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Urban Policies in Culture 

The management of cultural production emerges as a factor in shaping long-term strategies, urban policies as well as urban planning practices. Under the general term of cultural production, we can identify diverse practices ranging from the production of a distinct urban culture to the management and distribution of the results of artistic production. In the European metropolis, the movement from the field of culture to the city follows different routes such as the strategic formation of urban clusters centred on the creative economy (Tremblay & Battaglia 2012; Zarlenga, 2016, Pratt 2019), the strategic promotion of the city through its symbolic capital and its distinctive identity (Iveson 2012, Mommas 2003), or the active involvement of institutional actors in the field of culture in city decision-making (Grodach 2011, Mosquera-Perez 2019, Salvini 2018). In the case of Athens, where conducting urban politics through culture is a relatively new phenomenon, a distinctive method of intervention in the shaping of both urban policies and discourse about the city seems to be largely organised around the action of large-scale cultural actors which, although originating from private economic processes, seem to develop both an autonomous presence and particular links with local and state administration.

The field of cultural production in Athens has experienced intense changes since 2008, which have consequently transformed the spatial footprint of the actors involved and the related urban policies.
As an indication, we mention some of the policies that influence the production and distribution of cultural production in Athens:


The Integrated Urban Intervention Plan for Urban Intervention EPA 2013/15 foresees 'the strengthening of creative cultural activities (and citizen groups) p.525 (specific actions for the promotion of forms of cultural activity such as street theatre, street art and graffiti, music industry, performing arts, etc.)'.
Actions programmed in this context are: the support of the SynAthina programme, Metaxourgio creativity cluster, street market of creative products, Athens festival, social innovation and entrepreneurship actions by Erg Athena, Athenian digital state of art and letters (Erg Athens), Equipment of the Industrial Museum of Athens (Erg Athens), Restoration of the Dourouti house / Cultural centre.


Within the framework of the Athens Resilient City (2016)/ Resilience Strategy 2017) policies, actions such as the 'Athens Creates' programme appear, which aims to integrate art in public space. It is a programme of creative design of public spaces in order to promote public life in the 3rd and 6th districts. The Athens Creates programme consists of a series of temporary interventions characterised by participatory processes. Given the limited budget of the municipality, the temporary interventions are a more effective solution in the effort to prioritise and select further investment by the municipality in public space projects.


According to the Athens - Living City plan, under the A2 Strategic Plan for the Creative Economy action, the creation of an Artists and Hospitality Network is included, which as stated: a. will promote hospitality programmes for artists and researchers. Hospitality is provided as a field for dialogue and projects, giving artists more opportunities as participants in the creation of cultural identity; b. will offer artists based in Athens more professional opportunities (e.g. artist walks and open studio days, commissioning artworks in public spaces, etc.); c. will establish skill development structures and tools for artists and cultural entrepreneurs, organize master-classes and foster alternative educational opportunities for artists and cultural entrepreneurs; d. will provide artists with a range of opportunities to work in Athens; e.g. will offer artists in Athens more opportunities to work in Athens; f. will provide artists in Athens with more opportunities to work in Athens; e.g. will provide artists in Athens with more opportunities to work in Athens; g. will provide artists in Athens with more professional opportunities (e.g. artist walks and open studio days, commissioning artworks in public spaces, etc.); h. will establish skill development structures and tools for artists and cultural entrepreneurs, organize master-classes and foster alternative educational opportunities for artists and cultural entrepreneurs.

Urban Policies in Culture 

Private Initiatives in Culture

The period of the economic crisis has highlighted the growing presence of private institutions such as large-scale cultural institutions, as well as national and internationally important events with public funding (Documenta, Remap Athens, Athens Biennale).
At the same time, the emergence of large-scale cultural institutions (CSOs) in Athens with the participation of private actors coincides, in broad terms, with the period of the economic crisis. Nevertheless, the consolidation of the participation of private initiative in the shaping of discourses and policies for the city is not a peculiarity of Athens, but is part of wider transformations already evident in other western metropolises.


