ATHENS – College Year in Athens (CYA) continued its Virtual Lecture Series on April 21 with Nicholas Yatromanolakis, Greece's Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports, responsible for Contemporary Culture, speaking about Culture as a Driver for Growth. A powerful advocate for contemporary culture in Greece, Yatromanolakis is the first Greek government official to be appointed to this newly established section of this Ministry.
In the informative presentation, Yatromanolakis highlighted the ways in which culture drives growth and noted that “the pandemic has forced us to expedite things and be more quick in our responses and be more risk-taking. The pandemic also proved culture can be a safe haven for a lot of people during this stressful time.”
He spoke about revisiting monuments and sites through projects that blend together contemporary culture and the ancient cultural heritage, creating a new way of seeing these monuments and creating a dialogue between the contemporary culture and ancient cultural heritage.
The wealth of the ancient cultural heritage can also act as a deterrent to contemporary culture and growth, but recent efforts are showcasing now that one does not have to pitch against the other, they can coexist, Yatromanolakis noted.
In exploring alternative business models, he mentioned art on prescription in which health care professionals can prescribe art programs to patients and the culture sector is trained to run these programs, and silver tourism, the fastest growing sector of trourism, for people over 65 who have varied interests, and cultural offerings are adjusted to accommodate them and their interests and abilities.
Reinvigorating local craft ecosystems- weaving, ceramics, jewelry, silk-making, is another largely untapped resource Yatromanolakis mentioned, noting that the crafts need to be mapped, and craft must be linked to contemporary segments like design and fashion, for example. He noted that there are plans to encourage sourcing of local materials, provide incentives in that area, tools to export and promote Greek design whether it is traditional or contemporary.
Besides its intrinsic value, culture can be a powerful driver for development, with community-wide social, economic, and environmental impacts. The adoption of alternative, culture-centric, sustainable growth models for local communities and regions can create ecosystems that incorporate the tourism, education, agri-food, retail sectors, and more. Furthermore, the cultural and creative sector is in a strategic position to offer added value across industries. For all these reasons, they represent one of the most rapidly expanding sectors in the global economy, creating sustainable jobs along the way. Culture-led development also includes a range of non-monetized benefits, such as greater social inclusiveness and rootedness, resilience, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship for individuals and communities, and the use of local resources, skills, and knowledge.
CYA President Alexis Phylactopoulos gave the welcoming remarks. CYA Trustee and alumna Elaine Papoulias (CYA '91), Executive Director of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University, was the moderator for the discussion. Two members of CYA's academic community, Athena Hadji and Antonios Giannopoulos, participated in the Q&A session which followed Yatromanolakis' presentation. Giannopoulos asked about tourism and culture, while Hadji asked about the museums and specifically the National Museum of Contemporary Art reopening. Making cultural sites accessible was also discussed along with efforts and programs being implemented to address the needs of the differently abled, including the visually impaired, those with mobility issues, and those on the autism spectrum.
When asked what he hoped would be the legacy of the Contemporary Culture section ten years from now, Yatromanolakis hoped to “make sure we have a resilient sector of professionals that will be able to sustain themselves through their work, and I would like people to understand and appreciate the cultural production of Greece in its entirety, ancient and contemporary to complement each other.”
The CYA Virtual Lecture Series is available on the CYA YouTube channel.