Building Capabilities: Rethinking the Social Value of Culture

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What is the social role of art? Although this question has been debated since the time of Plato, it has gained new impetus in today’s society. It is increasingly clear the role art can play in helping individuals gain skills and confidence, and also in strengthening social inclusion or a sense of community.

What might this mean for artists, researchers or policymakers? Does it imply burdening culture with inappropriate social obligations? Or is it rather a matter of reimagining relationships between those who create art and those who experience it, recognising that the old boundary between these groups is now porous?

Such questions will be explored at this international conference, co-organised by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and Traction, an interdisciplinary research project that develops new digital technologies for the co-creation of operas with the communities of Barcelona, Dublin and Leiria – Youth Prison.

Alongside representatives of the Traction project’s partner institutions and its coordinator François Matarasso, this conference will bring together guests from other entities working in the field – such as Luís Sousa Ferreira (23 Milhas and Teatro Nacional D. Maria II), Maria Vlachou (Acesso Cultura), António Miguel (Maze), Ana Rita Barata and Pedro Sena Nunes (Vo’arte) – to reflect on how participatory art can help develop individual capabilities and talents, and strengthen human rights.

At the end of the conference, a concert will be presented by the professional artists involved in the Opera na Prisão (Opera in Prison) project, who will perform Mozart Arias.

Conference co-organised by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and the Traction project. The Traction project is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.


Língua Gestual Portuguesa
Portuguese Sign Language



Vanessa Rodrigues

09:30   Welcome

Luís Jerónimo, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

09:40   Introduction

François Matarasso, researcher and community artist

10:00   The mission of the cultural institution

Valentí Oviedo, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona

10:45   Coffee Break

11:15   Opera na Prisão

Paulo Lameiro, Sociedade Artística Musical dos Pousos (SAMP), Leiria

12:00   Institutions building capabilities

Maria Vlachou, Acesso Cultura, Lisbon
Richard Willacy, Birmingham Opera Company, England

13:00   Lunch break

14:30   Nós da cultura / Cultural communiTIES

Luís Sousa Ferreira, 23 Milhas and Teatro Nacional D Maria II, Lisbon

15:15   People building capabilities

Raquel Gomes and David Ramy, Sociedade Artística Musical dos Pousos, Leiria
Ana Rita Barata and Pedro Sena Nunes, Vo’Arte, Lisbon

16:00   Coffee Break

16:30   New technologies building capabilities

António Miguel, Maze, Lisbon
Camille Donegan, Virtual Reality Ireland, Ireland
James Bingham, Irish National Opera, Ireland

17:30   Closing remarks

Mikel Zorrilla, Vicomtech, Spain

18:30   Cocktail

19:30   Concert The prisoner Mozart


Born in Paris in 1972, Ana Rita Barata studied classic and modern dance at Escola Superior de Dança – Conservatório Nacional (Lisbon, Portugal) and at the European Dance Development Centre, in Arnhem (The Netherlands). Some of the choreographers she has worked with include Paulo Ribeiro, Yoshiko Chuma, Carolyn Carlson, Wim Vandekeybus, Benoit La Chambre, Steve Paxton, Samuel Louwick/Alain Platel, among others. Since 1994 she has developed transdisciplinary performances with Pedro Sena Nunes, involving communities with special needs. She has worked as Artistic Director of Vo’Arte since 1997. She is the co-creator of CiM – Multidisciplinary Integrated Company.

António founded MAZE and is responsible for the Government Performance work and the MSM impact fund as a Managing Partner. He has worked in impact investment for 10+ years in the UK, Canada and Europe. António teaches Impact Investment at NOVA SBE and previously was an Analyst at Social Finance UK. He holds an MSc in Business Administration from Católica Business School and is a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum. His motto is that 99 is not 100.

Camille is an award-winning Virtual Reality consultant and content producer with 15-year parallel careers in both technology and the arts (theatre, film, radio). Recent projects include: Emperor 101 by The Performance Corporation - a Live/Virtual Reality theatre piece presented at Dublin Theatre Festival and at SXSW in Austin Texas, The Dala Project by Adaptas Training – a series of embodied 360 films for CAMHS (The HSE Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) to help teenagers who suffer with anxiety, and Solas VR - a virtual reality meditation app available on Oculus and Pico headsets. In addition, she is a founding member of Eirmersive (see: - the voice of the Immersive Tech sector in Ireland. Partnering with Virtual Reality Ireland since 2017, together they have produced both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) content for a variety of sectors. They are proud to be part of the TRACTION consortium and working on Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách.

