The arts represent a multidimensional platform to express oneself. Not only, but the product, that form of art which can be savoured, be it of a performing, visual or cultural nature, can represent a soul-searching experience that takes a person beyond the chasm that divides reality from fantasy.

The arts have gained a considerable dimension in the past years.

The new Cabinet of 2003 set up a ministry which was given responsibility for culture and tourism - two sectors that complement each other. Previously, the government had set up the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts (MCCA) with a regulatory function aimed to promote and regulate what can best be defined as contemporary culture and artistic products.

Other entities were set up by the government to provide the space and to act as a catalyst for this sector. These complement existing facilities such as the Manoel Theatre and the Mediterranean Conference Centre.

Over the past years we have also seen the setting up of a number of private organisations, schools and production houses that focus on contemporary culture and the arts. Thus, the Maltese Islands are showing a consolidated effort towards the fostering of contemporary art both through public as well as private initiatives.

The importance of fostering the arts lies not only in securing the well being of the artistic community but many believe that a dose of arts could have positive knock-on effects on social, economic and financial aspects of society.

The arts can take a variety of forms, all of which have their appeal to a segment of those who appreciate the arts.

It is here that our challenge begins - fostering the cultural community on our shores and increasing the appreciation of the arts among the local population.

The recent restructuring of the MCCA carried out by the Management Efficiency Unit is intended to mould the council's task into that which it was destined to fulfill. Set up in 2002, the MCCA aims "to encourage and promote culture within a wide perspective of socio-economic activity and to make provision with respect to matters ancillary thereto or connected therewith with a duty to "promote Malta's culture through all forms of creative expression to increase the accessibility of the public to the arts and enhance Malta's cultural heritage locally and abroad".

The MCCA took over the remit of the former Department of Culture but had however retained most of the roles that were designated to that department. This significantly impeded the proper functioning of the council in the fulfillment of its mandate. Recognising the importance of the council's role vis-a-vis local artists, the Ministry for Tourism and Culture has undergone a series of restructuring exercises aimed at streamlining its various responsibilities.

The MCCA shall be a lean organisation focusing on three main thematic areas: the performing arts, the visual arts and culture - under which all forms of artistic media shall be incorporated. This will enable it to shed its responsibilities for the organisation of events as well as the personnel responsible for this function who shall be absorbed within the ministry's Programme Implementation Directorate. Thus, the MCCA will focus more on its enshrined role through the engagement, mainly from within public service entities, of professionals and research analysts specialised in the thematic areas.

Thus, while the MCCA will enshrine as its mission the encouragement and promotion of knowledge, appreciation and practice of culture and the arts, its vision shall be set on the creation of a thriving cultural and artistic sector to the benefit of society and artists alike. This can be achieved through the strengthening of the MCCA's human resource base to ensure that not only does it have the competent people in the sector of the arts at its service but that it can contribute to a more holistic policy and planning function, business development, marketing as well as assisting the artistic community to tap into available sources of funding particular from the various European Union programmes.

The arts sector is ripe and the government should ensure that the restructuring processes that have been ongoing within the Ministry for Tourism and Culture bear the fruit of consolidation and focus.

There are plenty of opportunities for all stakeholders who together must work in unison not only to secure their well being but also to inculcate a wider appreciation of contemporary art. Indeed art is the quintessence of the mind.

Mr Gatt is managing consultant at the Management Efficiency Unit within the Office of the Prime Minister.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us