48th AEC ANNUAL CONGRESS and GENERAL ASSEMBLY
3-6 November 2021, Royal Conservatoire Antwerp & Online
Building Bridges: Artists as Makers in Society
The title of the 2021 AEC Congress is related to the EU-funded project AEC – Strengthening Music in Society (SMS) whose final outputs were presented at this congress. The motto Artists as Makers in Society underlines the responsibility that each individual artist, as well as institutions for professional artistic training have towards the society as a whole and for the well-being of individuals and communities now and in the future.
The idea of the ‘Maker’ is intended to remind that art should never remain passive or only react to societal developments, but rather aiming at pro-actively shaping and promoting these developments. Moreover, art should do this in a way that still acknowledges and respects the idea of freedom and the autonomy of art. There are neither easy nor unambiguous answers to the question of how and by what specific measures artists (can) live up to this responsibility. But there are issues that are increasingly gaining in importance in the Music Higher Education Institutions’ (HEIs’) everyday life.
The AEC Congress 2021 addressed some of these issues offering the usual mix of workshops, discussion forums, best practice presentations, panels and plenaries to further investigate the question of how to concretise the intention of strengthening the role of the artist as a maker in society and how to implement and to embed it into the day-to-day work of Music HEIs. In terms of content, this included among other topics: diversity, interdisciplinarity, power relations, reaching out to new audiences, innovative forms of presenting and disseminating music, digitisation.
But Music HEIs are and will continue to be also in charge of keeping traditions alive and of protecting and nurturing the cultural heritage which means to keep on finding answers to some ‘old’ questions, such as on our understanding of artistic quality and excellence, on the recruitment and promotion of young talents, and on the question whether and how curricula and study courses are adequately preparing their students to meet the needs of an ever-changing labour market.
However, in terms of format, the 48th AEC Annual Congress and General Assembly broke new ground. Since AEC was forced to hold its 2020 Congress exclusively online due to the pandemic, in 2021 250 participants were able to travel and finally meet again in the real world and to enjoy in-person networking as in the old times. We did not put aside, however, the experience and know-how aquired in preforming online events: the AEC Annual Congress and General Assembly 2021 was therefore the first and probably not the last hybrid annual congress in the history of the AEC, with purely in-presence sessions, purely online sessions and sessions taking place physically at the Royal Conservatoire in Antwerp and streamed online for both onsite and online audiences.
AEC welcomed 250 participants onsite and 120 online to the 48th AEC Annual Congress and General Assembly to join the AEC journey towards tomorrow´s Music HEIs in our society.