What if?

What if… there were no cultural institutions and we reinvented them again?

Before you start: Think of one or two of the best cultural experiences you have had in your life – that’s it.

Everything changes or is that really so? Is it merely the form and appearance or are the tectonic plates moving? Think back to the buildings you once knew, the street layouts, the urban forms, the shops you went to and galleries, theatres, libraries, museums, the spectaculars, the experiences.

Within the frenzy of change there is always a desire for constants like a sense of solidity, an urban commons, connection or possibility and inspiration. Have cultural entities or institutions shifted and if not should they? How do they fit within this evolving landscape?

What if the starting point and primary focus of cultural institutions instead was to create meaning, deep experiences and memorable moments? What if it were to bridge social fractures, to try to be a glue, a safe haven, a gathering place for chance encounter and the meeting of difference? What if creating joint rituals was important? What if civic generosity were key? What if leaders moderated rather than tell? What if things were more audience driven rather than producer led? What if we were makers, shapers and co-creators of our collective experiences? What if sharing knowledge and experiences were the primary motivation? How then would institutions be managed and organized and what skills would be needed? What would these civic places of tomorrow look and feel like? Do they spill into the streets or from the street back? What would next generation cultural places do and how? Would these places embedded in the digital world be cultural institutions as we know them? What convergences and cross-fertilizations can occur? How would they behave and what would be their institutional form?

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