Importing and Exporting Arts

In its January 2006 edition, International Arts Manager magazine focused on the Netherlands and interviewed Jan Hoekema at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the importance of export and import in performing arts.

Hoekema names three key issues that play a role in the country’s policies: the arts’ contribution to the economy and its importance for the infrastructure of cities; the importance of arts per se for any country; and arts have traditionally been important in the Netherlands.

The arts play an enormous role in economies and infrastructures; in the United States alone, orchestras are a $1.5 billion economic sector, and think of what museums like the Louvre or the Uffizi do for tourism and infrastructure in Paris and Florence.

“As with much of the country’s business and economy, foreign trade is crucial for the arts, hence the international image of the Netherlands is vital,” the article explains.

The Dutch economy consists largely of the dynamic import and export of goods, due to its central and strategic position within Europe. Both Amsterdam’s airport and Rotterdam’s seaport are among the busiest ports in the world. The Netherlands is mainly a distribution country, which is part of the reason why the international image is so vital.

Hoekema explains further: “The arts give an opportunity to make an impression on the outside world. It is a showcase on the one hand and, on the other, it is a way to create an image, to brand your country.”

Not only historically, with artists such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh, has the Netherlands had a very good reputation within the arts, but cultural export remains well represented with organizations such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Netherlands Dance Theatre.

Here in Chicago, major institutions like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Art Institute, and the City of Chicago are gearing up to work together with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project Inc. in 2006 and 2007. Silk Road Chicago is a city-wide celebration inspired by the art and culture—both ancient and contemporary—of the regions of the historic Silk Road. I can’t think of a better example demonstrating the importance of export and import in culture and the arts than the Silk Road.

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