Chile/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities

Cultural policy in the State of Chile addresses some of the main discussions and debates on the subject of culture and the arts at the international level, also providing assessments, needs, interests and proposals from different agents in the national cultural field. The Cultural Policy 2011-2016 document currently in effect draws from a variety of sources of information including discussion meetings at the national and local levels such as the 7th National Cultural Convention of 2010, the Zonal Conventions of 2010 and a Workshop for Cultural Agencies. The document covers the main lines of action of sector-specific cultural policy documents as well as the Ministerial definitions currently in place, in conjunction with proposals from organisations in the cultural field and information from instruments of public consultation.

In general terms, the current cultural policy in Chile is structured around the fields of action that Law No. 19.891 defines for the National Council for Culture and the Arts, which are: supporting development of the arts and the dissemination of culture, contributing towards conserving, increasing and making available the cultural heritage of the Nation to the people, and promoting the participation of the people in the cultural life of the country. These areas are considered as the main lines of action for the Cultural Policy 2011-2016 document, around which objectives are set and goals and specific strategies are outlined in order to implement them. Therefore, conceptually defining these lines of action (CNCA, 2011a) is one of the fundamental tasks of cultural policy. These definitions are outlined below:

-        Creation and Promotion of the Arts: Cultural policy in Chile defines the arts as practices, experiences and thoughts mediated by perception, emotion, sentiment, imagination and reason (in short, subjectivity); they are the expression of a right (political dimension) to symbolise, create and re-create oneself, and they are a vehicle for a shared memory and world vision (CNCA, 2011b).

In terms of public policy, the promotion of artistic creation reflects the importance of the arts for the development of people and cultural citizenship. It also recognises the transformations of a globalised world and its effects on artistic language ​​and media. Likewise, it highlights the importance of cultural industries as a key element for the development of the economy of the arts as a strategy for the development of the country, and as a vehicle for the creation of content, the strengthening of identities, and the international dissemination of national imaginaries (CNCA, 2011a).

The main priority areas in terms of the current cultural policy in Chile relating to the creation and promotion of the arts include the following (CNCA, 2011a):

  • Training, professionalisation and regulation of the activity of professional artists.
  • Identifying, researching and strengthening the various components of the cycle of cultural production, both in relation to creation and production of cultural industries, and the circulation of works, cultural goods and services.
  • Promoting strategic partnerships and institutional relationships with productive entities, the education sector and the media.
  • Reviewing and updating the legal regulations pertaining to art and culture, according to national circumstances and in dialogue with international trends, as well as setting up control mechanisms to facilitate compliance therewith.
  • Internationalising works, cultural goods and services within the international arena, including national artists residing abroad, generating opportunities for the presence of Chilean artists in international circuits, promoting the adoption of international standards and creating partnerships with embassies and other cultural diplomacy agents, with a special emphasis on our neighbouring countries.
  • Strengthening the recognition of copyright through the study and dissemination of existing legislation, and developing of new initiatives in this area.
  • Promoting cultural creation linked to digital platforms and new information and communication technologies, through research, training, experimentation and dissemination of artistic creation within digital environments.

It is important to note that within the discussions that have lead to the current cultural policy, consideration was given to issues such as inclusion in cultural policy of areas like design, fashion, video games and other mediums related to the definition of creative industries; as well as the discussion regarding internationalisation strategies at the regional level or extending to the global level, along with strategies for mobilising the necessary elements to construct the image of a consistent and attractive country.

-        Citizen participation: Citizen participation is understood as the involvement of citizens in the decisions that affect them, which in the cultural field means the recognition of their cultural rights, attention to their interests and demands, and collaboration between the state and citizens (CNCA, 2011a: 49-50). Since culture is understood as an element of human nature and as a factor for development, citizen participation allows the integration of various social groups into the national community, and becomes a key to the democratisation of societies (CNCA, 2011b).

Within the framework of Chilean cultural policy, citizen participation is understood as access to cultural manifestations, artistic expressions, cultural heritage, and the use of technologies as a channel for the circulation of cultural manifestations. Citizen participation has the purpose of developing new audiences and generating habits of cultural participation within the community. Some key elements in building cultural participation are related to the importance of an adequate infrastructure, the establishment of networks for the creation, management and dissemination of works and content, the people’s cultural consumption, and the expression of diverse identities, memories and textualities present in our communities.

Some of the priority areas of the current cultural policy in Chile in terms of citizen participation are listed below (CNCA, 2011a):

  • Promoting community access to cultural and arts initiatives by supporting decentralised cultural management at the regional level, valuing local expressions at the regional and community levels, with a special emphasis on vulnerable and geographically isolated sectors of the population.
  • Strengthening access to the cultural activities available through public coordination at the institutional level, especially at the regional and local levels, strengthening institutions at the territorial level, and developing specific initiatives such as subsidy of demand as the economic dimension of cultural consumption. It should be noted that studies carried out by CNCA (2011r and 2011s) show that these practices depend critically on the cultural capital and the population’s patterns of use of leisure time, involving various socioeconomic and educational factors, hindering an effective implementation of a system in the short term.
  • Promoting habits of artistic and cultural consumption in the community, stimulating audience development by providing education to citizens in creation and appreciation, supporting cultural management and mediation in administrative terms by cultural centres, strengthening and creating new infrastructure, promoting the manifestations of the communities and the role of key players such as universities. Furthermore, Chilean cultural policy seeks to promote the link of private professionalised cultural agents. In this regard, it is necessary to bear in mind the potential issues highlighted in studies conducted by CNCA (see above).
  • Promoting the exchange of cultural contents through information and communications technology, promoting the use of digital media and incorporating themes of art and culture in the digital agenda of the State. It should be noted that despite the references to technology as a means of access, and the interest in adopting international standards concerning digital culture, Chilean cultural policy still does not give recommendations such as those issued by the 10th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Culture, with regard to promoting free access to culture via digital media, as a foundation for local creation, which is seen as a mechanism to prevent a position that is dependent on imported cultural production (Council of Europe, 2013).

Discussions of cultural agents and the citizens involved were centred around issues such as various strategies for audience development, especially based on the opposition to subsidy of demand as an alternative to free access. Similarly, discussions were held on the evaluation of the work carried out by cultural centres and support to local cultural initiatives. 

-        Cultural heritage: Discussions regarding cultural heritage in Chile draw from the major international definitions proposed by organisations such as UNESCO. Public institutions devoted to culture in our country refer to the distinction between tangible cultural heritage, corresponding to monuments and sites of universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological points of view (UNESCO, 1972), and intangible cultural heritage, corresponding to the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills that are constantly recreated in the communities and provide them with a sense of identity (UNESCO, 2003). Cultural heritage is seen as a vehicle of cultural identities and diversity, therefore protecting it is a priority at the international level.

Discussions of major importance in relation to heritage in our country are those related to the coordination of the various public bodies (CNCA, National Monuments Council, DIBAM and SERNATUR) on the tasks of identification, conservation and dissemination of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Protection of cultural heritage is based on the recognition of multiculturalism in our territory and on considering tangible and intangible cultural heritage as part of the strategies for development, which reveal the relationship between culture and the economy (CNCA, 2011a and 2011b).

Some of the priority areas of the current cultural policy in Chile in terms of cultural heritage include (CNCA, 2011a):

  • Valuation and safeguarding of tangible cultural heritage, coordinating actions for its management, conservation and enhancement, based on research, identification, protection, intervention and dissemination. This also involves training and professional development on cultural heritage issues and the adoption of international conventions in national law.
  • Valuation and safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, developing strategies to identify, retrieve and disseminate intangible heritage manifestations; as well as reviewing and updating the legal framework in line with international trends, promoting links with the education system, with a special emphasis on safeguarding expressions and manifestations from indigenous and immigrant communities. In relation to this area, it is important to apply the ILO Convention 169 (ILO, 1989) concerning indigenous and tribal peoples (ratified by our country in 2008), and the possible participation in the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to their Countries of Origin or Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation, an organization created in 1978, of which Chile is not a member.
  • Contributing to the promotion of cultural tourism, respecting diversity and the conservation of the cultural heritage of the Nation, linking tourism and heritage activities with regional socio-economic development through institutional coordination between the agents associated with the sector. 

The discussions which were then channelled into the current cultural policy included issues relating to asset reconstruction after the earthquake that affected much of the central and southern areas of Chile on 27 February 2010; as well as discussions on how to operationalise the protection of intangible heritage, and on how to stimulate the creation of regional development strategies based on heritage routes and clusters of tourism development at the local level.


Chapter published: 28-12-2013


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