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Culture and Business

Written by  Fabio Donato

Towards a new model of "Ferrara city of art"

Since the late eighties, Ferrara has been launched both nationally and internationally as a "city of art". This was an intelligent and forward-looking strategy in what has proved to be a period of particular economic difficulty for our area.

The Estense castle in the dawnDuring a period of decline in industrial activity, together with a progressive reduction in the importance of the agricultural sector, the city of Ferrara responded by investing in the most precious value it possesses: its history and identity. In this manner the "Ferrara city of art" model was born, relying on local cultural heritage and the organization of artistic events of considerable appeal, thereby satisfying a growing demand for cultural tourism, with economic benefits for many business sectors in the city, including commerce, restaurants and hotels. Today we must ask ourselves whether this model is still to be pursued using the same approach. The tourism industry is extremely unstable at present and it should be remembered that the funding for the "Ferrara city of art" project is largely based on two channels: one public (primarily the Ferrara City Council), and the other private (primarily the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara). As is well known, in recent years our country is experiencing the most serious economic and financial crisis since the war, with highly significant consequences for both public and private finance sectors.

In the period 2009-2011 public expenditure for the arts decreased by 17% in Italy. The effects on the "Ferrara city of art" model are obvious. This is a model based on two requisites: tourist attraction and public (especially local authorities) and private (especially the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara) funding. Current conditions, however, make it impossible to maintain Argenta, Valle Santapublic and private contributions at their previous levels. It is therefore necessary that the city and the territory start to think about creating a new economic programme. Where can we begin? And how shall we proceed? In recent years we have failed to produce a suitable management and organizational structure created according to system logic, and we must invent new forms of publicprivate partnerships. If these are the conditions for a new starting point (links between the city and the territory and partnerships between public and private entrepreneurs), we must identify a strategy for the new "Ferrara city of art" model. One proposal may be:

1. Enhancement of the economic potential for our untapped cultural heritage.

2. Strengthening and integrating the contacts between businesses linked to the cultural sector.

3. The initiation of programs aimed at facilitating the development of creative capital in the territory, to be shared with the system of local businesses.

Mesola CastleWith regard to point one: to favour the exploitation of untapped cultural potential, starting with the Este family "delizie", we must adopt a "mesotype" management model based on a systemic approach that can integrate the different structures, under the supervision of a single governance. The executive body should make the decisions while a reduced but efficient operating structure should delegate projects rather than deal with them directly. This will create opportunities for local businesses and encourage young people with entrepreneurial spirit.

On the second point: in order to consider Ferrara as a city of art we must promote a new and comprehensive entrepreneurial model that is closely linked to the cultural sector. This system must be extraordinarily broad and involve sectors producing goods, services and experience. This topic has recently been analyzed by the Chamber of Commerce of Ferrara. Strictly speaking, tourism is not the only productive area linked to the cultural sector. We can also find crafts, restoration, advanced technology for diagnostics and maintenance, publishing, multimedia, and so on. But today the various initiatives of these economic operators in Ferrara are disconnected and are far less effective than they could be.

On the third point: one of the biggest problems of the current "Ferrara city of art" model is the lack of coordination between the Visitors queued at the entrance of an exhibition at the Palazzo dei Diamanticultural and industrial sectors. For most of the time the two sectors operate separately, not taking into account one of the most frequently emphasized aspects of highlighting the economic value of culture - the implications in terms of creativity on the entrepreneurial system. This is an aspect of great importance, because the competition can only be won through innovation and

quality. But for this to happen it is necessary to encourage creative processes, both in arts, culture and the related sectors. The process of transferring creativity from the cultural-creative sector to business must be achieved through structured and formalized projects.

In conclusion, there is an urgent need to start a process of consideration on the "Ferrara city of art" model, transforming it rapidly into shared projects, leading to operational programs and concrete proposals. The crisis we are experiencing is a big threat. It's up to us to turn it into an opportunity for a new model of development.