Cultural Organisations and Diversity: Cultural Participation of Schoolchildren

KulturKontakt Austria invites players from cultural institutions, multipliers from the field of education and representatives of various target groups in Austria to engage in exchange about their experiences with the subject “access to the arts and culture”. The focus will be on activities for children and young people in the school context, where dealing with heterogeneity is one of the daily challenges.

School is the one institution that has dealings with all young people, irrespective of their (social) backgrounds. It is thus the central institution that is in a position to give children and young people their first, basic, low-threshold access to the arts and culture. In this context, it is of primary importance to broaden participation opportunities for children and young people, particularly for those from educationally and socially disadvantaged environments. All issues related to cultural and language diversity and migration constitute central aspects of this. However, well-thought-out concepts for age-specific and gender-sensitive cultural activities, as well as for inclusive programmes for all school levels and types, for children and young people with diverse physical and mental abilities, and for schools that are located far from urban centres will play an increasingly important role in the future as well.

It has been proven that social and cultural exclusion are closely related. A large percentage of the population in Austria does not access the cultural institutions. In the last few decades, there has been an increase in cultural programmes and activities, but these have not succeeded in interesting new and broader groups of the population on a long-term basis. Moreover, the traditional cultural public is not only demographically and socioeconomically endangered, but its structure, above all, is changing and becoming culturally more differentiated. Cultural institutions are thus being forced to change as well, and to take the diversity of significant sociostructural and sociocultural factors into account.

Cultural educators in Austria are making intensive efforts to broaden their audiences. They are developing strategies and planning processes of cultural learning and communication aimed at creating equal opportunities for and raising the participation of a wide variety of children and young people. This means identifying barriers, developing models for approaching these young people and capturing their interest with specific, customised programmes and activities, and raising the tolerance of cultural institutions for unaccustomed users. In this context, it has been shown that new approaches, for example involving persons from the population groups in question in the planning and/or presentation of such programmes, or “structurally linking” the cultural institution with an educational institution, can be beneficial. Continuous cooperation, the reliable provision of resources, and professional, full-time support are essential for success.

KulturKontakt Austria wishes to build upon the European discourse in this area and strengthen this field of work in Austria by networking the players more strongly and disseminating good-practice examples of diversity-sensitive cultural education.

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