Hellenic Institute of Cultural Diplomacy
Interview with Nikoletta Plataniti, Director of Arcadia Branch
(Cultural Studies- MSc Cultural Units Management- Conservator of Works of Art and Antiquities)
The establishment of the Hellenic Institute of Cultural Diplomacy in Athens on March 25, 2017 was the realization of a noble vision aimed at promoting intercultural and inter-religious dialogue among countries around the world. The recommended scientific bourgeois society is non-profit, aiming primarily at the study, analysis, dissemination and promotion of all aspects of Cultural Diplomacy by any means.
The primary goal of the Hellenic Institute of Cultural Diplomacy is to highlight the values of culture, promote cooperation and build mutual trust with the ultimate target of creating relations of emotional proximity with foreign peoples, which will go beyond the changes of the governments.
The Institute serves in every legal way the need to offer to the community, inside and outside Greece. Indicatively, the purpose of the company is to serve: by the development of activities related to the creation and promotion of culture in Greece and abroad, especially in the world’s communities of Greeks, the provision of counseling services on culture and its promotion, as well as the support of vulnerable social groups in any way.
Additionally, the means for achieving the Institute’s objectives are:
- scientific seminars
- art exhibitions
- artistic events
- publication of books and articles
- production of musical and theatrical productions
- institutionalization and awarding subsistence for subjects strictly related to the aims of the Institute and their promotion
- collaboration of the Institute with Universities and other academic organizations, generally intellectual institutions or research centers
- organizing cultural exchange programs
- cooperation with affiliate organizations
Nikoletta, how did you come to Institute? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I heard of the Hellenic Institute of Cultural Diplomacy when I was on a trip in Athens. Some friends of mine where supposed to go to a presentation of the Institute and I decided to go with them. I was very excited with all that I saw and heard there and I thought that if I became a member of the Institute I could help my country and much more my birth place which is Arcadia. You have to know that I love my place of birth very very much. So I completed an application form and Mr Kapsaskis, the President and founder of the Institute with the Institute’s board of directors called me in a few days for an interview. In a short time I had an answer, which called me to take charge as a director of Arcadia Branch, and of course I accepted the challenge with elation but also with the sense that this project entails a huge responsibility from my side.
About me now, I graduated from the Department of Education of Art and Antiquities of Athens, from the Department of Pedagogical Studies of Athens and from the School of Humanities, Department of Studies in Hellenic Culture, at the Hellenic Open University. I mastered a Postgraduate Diploma (MSc) from the University of Social Studies at the Department of “Management of Cultural Units” of the Hellenic Open University. I also mastered a scholar of excellence in a cycle on the institution of vocational training and professional training in the Art and Archeology Conservation Section, in the “Exchange of Vocational Training, Language and Culture” program, held in Lisbon, Portugal, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, General Secretariat of the New Generation, the National Museum of Glazed Tiles in Lisbon and the University of Portugal at Estoril. I mastered a Lifelong Learning Program titled “E-learning in Archaeometry: New Technologies, Maintenance and Management of Antiquities”, University of the Aegean and Certificate of training in a program of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens “Cultural Heritage and Tourism”.
I’ve been working at the Ephorate of Antiquities of Arcadia since 2011. I’ve also worked in the Department of Pre-conservation of Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports on issues related to the preservation and restoration of mobile and immovable monuments. Ι am a member of the scientific team of the Hellenic Mission in the research project “Systematic Excavation Research at Lykeio Oros Peak Arcadia for the years 2016 – 2020”. I am also a teacher of secondary and post-secondary education in sections related to Culture, at Patras, Megalopoli, Nafplion, Sparta, and Tripoli.
Tell us about your aspirations with the Institute.
You can understand that all my studies about the Greek civilization, about the Cultural Units Management and at the Conservation of Works of Art and Antiquities give me all the goodwill to support and serve with all my might the emergence and development of both the timeless Greek culture. So as director of the Arcadia branch I have to tell you that it is based on an area that has left its “print” very deep in history.
For example, Poets like Virgil and Goethe and painters like Poussin and the Pre Rafael artists have created masterpieces inspired by Arcadia, while many well-known musicians have written a large number of art works for Arcadia. There are much more other accomplishments that I could mark for the Arcadia cultural history till nowadays but I am afraid that I need a lot of time just to mention them.
In shaping our strategic plan, crucial role has the belief that not only our cultural knowledge is enough, but its update. The question we pose is how we can develop skills, since pumping information depends on pressing a button on the computer. For us the issue is not just to have the answer. The important component is to look to the right question.
The exciting thing that we have is our Arcadian myth.
The sense of the past has to be transformed into challenge and call. Discrimination and prejudice do not fit into our task. The marketing we follow has a target and it must be common. The concept of Arcadia for us is identical to the ideal, in the sense it will represent, for example as when we listen to aspirin we think of the Bavarian region or when we hear Loch Ness we are orienting in the area of North Scotland.
Useful “tools” are the multiannual creation, mapping and visualization of Arcadia’s cultural resources so far made by specific bodies, associations, organizations and individuals. This untapped vast inventory of empirical – and not only – knowledge – is intended to be used in present terms. We have found, through many years of research, that, unfortunately, any cultural industry that wishes to help in the advancement of Arcadia’s cultural and historical heritage in the past is in essence intact by the process of resolving the basic problem of strengthening international level of a single Arcadian “brand”. That is why we consider it imperative that we bring together all stakeholders with the aim of not merely building up the views of the final sum. The challenge is to create a common boundary. The formation of a common vision. The use of a language to invent common forms of synthesis and diffusion of Arcadian wealth. Just think how many events with spectacular presentations of studies, sounds and artistic representations and artifacts take place in Arcadia and further?
And yet this astonishing effect remains only in the memory of those who experienced it at that moment, without continuity, without retransmission, without experience.
