine publishing industries, by the La Scala and Covent Garden Opera and the Bolshoi Ballet, by the film industries of California and Bombay, by the fashion industry of Paris, by art exhibitions in Venice and Sao Paolo. How many paying visitors go to art galleries and museums like the Louvre and those of the Vatican? How many tourists are attracted by culture and cultural heritage to Italy, to Cambodia and Angkor, and to China and its Forbidden City?
In recent years, the Philippines has suffered losses in the manufacturing sector as multinationals and domestic corporations alike transfer their production operations to China and other low-cost countries. Agricultural investment and productivity has been low for decades. Overseas employment has been the mainstay of the economy, but it is difficult to see how this can support growth in real per capita income.
Culture industries offer great potential. To realize the possibilities, we need to apply the principles of sound management in culture and the arts.