July 16, 2024

Taylor Daily Press

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How do the arts move from toxic leadership to new leadership?

How do the arts move from toxic leadership to new leadership?

Engagement Arts was founded in 2017 in the context of Do It Together, a research and development project of the Kunstenpunt, the support centre for visual arts, performing arts and classical music. Engagement Arts primarily works to raise awareness, offers workshops and lectures on codes of conduct and safety in the workplace, and receives financial support as part of the then Minister of Culture Sven Gatz’s Action Plan to Combat Cross-Border Behaviour (Open VLD).

Under Minister of Culture Jan Jambon (N-VA), the organization lost its subsidies and as a result had to reduce its activities and now became a voluntary organization. This is remarkable, because such members are needed more than ever, as has become clear once again in recent weeks. “Because of our financial situation, we now turn more often to the Flemish Centre for Cross-Border Behavior Reporting, which is still in the professionalization phase,” says Lemmens. “We would like to do more, but that is not possible. That is why we are now focusing mainly on prevention. We offer lectures and workshops based on the experience we have gained in recent years.

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Prevention and awareness are the buzzwords today. Since January 1, the new Workplace Welfare Act requires every company with more than fifty employees to appoint a confidentiality advisor. There is more government oversight, safety and prevention committees are being set up, and joining the external prevention and protection service is mandatory.

However, the sense of well-being at work, both physical and psychological, is declining, according to a recent Mansoura study.

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“We see that the pressure from society in general is increasing,” says Marie Lamoral, a mental health expert and prevention consultant at Mansoura. “All sectors that have contact with third parties, such as schools or hospitals, are suffering from this.” Mansoura works with Bouzar, De Mont and others. “In the cultural sector, you also see a lot of pressure to perform, you always have to do better than others to stand out. The competition is fierce, which lowers the threshold for abuse.

Mansoura focuses on raising awareness through workshops and talks where everyone can express what a good colleague or manager means to them. Everything is examined, from the content of the job to the working conditions to the pay. “We analyze that and then write a recommendation that responds to the employer’s specific situation,” says Lamoral.

Is it true then that if a manager does not perform his duties properly, it is immediately his fault? Not quite. At Ars Musica, there have been rumours about Bruno Letort’s behaviour for years, but these signals were not picked up or even ignored. “I have difficulty with the so-called ‘trial by media’,” says Annelien Lemmens. “While an open letter like this is actually the last straw, after attempts to reach solutions through standard procedures have failed. It is better to resolve these matters internally, because I also think it is a shame that our sector is now seen in such a bad light. But very little has been done.”