We at the Branch of Arcadia overcome these narrow boundaries spatially and temporally.
We emit all the elements that make up our legend with synergies and consultations that will be able to integrate them into joint regional and operational policy actions to create benefits for Arcadia.
We propose to seize the opportunity to listen and spread messages that even we ourselves did not even think about asking.
We can all transmit together many messages that make up our own cultural environment, with the soft power logic, to prevent personal selfishness from bending us.
We maintain our own strong name that maximizes the unique cultural identity and heritage of our region and promotes comparative advantages at a supra-local level.
This is done only through a common development framework, well structured as a pillar of the Arcadia development perspective, aiming at the quantitative but also qualitative enhancement of its hits and visits.
We always have in mind that other cross-border cooperation policies that have been implemented both at the internal and external borders of countries are considered those which have yielded, of course, tangible and satisfactory results. So our whole project includes specific goals, thematic range, but also specific types of actions with professionalism. A Plan-Schedule that we listed in Arcadian Society to highlight – not only in our country – but mainly in countries where Arcadia is linked and will be linked autonomously through the diplomatic channel of the Cultural Institute.
A prime need for us is recognition of the problems and challenges of any cultural “intervention” areas. For us an important component is the basic value that the use of art should be done with respect and with an effort to promote its unique features.
Cultural diplomacy should not use a work of art and / or an artist or artist with its vague tooling. This would lead to immediate obsolescence. We must display all of our Greek elements throughout the world with knowledge, responsibility and rationality, not with leveling, populism and cultural enjoyment.
We always stand with respect for the natural and cultural environment but also in the local society, we create lasting relationships of interaction, we participate in the Cultural representation and the unified presentation of Arcadia in countries and organizations.
Our top priority is to communicate with the Arcadian clubs and collect their activities, resulting in the dissemination of them to all our branches worldwide.
Also, initiatives for the organization and co-organization with other institutions of seminars of intercultural approach on various topics and from all areas, as health etc. and actions to promote integration into European programs in order to contribute to job opportunities. The vision to promote the comparative advantages of Arcadia is followed by my colleagues believing that the whole venture is neither impossible nor difficult.
You have an impressive list of Ambassadors, how are they helping to share the mission of the Institute globally?
Before I answer this question I want to point out that cultural diplomacy is a field of public diplomacy but does not identify with it. While public diplomacy refers mainly to the communication dimension of official foreign policy, cultural diplomacy is a wider field of institutional, but sometimes also informal, public but often private, promotion of the country. Thus, our ambassadors at the Institute, representing different places such as academic communities, visual arts, dance, theater, gastronomy, sports, etc, contribute to networking and connection with the Greek diaspora and the international community, creating bridges for communication and exchange of knowledge and views.
They can lead our country to take advantage of opportunities offered globally. Our national economy, and our Greek society, will not recover if we do not realize that we are part of a global network. Every country, even the most developed, knows that in order to grow it needs to have access to new ideas, new knowledge and new practices. To do this, it must first of all use its own global networks, including our ambassadors. Let’s not forget that from the long past Greek ambassadors have been a long-time lever of the country’s rebirth, and this is the role they are called to serve today.
What are some of the programs that have been offered by the Institute?
The programs that have been offered by the Hellenic Institute of Cultural Diplomacy are developed, indicatively around the following axes:
- Strengthen public awareness and image of the role of cultural diplomacy.
- Training and education of executives voluntarily serving Cultural Diplomacy in every form.
- By researching and documenting issues of cultural development and making them widely publicized.
- With the support of the Greek Cultural Heritage and its internationalization.
- By organizing conferences, seminars, debates, publications, exhibitions and all kinds of events, as well as the publication of studies and research relevant to the aims of the Institute.
- With the collection and the contribution to protect and rescue historical archives, works, traces and monuments of Greek Culture.
- By establishing, proclaiming and granting financial aid for the promotion of Greek authors and their works, as well as studies or research related to the aims of the Institute.
- By institutionalizing awards and scholarships to persons, groups, bodies or units of persons, distinguished by their work in the field of the Institute’s purpose of service.
What is on the horizon for the Institute?
In addition, the international community such as the UN, UNESCO, the European Union National Institution for Culture (EUNIC) with the aim of “More Europe: external cultural relations” with the support of the European Cultural Foundation, the Organization of American States through Special Secretariat (SHA) Institutions such as the American Museum of Art (AMA) and the Columbus Memorial Library, the African Union, ASEAN in Asia, etc., have applied cultural diplomacy, either institutionally, conventionally or traditionally, convinced that this is largely achieved by the cooperation of states with a common goal: the consolidation of World Peace. People whose cultures converge may have more chances of communicating, co-operating, and concluding alliances. It is a typical claim that “the Republics do not fight each other”.
As far as Greece is concerned, we believe that the further shaping and processing of the image of the country in its international presence should go through the reflective mood and self-criticism of all of us towards “Greece” of the 21st century. Forming a country’s brand image, in which cultural diplomacy can be a critical policy tool, encourages us – besides the communicative necessity – to reflect on the crucial but repellent question of what Greece we want to have.
Hellenic civilization and especially Greek culture are perhaps parts of an inter-disciplinary conceptual infrastructure under which we can envision and design a better tomorrow for the role of culture in the country’s visibility as well as the country’s identity itself. Greece deserves a more attractive role in regional and international happenings. But this role goes through its reflection and acquisition of self-knowledge.
In this sense, cultural diplomacy is not only an instrument but an end in itself. It is an instrument for strengthening the country’s mild power, image and material, ideological and symbolic parameters that underline its importance and role in international and transnational relations. But also it is an end in itself as the systematic reflection on cultural diplomacy can be a field of effective, not omnivorous search for national self-knowledge and development.