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#InConversationWith Greis Cifuentes

Updated: May 23, 2023

We are a community of people in every profession and sector using music to create more value in towns and cities all over the world. In the special series #InConversationWith, we talk to accomplished members of our community and uncover their journey. This story features Greis Cifuentes, Former Minister of Culture of Ibagué, Colombia, PhD candidate and “one of the most influential young women" in Colombian politics” according to KAS Colombia and WOM-EN ONG.

Profile at a Glance

  • Full Name: Greis Cifuentes

  • City, Country: Ibagué, Colombia

  • Work Profile/Designation: Regional Manager for Bogotá at Fundación Batuta and PhD Candidate

  • Current Company: Fundación Batuta

  • Previous Notable Work: Ministry of Culture of Ibagué. Led the nomination of Ibagué as UNESCO creative city of music, and as American Capital of Culture in 2022. Coordinated the creation of three creative districts and the Creative Economy Committee. Through the portfolio of artistic and cultural economic incentives, (a public call for proposals), increased expenditures in resources for the cultural sector in 500%.

  • An initiative that boosts the music economy/ contributes to the development of music in your city: Fundación Batuta & Casa

How did you get to where you are today, professionally?

I would say that persistence, love and dedication are key. You need to be willing to put time and effort into developing your skills. You also need to be willing to take risks and learn from your failures. And perhaps most importantly, you need to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and why. If you can stay true to that vision and stay committed to your goals, I believe you can achieve great things. I also have been very lucky to have women mentors in my path, who have provided me encouragement, guidance, and perspective.

I firmly believe that culture and education are the way to achieve real structural transformations in our society. Through my work and academic experience, I have been able to evidence the social benefits derived from culture and demonstrated the value of arts-based approaches as drivers and facilitators of creativity, contributing to the development of mutual understanding, social cohesion and dialogue, while also providing a space for victims of conflict to acknowledge pain, healing and contribute to reconciliation, which at the end, can enhance a culture of peace.

I have considered that we all can contribute from our work to the construction of peace in Colombia. I also believe that, if we want a change in our country, we need to be part of the solution and not the problem. This means that we should not be mere spectators, on the contrary, we must act, and that premise has been my motivator all these years. Among all of us we can build the country we deserve, but first we must be aware that we belong to it, that it is our responsibility to be agents of change, because only then, things will change.

Which would you say it’s your main project right now? For those who aren’t familiar with it, please describe it and talk a little bit about it.

My main work is my PhD thesis, my thesis explores the role that arts and cultural interventions can play in the aftermath of the Colombian conflict, and the opportunities and limitations of applying arts-based practices in communities dealing with its legacy. It is intended to assist and inform policymakers and those making funding decisions of the social impact of arts and culture. The findings of this study demonstrate that cultural activities can further promote the building of social capital, providing opportunities for people to interact and strengthen social networks that facilitate mutual understanding and dialogue, and can also encourage a sense of belonging and place identity that contributes to long term peacebuilding process. However, the study also reveals the need to develop evaluation and impact studies to measure the peacebuilding outcomes of arts-based and cultural projects, in order to strengthen their case for funding. I demonstrate that there are a range of conditions that are essential for constructive conflict resolution: the establishment of a culture of peace based on respectful relationships and the development of collective cultural practices, which must be set according to the context and local reality of the area of conflict.

The study concludes that paying greater attention to cultural grassroots initiatives offers a hitherto largely untapped opportunity for peace building. Nevertheless, any decisions with regard to its deployment will inevitably depend on the interaction between the policymakers and the communities affected by the armed conflict. After 5 years of work I will be happy to publish it and share it with you this year.

How did your work as the Ministry of Culture for Ibagué impacted the music ecosystem of your city? Do you have any milestones that you’d like to share?

During my time as a Minister of of Culture for Ibagué since 2020-2022, I was responsible for leading the cultural sector of the city, the formulation and implementation of public policies, programs and projects in art, culture and heritage, as well as the transformation and cultural sustainability of Ibagué.

I led the nomination of Ibagué as UNESCO creative city of music, and Ibagué as American Capital of Culture for 2022. I coordinated the creation of three creative districts (Creasur, Capital Musical, Zona G) and the Creative Economy Committee. I led the formulation of Ibagué's 10-year Public Policy on Culture, the Municipal Music Plan 2021-2025 and the special management and protection plan for cultural heritage. We also increased the number of national and international agreements with different countries to strengthen our relationship and cultural exchanges with them. Through the portfolio of artistic and cultural economic incentives, which is a public call for proposals, we achieved an increase of 500% in resources for the cultural sector.

From my current position, I continue working in the music sector contributing to improve the quality of life of children and young people in Colombia.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the music sector today in your city, and what do you propose to address these challenges?

There are many challenges that the music sector and the cultural sector in general are facing today in Ibagué. I want to highlight five of them: the first one is the offer of training in entrepreneurship and business management for the music sector. Artists should have a full understanding of the copyright laws and intellectual property nuances to protect their rights and interests. The second one is the improvement of the city's existing cultural infrastructure, the venues must be adapted to international standards, with high technical quality and greater capacity. The third one, is the implementation of the city music plan that was designed as an UNESCO Creative City, this can enhance the most representative city product: the Ibagué Musical Capital brand. This can be exposed as a product that brings together the different manifestations of cultural diversity and artistic expressions. Fourth, is to generate research that allows for a broader and deeper understanding of the different dynamics of the music sector. Finally, design and implement plans and programs for the internationalization of the music sector, seeking to promote quality and export processes to position the creative products or services of cultural actors in national and international events.

To read the full interview, network with Greis Cifuentes & our 1400+ global members, and get a chance to be featured as part of our #inconversationwith series, join the Music Cities Community!

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