Dundee Contemporary Arts celebrates its 10th birthday this weekend.
A buzzing social and creative centre, DCA is a cultural centre for the 21st century. It hosts art and artists, presents cutting edge contemporary visual art and cinema, engages audiences, children and young people, sells contemporary design and crafts, and of course has the all important great coffee. It was created in a partnership between Dundee City Council, Duncan of Jordanstone, Scottish Arts Council, Dundee Printmakers and more.
The birthday celebrations yesterday included a think tank where directors of UK cultural centres and others chewed over current and future challenges for the success of cultural centres and, in particular how the value of the cultural centre is expressed and articulated.
Clive Gillman, DCA’s director expressed a concern that there has not been enough articulation and advocacy for the cultural as opposed to the economic or social value of DCA and others. This has been the case recently as public policy has been focussed on the creative economy and while policy is developing and structures changing. But this doesn’t change the essential value of the cultural centre as a place for creative experiences, whether collaborative or curated.
At the civic reception, local politicians celebrated on the success of DCA and there was little civic boosterism from the city of jam and jute. The deputy lord provost reflected on the City’s scepticism about DCA – changed after an economic impact study demonstrated the value to the City, and further dissipated after the year on year high attendance figures. He proudly spoke of DCA’s success in delivering cutting edge art.
So the economic argument matters.
This doesn’t dilute the core cultural values of DCA. These are about art and engagement, about providing the environment in which artists create and audiences experience. And there is a need to articulate this.