Born in Havana (Cuba) in 1978, David Ramy began studying music in 1988 at the Manuel Saumell School of Arts in Havana. In 1994, he began studying theatre at the National School of Arts in Cuba until 1998. In that same year, he joined the Grupo Teatro Estudio, a relevant group in the history of Cuban theatre in the 20th century. Between 1999 and 2001, he collaborated with the Escola Internacional de Cine e T.V. of Havana, where he delivered some workshops with Fernando Pérez, renowned Cuban director, and Harry Hook, renowned English director. He worked as a film actor with the ICAIC - Cuban Film Institute in the films "Violeta" (co-production with Mexico in 1997), "Miel para Ochún" (2000), "Nada+" (2001) and "Miradas" (2001). In 2003, he participated in the medium-length film "Un tanto %", directed by César Fernandez, in Germany. Between 2005 and 2007 he worked in Madrid with the group Minimal Teatro, directed by Miguel Ponce. He has lived in Leiria since 2008, where he collaborates with SAMP in the projects ‘Jardim das Artes’ and ‘Berço das Artes’, and as a drama teacher for public school students. He also collaborates with the theatre groups "O Nariz" and "libélula teatro", and teaches guitar at Colégio da Cruz d'Areia.

François Matarasso has worked in community arts since 1981 as an artist, researcher, teacher, policymaker and writer. His 1997 report ‘Use or Ornament?’ established influential concepts in cultural policy. Between 2011 and 2015 he produced a series of books on undervalued areas of cultural life under the collective title “Regular Marvels”.  His latest book “A Restless Art – How participation won and why it matters” was published in 2019. He has worked in about 40 countries and held honorary professorships in the UK and Australia. He is a partner in the Traction project (2020-22) which is dedicated to researching how technology can support social inclusion through opera co-creation. 

James Bingham foi descrito pelo Sunday Times como ‘messiânico despudorado’ relativamente à inclusão e acessibilidade da música clássica. Em Novembro de 2018, James Bingham juntou-se à equipa da Ópera Nacional Irlandesa como seu produtor de Estúdio e Trabalho de Divulgação, com o objetivo de desenvolver uma ampla variedade de projetos para envolver novos públicos com óperas. James trabalhou como coordenador de projetos no departamento de educação em Glyndebourne, e como coordenadora do grupo coral da Opera North sediada em Leeds, onde dirigiu cerca de mil crianças por semana numa série de projetos diferentes para a empresa. James trabalhou como regente de coro independente e animador para organizações como o Brighton Festival Youth Choir, a Catedral de Sheffield, Only Boys Aloud e The National Children’s Choir da Grã-Bretanha. James tem um mestrado em direção coral do Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, onde estudou com o mestre de coro da BBC, Neil Ferris. Também publica comentários no blogue e foi um dos quatro finalistas do prémio Young Influencer of the Year Award 2018 h100 em conjunto com The Hospital Club e The Arts Desk. James também canta atualmente como tenor com o coro de câmara New Dublin Voices.

Luís Jerónimo works as Director at the Gulbenkian Sustainable Development since January 2020. Joined the Gulbenkian Foundation in 2006 and worked at Uk Branch of the Foundation between 2009 and 2010. Served as Project Manager (2009-2016) and Deputy Director (2017-2018) of Gulbenkian Human Development Programme and was responsible for the portfolio of projects on social innovation and impact investing. In 2019 was Director of the Gulbenkian Integration and Social Cohesion Programme and of the Gulbenkian Sustainability Programme. It is currently Member of the Board of Directors of the European Venture Philanthropy Association and Non Executive Board Member of MAZE Impact. Born in 1981, holds a Degree in Philosophy and has completed the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme in 2013 and the General Management Programme at Judge Business School / University of Cambridge in 2015.

Luís Sousa Ferreira is director of 23 Milhas, a project that brings together four cultural venues in the Portuguese municipality of Ílhavo, and is currently also deputy artistic director of the Teatro Nacional D Maria II (National Theatre). Between 2019 and 2020, he was artistic consultant for Braga’27, Candidate City to the European Capital of Culture, and artistic director of the "Aldear" project, with a cultural programme covering 11 municipalities of the Portuguese region of Tâmega-e-Sousa. He was an Advisory Board member of the Portugal representation at Expo 2020 Dubai, and a member of the DG ARTES (Ministry of Culture) Working Group for the Improvement of the Support Model for the Arts between 2019 and 2021. Along with his professional activity, he works as a teacher at ESAD in Caldas da Rainha in the Programming and Cultural Production course. He was founder and director of the BONS SONS festival between 2006 and 2019, and commissioner of Caminhos do Médio Tejo, a networked cultural programme covering 13 municipalities between 2016 and 2018. He graduated in Industrial Design by ESAD.CR and coordinated the production and development of experimentadesign between 2009 and 2015. Previously, between 2006 and 2009, he worked at the Centre for the Study of New Artistic Trends (CENTA) as cultural producer and was a co-founder of colectivo-mente. He is also a columnist for Gerador magazine.

