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Creative Lenses project

Related priority: An economy that works for the people


Journeys of self-discovery

‘Arts’ and ‘business’ don’t often appear in the same sentence and, for some people, they might even seem like opposites. Yet the arts make a significant contribution to the EU economy – in 2017, there were 1.1 million cultural enterprises in the EU-27, generating EUR 145 billion of added value.

As part of its priority of fostering an economy that works for people, the European Commission is committed to supporting small and medium-sized businesses, which comprise most of the non-State funded arts centres and performing arts organizations.

Creative Lenses, a Creative Europe collaborative project, encouraged participating arts organizations to think – sometimes for the first time – about their business model and what their goals were as an enterprise. This experience proved to be a powerful agent for change towards a more sustainable future for them.

Business models are not only about making money, even in these times of cutbacks. Using a combination of desk research, surveys, interviews and an 18-month action research phase, Creative Lenses found that, while arts organisations often have similar needs, there is no ‘one size fits all’ business model.

For the action research, eight arts organisations, which the project called ‘Catalysts’, worked with a mentor to innovate their business models. As a result of this intense reflection, for example, the Athens-based performing arts company, ODC Ensemble, discovered that what they needed was not a new venue, but to develop an international audience and generate income as a touring company.

Creative Lenses partners have collected the diversity of their experiences in an online Arts & Culture Knowledge Base, which provides links to the project’s research findings and case studies. Other outcomes are a 196-page Models to Manifestos toolkit, videos, and tips for arts organizations, both big and small, to adapt and refresh their business models and make them more sustainable.

For European arts organisations from Spain to Slovakia, involvement in the Creative Lenses project was a journey of self-discovery.


The Creative Lenses project helped our organisation identify bottlenecks as well as new opportunities.


Kai Huotari, Managing director of Kaapeli, project co-ordinator

Creative Lenses

Started: 01-06-2015 - Ended: 30-05-2019

Project Reference: 559531-CREA-1-2015-1-FI-CULT-COOP2

EU Grant: €1 964 950

Tagged in:  Creative Europe