July 15, 2013

In June, I had the pleasure of visiting Colombia for AMAIC 2003, the International Conference on Arts and Cultural Management. I confess that Colombia has never been on my “must see” list partly because it’s so far away (32 hours travel time from Melbourne to Bogota) and partly because of its history of political and drug-related violence. But I’m glad I made the effort. To recover from the long flight I had a weekend in the warm, colourful, historic town of Cartagena on the Caribbean Sea.


It’s both the classic tourist town, full of churches and museums, forts and restaurants, but also a town that felt as if it still belonged to the people who lived there rather than peripatetic visitors like me.

Whilst Bogota shared some of the historic buildings and colour, in La Candelaria, the old town, it’s a large (8 million people) sprawling metropolis and not a wildly attractive one. It’s full of graffiti and men with guns. Not a combination that appeals to me. But the hospitality of the staff and students at the Universidad de los Andes and the local people who attended the conference was warm, even towards incompetents like me with not a word of Spanish. The conference traditionally provides a strong cultural programme and this year as well as some great galleries, the highlight was music. You’d be surprised at how many meek cultural academics have a salsa soul.


I co-presented a paper on Co-Leadership in the Performing Arts (email me if you’d like a copy) with my partners-in-crime from previous years, Kate Macneill from the University of Melbourne and Sarah Reynolds who is now the Performing Arts Co-ordinator at the Burnie Arts Centre. Kate and Sarah had done most of the hard work in terms of the academic content of the paper so I just provided the colour and movement. Whilst I enjoy the AIMAC conferences, I always feel that they look back rather than forward, analysing what companies and artists have been doing. I’d love to find a way of bring practitioners and cultural researchers together to choose topics of exploration that could inform the future.


In addition to the wonderful people that I met and the conference itself, my favourite moments in Colombia were:

  • Wandering the history laden streets of Cartagena
  • Swimming in the warm Caribbean waters
  • Museums such as Museo del Ora, Museo del Santa Rosa and the Museo Nacional
  • Art graffiti (as opposed to the endless depressing tagging and paint balling)
  • Looking out over Bogota during day and night from Montserrat peak
  • The Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira.

A short stay but a rewarding one.