The presence of large-scale cultural institutions reflects the ongoing retreat of the state from the field of cultural production and its gradual transfer to private initiative. At the same time, it seems that the gradual ceding of cultural production and its dissemination routes to private and hybrid actors is expressed, on the one hand, in the remarkable spatial footprint of large-scale cultural institutions and, on the other hand, in the integration of their agenda into state and local policies and discourses for Athens.


The entry of the private sector and the consolidation of its hegemony - with a social contribution bias - in policy areas that until recently were primarily the responsibility of the state is described as philanthropic capitalism (Bishop & Green 2008), while it coincides with the decline of the welfare state and the gradual concentration of capital in the hands of a few already since the last decade of the 20th century (Lipman 2015).

This condition provides a privileged field for the formulation of a broader visionary framework. According to McGoey, in the paradigm of philanthropic capitalism there coexists on the one hand a conception of private success with the common good, and on the other hand a return to the validation of the historical moral underpinning of capitalism as a guarantor of economic and social well-being (2012).
Philanthropic capitalism flourishes on the ground of the retreat of the welfare state and the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth. However, it is not simply a shift of decision-making power, resources and policy areas from the state to the private sector. The 'hybrid' paradigm of state-private partnerships does not promote the autonomy of the two pillars, but the extension of the dependence and support of the later on the former (McGoey 2014). Such relations are also found in the state-private partnership in the production of culture in Athens, where the involvement of actors from the private sector and the constitution and implementation of urban policies can be understood as a single complex of action and discourse.
It is noted that within this regime, broad strategic programmes are produced rather than specific spatially localised interventions (Athanasiou 2020). The programmatic framework of urban resilience does not focus on the scope of localised interventions, but on the elaboration of strategies, and their specification within the context of each individual city.

Private Initiatives in Culture

Commoning in Culture

The history of the cultural scene of Athens is rich in terms of alternative cultural practices. One such example can be found in the Plaka area (of the 1970s and 1980s) where alternative cultural events (such as bouquets) are still linked to this day with cultural movements in neighbourhoods and streets of Athens, such as Exarchia, Panepistemiou, Psirri, etc. In the contemporary history of the city, the culture of the 'below' has a constant presence. In the time frame of the study from 2008 to the present, a broad cultural scene has developed in the shadow of the crisis. In these practices it is possible to recognize both the cultivation of established forms of expression and forms of subculture. Particularly the latter category as described by scholars Kolovos G. (2015), Irwin J. (1970), Becker H. (2000),1 actively appeared in the public sphere and tried to redefine through language, expression and other tools the existing social relations.

In the wake of these practices, new centres of reference have been created, where independent expression coincides with the emergence of permanent or ephemeral meeting places. Subsequently, individual forms of grassroots movements around culture are distinguished according to their form of governance and their spatial and temporal characteristics. They are categorised into:

-spaces for performing and disposing of cultural practices, such as indoctrinated/self-organised spaces like the EMPROS theatre, which function as structures of cultural production (whether this is their central project or not). Several of them predate the 2008-2009 crisis, while in general they have a long duration and have developed into a reference and rallying point for a wide range of groups and collectives
-art groups. In this case there is no clear local identification but rather a 'nomadic' presence. Such groups participate in shaping the cultural production of grassroots movements and their presence feeds into other localised cultural structures.
-pre-existing actions, such as the occupation of the Lyric Stage in the aftermath of 2009, in which pre-existing groups come together with each other, as well as with external participants, and create events/landmarks producing events of original cultural expression, often in confluence with movements of different orientation and actions of social antagonism.
-artists' associations as a form of non-institutional or semi-institutional expression of cultural productions, such as the Support Art Workers movement.
Such movements of a permanent or transient nature articulate discourses both in relation to the structure of cultural production, while advocating a wide range of spatial practices. Note that in many cases, the physiognomy of movements transcends this categorisation, as movements around culture tend to transform, revise their practices and meet with other initiatives during their lifetime. In the following, a timeline is provided that describes on the one hand the emergence of initiatives and groups in the field of culture, as well as individual or ephemeral actions that served as milestones for the formation of alternative or counter-hegemonic narratives in the field of culture.

Commoning in Culture
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