Prof. Tanja Johansson: Joint ventures in performing arts should cooperate more also on artistic content

Joint ventures as a mode of collaboration have become an important operational structure in the cultural and creative sector – because of for example uncertain public funding, increased competition in outreach to audiences and the search for new artistic content and innovative programming. In her keynote during the SibA Research Days in March, professor Tanja Johansson points out that resources of organizational identity construction have become more diverse, but interpersonal level in organizational context has been ignored.

- People may relate multiple meanings to their organizations – some shared, some contradictory. Meaning making processes are shaped and influenced by the relations people have with each other and the relation they have to their organisation.

Johansson explains, that the consept of joint venture brings into play the level of ownership and its influence on identities. It enables the inter-organizational level of identity construction, which has not been explored much yet.

- Helsinki Music Centre is a classical example of a joint venture, where three independent organizations share premises as well as some artistic and administrative practises. There is an additional government level of these three organizations: Uniarts Helsinki, Helsinki City government and YLE. This adds an important source for identity construction.

Other joint venture examples Johansson brought up were Harpa in Reykjavik, DR Konserthus in Copenhagen and Lincoln Centre in New York. There are many similarities to te Helsinki Music Centre. What do they reveal from the identity point of view?

- What they have in common is that in the beginning, the identity levels are multiplied and the resourses for identity construction increases. This does jot mean that they are shared or that people would automatically relate positively to them. Instead, there may be some features that trigger the opposite – unrelating or disrelating. Unrelating means that these features are not relecatn or they are insignificant for the individual’s point of view. Disrelating refers to resourcses that people do not agree with or are even against it.

- I would conclude that in cultural joint ventures, enough time has to be allocated to get to know each parties: how they work, how they approach their field of art and how they position themselves in their own art field. Key questions are what are the joint activities in short and long term? What are the key values the joint activities are based on? Who do we serve and what is our relationship with the audience? And what is the role of profit? I would recommend joint ventures in performing arts to cooperate on both artistic and administrative contents.

Collaboration on artistic matters provides new joint resources for identity construction and more importantly, provides sources that are meaningfult to the member of organizations in the joint venture.  

Tanja Johansson is currently working as the only Arts Management professor in Finland and she is also the Head of Sibelius Academy MuTri Doctoral School. Her keynote lecture ”Managing Joint Ventures in the Performing Arts - An Identity View” was given during the SibA Research Days on March 18th 2019.