Something dims the looks of many cultural workers when words such as “profit” and “business operations” are mentioned. Alexandra Hvalgren, however, stands out from that crowd. She believes that “creative business operations” are the art melody of the future.
A boy with light-brown hair sighs loudly.
“Art…”, he says with uncertainty. He, and ten other children in ages ranging from 7 to 11, are faced by this mind puzzle: “What is art?”
They are starring in a movie produced in collaboration with art gallery Lunds Konsthall. “If somebody considers it art, it’s art”, says one of the more postmodern-minded children. “Art could also be completely strange things. That is why it’s called art”, says another one.
One of the minds behind this movie is Alexandra Hvalgren. She works for Ideon Innovation, where she, during fall, has been closely associated with the culture incubator, The Creative Plot – an organization established by Lund Municipality initiatives.
The purpose with the organization is to unite ideas from the cultural sector, trade and industry, and the academic community, and to pair business operators with media coaches who will lead them to great achievements on the market. Her job is to create “hype” and spins in the media by using tailor-made social media campaigns.
“One day I’m working with a performance artist who designed an app providing dance choreographies. The next day, the job might involve a group of guys having started their own jeans factory in Rosengård”, says Alexandra Hvalgren.
Alexandra Hvalgren is the youngest one at her espresso-scented workplace, which, to an outsider, might come across as an arrival terminal for hipsters with advanced opinions on grooming and a penchant for creative office landscape solutions. Her hair is just as brightly colored as her choice of clothes, and she recently returned from a vitalizing vacation in New York.
She can come and leave her work as she so chooses, her superiors have realized that fixed schedules do not cater to everybody. This suits Alexandra Hvalgren, who describes herself as an “emotional person”, perfectly. Part of the reason for gravitating to the Big Apple was to gain a little bit of creative stimulation.
“The good thing about this workplace is that you can retract somewhere to go to art galleries in pursuit of inspiration, if you find yourself in a creative dip,” says Alexandra Hvalgren.
Her interest in culture appeared early. It was during expeditions at museums in her hometown, Varberg, and at the dinner table at home, where she joyfully tried her wings as an artist with glue, scissors, and paper.
Alexandra Hvalgren describes herself as a person with “an incredible imagination” and a “energy all the way to the soles of her feet”. Even on her first day at the Arts Program in highschool, she decided she would become a “cultural worker”. No matter the cost, that was the only option.
She went to Stockholm and studied to be an art historian, and she was hired by a gallery. But shortly after, she had a fall-out with the art scene. Her dare-deviled and somewhat promotional ways, which previously had landed her a job as toy store manager, did not sit very well with some of the big fish in art. They said she was “too nice” and “too out-spoken”; her handshake too firm.
“In Stockholm, you need a Master’s degree in Art History if you want to be taken seriously”, she says.
Alexandra Hvalgren speaks with contempt about the traditional art world’s hierarchies and elitism. She admires people who have the courage to “do their own thing”. People who don’t allow themselves into thinking that one kind of art is better than another. Or that business operations would be a bourgeois trait. According to Alexandra Hvalgren, cultural value resides in the eye of the beholder.
And what is a cultural worker really today, if not a business operator among others? A hard worker having to network and promote oneself and one’s products to make ends meet.
“To make it as an artist today, you need to be self-employed or be surrounded by a team, to have a shot at making it. The days when you could be a genius
singlehandedly painting your own paintings are over,” says Alexandra Hvalgren.
Finally, she turned her back on the nation’s capital and went to Skåne. She enrolled in a project management program and stumbled upon an internship position at
Ideon Innovation, which turned into employment. For a few weeks now, she has combined her job with a communicator position at Future by Lund, after the project-based position at The Creative Plot expired.
Her thing is to take advantage of her art theories in her promotion work. One example is when she produces promo videos. That allows her to use her theories on which colors the eyes react to, which complexions are found distracting, and which ones bring out people’s interests, emotions, and pleasures.
“At one point, I placed the promo art in a field with very distinctive colors shooting up into the air. I colored the video using contrasts to make the art pieces more prominent,” she says.
Alexandra Hvalgren dreams about democratizing the cultural scene. And open it to bigger segments of society. After all, there is an artist in all of us. Whether you are male or female, old or young. She seems to be sharing the view of that postmodernist movie-boy, as it pertains to art being anything possible, as long as we call it art, and with the right support, anyone can make a name on the market.
She believes that art exists everywhere. That also goes for creativity and fantasy.
“You just have to be susceptible to it. In every-day situations, it can revolve around stirring up a really tasty mushroom soup, or composing a photo folder on the computer,” says Alexandra Hvalgren.
She is of the mindset that we need to re-evaluate our view of practitioners within the culture community. But she is highly cognizant of the fact that her attitude toward commercialism and “creative self-employees” is controversial in some segments. She thinks that some people simply will hate her for her opinions.
“I don’t mind them doing that. You have to know your place in ‘culture’, don’t you?”, laughs Alexandra Hvalgren.
Text: Marcus Bornlid
Photo: Jens Hunt
Translation: Maximilian Aleman-Tennell