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Exclusive from Puntulis: I’m worried about supermarkets potentially becoming culture centres

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Nauris Puntulis

The biggest challenge of the modern era is preserving a strong position, national identity while remaining modern. The challenge itself is combining it all together. The tendency that scares me is when it’s not libraries, concert or culture halls that become culture centres but supermarkets, said Latvian Culture Minister candidate Nauris Puntulis in an interview to BNN.

«I don’t want us to merely consume culture»

«In a time when the term consumer society is used more and more often, I would rather not apply it to cultural developments,» says the politician. He stresses that there is a need for acoustic concert halls in Riga: first of all, to offer local musicians a place to create art, and secondly to that there is a way for residents to enjoy quality art.

«I’ve been a soloist in Latvia’s National Opera and Ballet for 25 years. I am very much aware how important amateur art is for our nation’s continued existence. This type of art is the closest on to our nation’s creative spirit. This is why I often cite Pērkons music band’s Zaļā dziesma song lyrics: ‘We will life here for as long as many fires there are on each hill’.»

«As long as we as a nation have an internal need to create, as long as we remain creative and not remain as mere consumers, we will live for a long time.»

As long as choirs and dance collectives are put together, Latvians will survive as a nation, even if activity is so high it is not possible to support everyone. Puntulis describes – once choirs and dance collectives have been together for three years and have gained results, they become eligible for funding. However, there is not enough money for everyone, because new collectives are founded again and again.

Adding on the topic on amateur art, the culture minister candidate detailed his experience: «I’ve spent 25 years of my live in the opera, a professional art, but I will never look down on what amateur artists do, because this is the road to professional performance. 40 years ago there were two guys studying in Riga Culture and Education Staff College to later become heads of folk heads and amateur art collectives. One of them has become the board chairman of Latvia’s National Opera and Ballet – Egīls Siliņš. The other one is sitting at this table as Latvia’s culture minister candidate. Amateur art is the environment where everything begins.»

«Culture Ministry should be responsible for the entire cultural spectrum – from music schools to Latvia’s National Opera and Ballet»

«We, Latvians, have formed as a cultured nation. My objective is working on exactly that. In truth it is the reason why I decided to engage in politics. I consider my life’s goal to make sure Latvians exist as a nation for centuries  regardless if I sing on stage or work as a deputy or minister,» stresses Puntulis.

As for Culture Ministry’s main function, Puntulis said the ministry should cover the entire spectrum – from culture halls, libraries, museums, music schools all the way to excellence of Latvia’s National Opera and Ballet, symphonic orchestra and concert hall. He stresses that the ministry should be able to detect signs what comes from what and how everything works together. «I think this is culture ministry’s main goal.»

He also notes that politicians should listen to one another more and be more flexible. «I truly believe one of my characteristics as culture minister is that I will try to be a man who will listen to opinions and be flexible regardless of any strict positions I may have.»

Funding that can be taken with a wide swing

Moving onto the topic of usage of Culture Ministry’s funding, the potential candidate says while working in Riga City Council’s Education and Culture Committee he had observed:

«State and municipal money is generally considered that it does not belong to us and can be taken with a wide swing.»

He says producer organizations that take risks with their capital are often more responsible with finances than in situations when there are grants of some kind involved. Puntulis notes that he would check grants the ministry provides for different activities and organization of culture life more carefully.

«I am motivated to check this as culture minister the fact that for years I have supervised culture projects in Riga City Council. I have noticed it is generally believed the municipality is a place where it is possible to take money for a product not worth the requested amount. What I mean is it is possible to act even more irresponsibly towards state money, which is actually the people’s money. I think people should not be allowed to behave in such a way – we should be more honest in this regard,» said the politician.

Additionally, the potential culture minister plans to pay more attention to state grants that pay for content in regional culture halls – to make sure costs in relation to content and results are adequate. «Of course, it is very hard to measure it [amount of culture], but I would like to slightly control this process and see if any improvements are possible there.»

It is definitely important to work on improving the Law on Culture Centres

Outlining other important tasks for Culture Ministry, Puntulis mentioned the Law on Culture Centres, which he wants to speed up.

«The topic about the Law on Culture Centres was outlined in talks multiple times and then it was put aside almost immediately after. When I became an advisor in Culture Ministry, it was put aside again. I still managed to outline it in a way.» The background at the time was that half of participants believed this law is needed, whereas the other half doubted its necessity. «I remain on the side of the people who believe the law is needed.»

Puntulis explains the law defines what a culture centre is and what its main tasks are.

«Often culture centre employees are people who are far away from cultural processes simply because there are no other people to fill posts.»

«I don’t want to say anything bad about the people who lack appropriate education but have a great deal of enthusiasm. However, the law states these people have to improve their qualifications and thereby develop,» says the politician. «I’m not trying to say the law is a universal panacea. It is never this simple. Nevertheless, I do believe the law is needed.»

It should be mentioned that last year the Saeima viewed the Law on Culture Centres in the first reading. Now it is back in Culture Ministry for corrections.


Leave a reply to Justs

  1. Justs says:

    Latvians survived 700 years of slavery to the Germans, and 80 years of gulags and Russification programs under the Bolshevik Soviets, but you will not survive the E.U. The European Union has already declared Latvia to be a nation of consumers, not fit to produce anything of value, and that your children will learn English and your culture will be exterminated.

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