Cultural mediation is the process of building bridges between the cultural and social realms, and the building of new relationships between the political, cultural and public spheres. It covers a broad spectrum of practices ranging from audience development activities to participatory and community arts. Its ultimate goal is to make every person, visitor and spectator a true cultural player.
Cultural mediation issues
Initially, the concept of cultural mediation was developed from a classical perspective of disseminating culture and heritage. In the cultural policies developed in the 1960s, cultural mediation embodied the concepts of access to and accessibility of cultural works and productions for greater numbers of people. It then evolved to include activities promoting greater citizen participation and expression.
Cultural mediation concerns artists and other social players in education, business, municipal government and other sectors. While the former are urged to take new risks by changing the type of relationship they have with their audiences, the latter are called upon to make more room for the cultural dimension in their areas of activity.
Cultural mediation is also increasingly conceived, funded and practised as a strategy for social development and revitalization. It thus addresses all those wishing to undertake a cultural project that includes citizen participation or to incorporate a cultural approach into their educational activities, social work, etc.
The mediator’s role is to foster relationships between the cultural product (production or creative process) and people. Depending on the type of project and its outcome, it will be informative and educational, and will provide participants with accompaniment. The mediator’s work will be redefined and tailored to suit the specific characteristics of the target groups, audiences and individuals, and their particular artistic, cultural and social contexts.
Cultural mediation enables the creation of special places for bringing artists and citizens together and fosters personal interaction, learning and citizen engagement. It can also break down psychological and social barriers that exclude certain groups of citizens. The impact of cultural mediation in the short term is difficult to assess; nonetheless, it is important to develop appropriate assessment tools in order to document and highlight the relevance, development and benefits of projects.
Cultural mediation areas of practice
Participatory practices help to demystify the creative process at the street level and in public areas. Engaged art is the result of a process of citizen participation that involves taking a position in regard to situations affecting the community. For social and community workers, cultural mediation is a social inclusion tool as well as a tool for incorporating the arts in the health care sector and the workplace that helps to make these environments more pleasant for the people in them and gets individuals involved in group projects.
Projects are initiated in urban settings by various players in municipal governments, social programs, communities, and the cultural sector. In the regions and in small municipalities, the development of projects helps to enhance physical and social environments, contributes to the development of distinct identities, and creates social ties.
The initiatives of museums and heritage institutions often involve partnerships with community organizations or educational institutions. Youth projects can promote learning, contribute to the cognitive development of young people and overcome cultural exclusion. Lastly, intercultural initiatives can involve organizations providing services for immigrants, institutions with a high rate of participation by members of ethnocultural communities, and artistic institutions with changing clienteles.