The goal of Cultural ID is to show you a direct and personal link to the arts and culture scene through the eyes of the interviewed. Each participant answers the same set of questions. In this way the blog invites them to share their experience and thoughts on the cultural scene in their city or country. Cultural ID gives you a sincere overview about the cultural identity of young arts and culture professionals from all over the world.
This month we dig into the cultural scene of Warsaw through the eyes and words of Zofia Płoska (25). She is a full of positive energies and determinate art researcher and art manager. After having achieved a Master in Arts and Heritage Policy, Management and Education at Maastricht University she is currently undertaking a Master in Art history at the University of Warsaw.
How do you define yourself?
I’m endlessly curious.
What does ‘culture’ mean to you?
Curiosity, it means that you are never satisfied with what you already know, you need to discover new things/things anew all the time. I try to get a grip of the world I live in as much as I can, but I know that even the street I live on is a microcosm that could fill whole libraries with content. Culture, by which I mean in this case artistic production, is the best device I know to keep your mind open for new ways of seeing. Another is theory, which changes ways of thinking – and I’m addicted to it as well – yet if I had to choose I would stick to culture because it also makes me truly happy.
What kind of added value culture give you?
I’ve just mentioned the value which, I believe, is inherent to culture as a whole. It’s hard to predict what kind of experience the next art work will bring to your life but the rule is simple – if it makes a difference, it has a value for me.
Being a cultural professional is?
Being an extremely interesting conversation partner who always ends a discussion with “we should definitely do something together” (meaning art project of course).
What is the role of culture in your country?
In a macro scale, it’s mariginal – visitor rates in cultural venues and the level of financing (both public and private) are very low. It’s changing for the better but in my opinion the pace is far to slow, especially since the level of the artistic production is at the same time extremely high. Poland might be underdeveloped in economic or technological terms but it’s definitely not in the cultural sphere. In various fields, like theatre or fine arts, Polish artists play a vital role in the international art world. We shouldn’t miss the chance to establish Poland as an important art destination, but now we unfortunately do.
Can you sketch the cultural scene in your city?
After the years of stagnation it‘s finally flourishing, with a lot of grassroots initiatives going on. There are more and more art organisations, collectives, cultural centers and private enterprises that form an exciting alternative to the mainstream, state-founded institutions. Even the city authorities today start to understand the importance of culture in the urban development and slowly there is more money for that as well. Yet, what is most important is that there are a lot of young artists living in Warsaw and the scene is full of potential.
How did you end up in this city? Why did you choose to work in this city?
I was born in Warsaw and that’s where my heart is. I’m a cosmpolitan type of person and I felt very good living abroad but maybe it’s because I really care about my city and want to contribute to the way it changes.
How is it for you to work in this cultural scene?
Finding a job in cultural sector, especially a paid one, is not easy because there are hordes of graduates with a humanities degree who are applying for these few positions. I was lucky enough to get a job in my profession, in the last months I handled promotion and communication for one of the major art venues in Warsaw. It is what it is, as Americans say. Sometimes wonderful, sometimes frustrating.
How can you define the position of the cultural professionals in your city?
It depends how well networked you are and with what kind of organisation you are affiliated with. Of course there is a hierarchy, there are people who matter and those who do not. The problem in general is that authorities do not treat culture seriously, so usually you have very little power to lobby for your organisation. Yet, if you have a drive and good idea you can do great projects with one of many unofficial cultural organizations. It will be very rewarding in itself but might not help you to pay the rent.
How do you see the future for yourself as a cultural professional in your city, are there any opportunities here? And why?
I believe, the best way to be as free as possible in what you do is to start your own cultural organisation or be a freelancer who cooperates with different institutions. There is a good aura for that in Warsaw now and there are more and more sources of financing available.
Are there any initiatives in your country that help cultural professionals/artists at the beginning of their career?
For cultural proffesionals – definitely not, unless you count in a bunch of unpaid internships. Artists can apply for few residency programs or other research projects but there is no systematic support system for artists at the beginning of their careers, like the one in the Netherlands.
Did you do residency/internship/studies outside of your country? If yes, what differences did you see?
I did an internship in New York in one of the top commercial art galleries in the world and the major difference is that the art world is very professional and organized there. It has its rituals, conventions, hierarchy. Here the art market is in a prenatal phase but that makes it much more spontaneous, unpredicatable and interesting to participate in.
What tips can you give to other young cultural professionals?
Go abroad to get the experience, see how the best people do it and then do it yourself.