Mobility of arts and artists in Europe


Artists and their arts have been subject to mobility for centuries. Two recent projects had a close look at current issues and challenges in this sector.

Why is mobility so important for (European) artists? Fostering mobility and exchange is a viable ‘way out’ for regional artists to appeal to a wider audience and thus a bigger market. For many independent musicians in Europe, the possibility to tour other countries is a unique chance to gain popularity. Succeeding abroad is often a step towards gaining popularity in one’s home country. Greater mobility provides alternatives in light of the current difficulties experienced by record labels and the general crisis in the music industry.

The concept of mobility comprises various elements. For professionals in arts it represents mainly the possibility of touring (around Europe) and exporting their work. Still, mobility also means establishing networks and artist residences in different European cities. This special kind of ‘residence’ presupposes that the artist is hosted by a cultural establishment (gallery, arts academy, music school, cultural centre etc.) abroad, spends a certain period of time there, and develops – often in collaboration with local artists – a project. For many young artists, such residence is a unique chance to link with colleagues, gain inspiration, and discover new ways of expression.

European integration has undoubtedly played a role in encouraging mobility of artists. When asked, they acknowledge that the fall of barriers to free movement around the EU has immensely facilitated the organisation of tours and the chances for artistic work to circulate in other countries. Another advantage, particularly vital for independent artists, is the decrease of air fares. Producers, on the other hand, point out that the introduction of the single currency has significantly simplified their work.

Independent musicians perceive the lack of funding as the main difficulty for ‘exporting’ their work or organising acts in other European countries. This is especially true for artists who are not established with any official label. Other obstacles include insufficient institutional support, as well as the impossibility of establishing the right connections. In this context, the creation of artists’ networks for exchange of ideas and conducting common initiatives is of particular importance.

An interesting related concept is the idea of virtual mobility. Internet sites such as my space or You tube provide artists with the possibility to exhibit and distribute their work in a quick and efficient way. Multimedia programmes allow for almost all kinds of artistic work – songs, videos, installations or even theatrical performances – to ‘circulate’ around the globe. The minimal or no costs for these operations, makes them a preferable method of presentation, in particular for independent artists.

These new tendencies of continuous exchange among artists and the opportunities for the creation of artistic networks form the basis of a new European space of artistic mobility. Artists, producers and managers should therefore commit themselves even stronger to establishing networks, participating in joint projects and building stronger links with institutions, in order to stimulate the circulation of artists and artistic works in Europe.

The Commission supports relevant projects

The promotion of the mobility of arts and artists in Europe has become an increasingly important issue in a time when performers and managers from all artistic fields are looking for alternative ways to establish themselves in the European arts scene. In this context, the European Commission has supported two initiatives in the framework of the European Year of Workers’ Mobility 2006, with – by coincidence – a rather similar name.


Mobile.Home was a one-year collaboration project by IETM (Informal European Theatre Meetings), the Finnish Theatre Information Centre, Pearle* (European League of Employers’ Associations in the Performing Arts sector), Goethe-Institut (Brussels), Visiting Arts, On the move, and associated partners. Mobile.Home had a close look at successes of and obstacles for the movement of arts and artists across European borders. Looking at the phenomenon of “mobility” from technical, philosophical and artistic perspectives, it aimed to highlight good practice and connect stakeholders from the public, private and social sectors. Additionally, it had a strong focus on performing arts and the younger generation, in particular.

The project included, among other features, the Mobile.Home Helpdesk. This web-based service facility provided information on the administrative, legal and social aspects of performing artists’ mobility in Europe, and offered individual support to arts companies and artists for mobility related questions. The issues raised at the helpdesk, as well as the results of additional research on them, will be summed up in a final Mobility Research & Recommendation Report.

The Brussels Goethe-Institut, Visiting Arts and Fondazione Fitzcarraldo worked on Digital Portraits of young artists who work and reside in different EU countries. The final Cross-Sectorial Conference in November 2006 put all these strands together, inviting arts organisations, employers, public administrations, networks and others to discuss and debate key topics, examine good practice models, and propose practical solutions to existing obstacles.

The Mobile Home Project

The Mobile Home project was coordinated by the cultural centre Friche – La Belle de Mai in Marseille. Involving artists and art managers from various European countries, it promoted a series of activities aimed at facilitating the mobility of artists from the independent music scene. Based on the identification of major trends and issues related to the mobility of artists, the project tried to create a platform for enhanced exchange of ideas and experience in the so-called European cultural and artistic space.

Five European cities – Brussels, Berlin, London, Helsinki and Riga – were ‘explored’ by the La Friche-team, in cooperation with a reporter from Marseille’s Radio Grenouille, the other main partner of the initiative. Investigating the major developments of the local artistic scene, including the main actors and new tendencies, they drew up a ‘cultural map’ of these capitals. This map was later presented in a series of radio programs aimed at informing regional audiences about the artistic vitality and the emerging trends in arts in Europe.

The final event in Marseille on 17-18 November 2006 involved more than 70 professionals – artists, producers of independent record labels, and managers of festivals and art centres from around Europe, as well as a local audience of more than 500 people. The colourful happening comprised two days of meetings, debates, workshops and performances, all dedicated to the theme of workers’ mobility.


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