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Artistic exchange enriches the cultural offer of our cities, says secretary general Paul Bevan reflecting on our new research on cultural mobility

The European project cannot be only economic: we know Europe is about more than building a common market.  Indeed even the task of creating that single market requires the removal of all sorts of non-economic constraints on the free movement of investment, products and people.  And many of those are social and cultural. 

Culture plays an important part in building our common European space. It shapes how we see and understand our fellow Europeans as well as the world beyond. At city level the history of twinning and cross-border collaboration is strongly one of cultural exchange, reaching out, overcoming prejudice. 

Cities’ international strategies nowadays are more multidimensional. But culture still helps to convey the distinctiveness of place and people that define the offer that our cities make to each other and the rest of the world.

Of course cultural workers are also economic actors. Creative industries provide jobs and wealth directly, often in important growth sectors. Indirectly too, a city’s cultural offer is key to its attractiveness - to a talented workforce and to wider business investment as well as to visitors.

So, at a time when the European project seems to be faltering, the freshly published research from the EUROCITIES culture forum on how cities support artists to travel and work across Europe is especially salient. Initiated by our working group on the mobility of artists under the lead of Nantes Metropole, the research involved 24 cities in 15 countries. 

Artistic exchange promotes dialogue, shared experience and mutual understanding in the face of xenophobia. It enriches the cultural offer of our cities, and the lives and perspectives of our citizens. Artists’ mobility is good for the cities that support it, and good too for Europe.  

Read more in our report, below.