ART HEALS, literature enriches vocabularies and our sense of empathy, and theater helps children develop their imagination and creativity. But these truths aren’t quantifiable — or not quantified yet — which makes it hard for the government to see the positive impact and contributions of art and culture to economic development.
But this may be changing.
On Oct. 3, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) held the second International Conference on Cultural Statistics and Creative Economy, which aimed to quantify the impact of arts on society with the goal of providing a “platform for the discourse on quantifying contributions of culture to [our] development,” said Marichu Tellano, NCCA deputy executive director.
She said that the other reason of the conference was “to be exposed to different methodologies, processes, and tools of building cultural statistics and utilization of the cultural statistical framework.”
But what are “cultural statistics” and why do we need to quantify arts?
According to the NCCA book Bilang Filipinas, A Primer on Philippine Cultural Statistics, quantifying arts is “a means of formalizing what is currently viewed as an informal sector in spite of its considerable contribution to economic and social well-being. The collection and analysis of cultural statistics will help promote the growth of cultural industries and main-streaming culture into economic and social policy.”
The cultural domains, or industries, that are included in this sector are the country’s tangible and intangible heritage; performances and celebrations (e.g. theater, festivals, dance, literary performances); visual arts and artisan products (e.g. painting, industrial design, photography); books and press; audio, visual, broadcast, and interactive media; and creative services (e.g. fashion design, jewelry design, advertising, culinary arts).
Under Republic Act No. 7356, it is part of the NCCA’s mandate to “undertake a systemic collection of statistical and other data, which reflect the state of cultural conditions of the country, to serve as essential qualitative and quantitative basis for formulating cultural policies.”
For Pangasinan fourth district representative Christopher “Toff” V.P. de Venecia, who is also the managing creative director of the theater company Sandbox Collective, culture should count and should be seen as a good investment rather than a liability.
“I strongly believe that wider use of cultural statistics that highlight the economic benefits of the creative arts will somehow change our government’s perspective on prioritizing the arts and cultural endeavours. No longer would our cultural pursuits be seen as luxuries, or only of second importance to other sectors, but as the new prime movers of our economy. The new frontier where culture and the arts should not be seen as luxurious expense, but rather, an investment,” he said when he delivered his speech as the conference’s keynote speaker.
He pointed to how South Korea has been utilizing its creative industries — from K-pop to food, fashion, and cosmetics — to bolster its economic growth and soft power. South Korean government invested in the creative industry through the creation of its Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Mr. De Venecia added that prioritizing and seeing the importance of our creative economy will also translate to the protection of our creative workforce.
“Many of our Filipino artists are world class — from Lea Salonga, Jose Llana, Red Concepcion, Rachel Ann Go, Shiela Francisco, and Christine Allado in the West End… or Kris Aquino in Crazy Rich Asians. The Philippines is never without talent that can make waves both locally and abroad. Yet, here in our own backyard, many of our so-called ‘artists’ remain disadvantaged in terms of social security, labor, medical, and legal conditions. It’s not a rarity that we hear of fund-raisers for artists who are bogged down with medical bills, those who bring pride to our country yet end up by the wayside. It is a debilitating cycle that has likened itself to the plight of most of our farmers in the agricultural sector that suffer from the stigma of poverty and thereby discourage future generations from emulating their trade. I question and challenge the assumption that to be an artist in a country that doesn’t provide enough support to this special category of workers means to prepare yourself for a life of poverty,” he said.
Besides working for long hours, Filipino creatives juggle multiple jobs to make ends meet. According to the study “Assessing the Needs of the Filipino Creative Economy Workforce” by Glorife Soberano-Samodio of the De La Salle University Culture and Arts office, “the employment and income situation of the creative workforce shows both promising and unfavorable scenarios.” She said that while creatives have a high level of commitment, the data show that most of the people surveyed said their welfare as workers is not given much attention by employers “as most of them are recruited on a per-project-basis and might not be aware of their rights.”
This study is part of the NCCA book Bilangan, which is a compilation of selected papers from the 2018 International Conference on Cultural Statistics and Creative Economy.
There are engineers and scientists, but the economy and society also need the editors, writers, composers, philosophers, and photographers.
“There was a film recently. The premise was this: when an asteroid was about to hit the earth, scientists and engineers scrambled to launch a ship, just like Noah’s Arc, to bring the best of 160 of our generation. One-hundred-sixty is the number required for a population to flourish. You would expect that the 160 humans would be the legalists, the geniuses of hard science. Yet, in this film — thankfully it was just that, a film — the government chose creative geniuses. After all, they believed that what makes us human is our heart: our culture, our art, our music, our history, our heritage. And in matters of past, present, and future, that alone was worth saving, and hopefully, in our case, worth spending,” said Mr. De Venecia. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman