According to ‘Startups & Places’, the official Startup Heatmap Europe blog, the DEEP Ecosystems conference in April 2021 published two white papers, which have addressed that there is a need for: 1) a better collaboration between startup ecosystems and the cultural and creative industries and, 2) a just distribution when it comes to securing funding for female entrepreneurs as compared to male entrepreneurs. While the latter demands certainly mirrors where work has to be done, this article will look beyond and thematize why it is the time now to support migrant entrepreneurs in the creative and cultural sector in Germany whether they be female, male, queer or trans. Among others, this article will pinpoint how investors could tackle gaps in migration law and discrimination against minority groups.
On Cultural Heritage
As Vincent Van Gogh said, “in an artist’s life, death is perhaps not the most difficult thing”. Indeed, it is commonly accepted that some artists will only be recognized for their work after they die. And while Frida Kahlo said that “passion is the bridge that takes you from pain to change”, the latter quote should not be utilized to locate all kinds of societal failure in an individual. Especially, when it comes to making profits as an artist, a musician or a freelancer in the creative and cultural industries, starting-up can be challenging! More so, as someone who seeks asylum in the EU and who does not have significant savings or an additional ‘skilled-labour’ job, which could easily secure a blue card. The latter is to say, as the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum is about to be implemented, it needs to be asked, what about artists?
Despite that conventions such as the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage protects the creations of artists such as monuments (i.e.architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting), groups of buildings and sites (i.e.archaeological), which “are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science”, little has yet been done when it comes to protecting artists and their work in the present time. Ironically, this remains the case despite that digitization has become an important pillar of EU politics with various artists from outside the EU possessing knowledge of creative and digital programs as well as foreign language skills.
In other words, it might be the time now to stop focusing on cultural heritage alone and to invest into artists and their livelihoods actively. While, in Germany, artists can apply for a visa for self-employment, the latter comes with certain hurdles. If artists want to start their own business in Germany, they must demonstrate that:
- There is a regional demand for their product or service;
- Their business will have a positive economic impact;
- They have secured sufficient capital and funding prior to entry;
- They have sufficient old age pension provisions, if they are aged 45 or above.
As such, it can be said that settling in Germany as an artist is certainly not easy. Especially since many entrepreneurs in Germany are struggling themselves with funding their own businesses and there is already a lack of cooperation between start-up ecosystems and cultural and creative industries, the latter poses significant restrictions on migrant artists from low-income countries. While another less cost-intensive option is to work as a freelancer, this also requires certain steps , as the applicant needs to prove that:
- They have sufficient funding to finance their endeavours;
- They have obtained licenses to perform the job in question;
- They have sufficient old age pension provisions, if they are aged 45 or above.
The recognition of licenses over decades of experience might be a hurdle for many artists, so is obtaining a freelancer visa. The idea of placing emphasis on the importance of cultural heritage on one hand and limiting migrant artists’ mobility on the other hand, is restricting innovation in the creative and cultural industries to a minimum and disqualifying art as a labour. Especially, because cultural diplomacy is oftentimes even considered the political work of embassies, such an approach makes little sense, when artists have so much to contribute!
Involving Migrant Artists in Cultural Diplomacy and the Labour Market
According to the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (icd),
“Cultural diplomacy may best be described as a course of actions, which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation, promote national interests and beyond; Cultural diplomacy can be practiced by either the public sector, private sector or civil society.”(icd, n.d.)
As the latter definition shows, cultural diplomacy resonates not only with the concept of an active citizenship, but also with concepts such as democracy, diversity and integration. While the bureaucratic processes of migration might be quite frustrating, art offers a tool for expressing one’s journey and becoming an active citizen who contributes new ideas to the status quo in the EU and Germany. Especially, if you are an investor who seeks to contribute to promoting intercultural dialogue through art and other creative media, you might however wonder what you can do.
Below are a few recommendations based on the challenges which migrant artists face on their pathway to Germany and the EU:
- As an SME on the German market with a need for professionals in domains such as illustration, communications and marketing, rearrange your traineeship programmes and target migrant artists whom you offer to obtain recognized qualifications, for instance, in cooperation with universities. Especially, since obtaining recognized qualifications is oftentimes expensive and serves only a bureaucratic purpose, the latter could lead to minimizing the damage.
- As a public investor in Germany with an interest in migration, development, diplomacy, culture, human and labour rights, address policy gaps (i.e. in the EU Migration Pact) starting at the micro-level. Even when it takes quite some time to implement long-term changes, it is never too early to set up exchange programmes which allow artists to build local connections, contribute to a cultural and knowledge exchange and bring innovation to Germany. Cultural cooperation projects should go beyond targeting high school and university students, because essentially art is work.
- As a private investor with a faible for art and culture, invest into start-ups, SMEs and initiatives which hire artists and actively work towards influencing their employment policies to protect artists’ labour rights. If at all, there are only a few companies who sponsor visas for non-EU artists who want to migrate to Germany and take up a job in the creative and cultural industries.
- As a start-up, who is interested in innovation in the creative and cultural industries, your options are many. To give you one particular idea to start-up your business, you could for instance start an online network, which matches migrant artists on their pathway to Germany with investors, companies, museums, embassies, art universities and the like. Promoting an exchange through a platform which brings the start-up ecosystem to migrants could allow to establish connections prior to a visa application.
Whether you are an art lover or interested in migration, minority rights and inclusion, our diverse team of competent legal experts and consultants can support you with solid business and legal advice including in areas related to intellectual property protection, migration, relocation, labour and employment, tax etc. Thereby, it does not matter whether you are seeking to found a start-up to support migrant artists on their pathway to Germany or whether you are seeking to increase the political impact of your work. Whether you are an investor or a start-up, we will support you to accelerate the impact of your idea.
Contact us for an initial consultation today!