Maria Vlachou is a Cultural Management and Communications consultant. She is a founding member and executive director of Acesso Cultura Association, promoting physical, social, and intellectual access to cultural participation. Maria Vlachou is the author of the bilingual (pt/en) blog Musing on Culture, where she writes about culture, the arts, museums, cultural management and communication, access. She is the manager of the Facebook group Museum texts/Textos em museus and co-manager of the blog Museums and Migration. She participated in the European project RESHAPE – Reflect, Share, Practice, Experiment, having joined the trajectory on “Arts and Citizenship”. In the past, she was Communications Director of São Luiz Municipal Theatre (2006-2012) and Head of Communication of Pavilion of Knowledge – Ciência Viva (2001-2006) in Lisbon. She was also as board member of ICOM Portugal (2005-2014) and editor of its bulletin. She collaborated as a consultant for the Arpad Szenes – Vieira da Silva Museum and the Naval Cultural Commission. She has collaborated with the Descobrir e Próximo Futuro programmes of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Fellow and member of ISPA – International Society for the Performing Arts (2018, 2020); Alumna of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center in Washington (2011-2013); she has a M.A. in Museum Studies (University College London, 1994) and a B.A. in History and Archaeology (University of Ioannina, Greece, 1992).

Mikel Zorrilla holds a Telecommunications Engineering degree, an advanced degree in Computer Science and a PhD entitled “Interoperable Technologies for Multi-device Media Services”. Dr. Zorrilla is the director of the Digital Media & Communications department at Vicomtech and has led and participated in several national and international research and innovation projects. Currently, he is the Coordinator of the H2020 TRACTION project, where opera co-creation is explored as a path for social and cultural inclusion. Mikel also participates in a collaborative project for multi-user interaction within an Augmented Reality environment (H2020 ARETE). He has been the technical and scientific manager of FP7 MediaScape, developing technologies to create and adapt multi-device media services. He has participated in the HBB4ALL European project, addressing accessible media services for Connected TVs. His main research work is focused on interactive media technologies, media standards, video workflow management and 5G technologies. Dr. Zorrilla has been an associate professor at Deusto University in multimedia technologies (2014). He is an associate professor at UOC (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) in the Multimedia field since 2018.

Paulo Lameiro is a Portuguese ethnomusicologist, educator, communicator and creator from Leiria. After a brief career as baritone, with solo performances at the São Carlos National Theatre in Lisbon, he has been teaching and has taken on the management of several music schools, including the Conservatório Nacional de Lisboa (Lisbon National Conservatory), the Orfeão de Leiria (Leiria Choral Society) and the SAMP arts school in the village of Pousos, where he was born. This is where, since 1992, he has been developing artistic production and education projects for early childhood, of which ‘Cradle of Arts’, ‘Musicians in Nappies’, ‘Concerts for Babies’, and ‘Art Forests’ are of note. More recently, he has organised artistic practices with the community, with special reference to projects such as ‘Opera in Prison’, with inmates, ‘New Springs’ for the elderly, ‘Il Trovatore’ or the ‘Roma of the Lis’ with Romani communities. He was a founding member and part of the first Scientific Council of the Institute of Ethnomusicology of the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, at Universidade Nova de Lisboa. As an ethnomusicologist, he has published articles in several specialised journals. He was also a member of the Commission of Liturgy and Sacred Music of the Leiria-Fátima Diocese, and the founder and principal conductor for 12 years of the Schola Cantorum Pastorinhos de Fátima. He is father to Simão and Natércia and his hobby is breeding KOI carps, which he loves to observe for long periods of time. Paulo has received several prizes during his career, including an award from the Municipality of Leiria (1993), elected Merit Professional of the Year by the Rotary Club of Leiria (1998), the “Afonso Lopes Vieira Award” given by the weekly newspaper Região de Leiria (1998 and 2017), most relevant professional in the field of Culture by the Rádio Clube de Leiria (1999), the YEAH! Innovation Award (2013) and the “Afonso Lopes Vieira” Award (2014) as Artistic Director of Musicalmente; ACESSO CULTURA Award (2016), the COESÃO Award from Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (2017) and the Award for Best Practices in Active Aging – Category Life+ Ageing@Coimbra (2018), as Artistic Director of SAMP.

Pedro Sena Nunes is a Portuguese director, producer, photographer, teacher, and programmer. He finished the Cinema Course after attending Mechanical Engineering. He co-founded Companhia Teatro Meridional, where he is responsible for the audiovisual area. Between Barcelona, ​​Lyon, Sitges, Budapest, Lisbon and Florence he participated in courses and workshops on cinema, photography, video, theatre and creative writing. He has produced documentaries, fictions and experimental works in cinema and video and produced more than 100 advertising spots for television and radio. He has received scholarships from several institutions – Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Universidade de Ciências de Lisboa, Pépenières, Visions, and has been invited to participate in national and international conferences. He was a jury in competitions and festivals of photography, theatre, design, dance and cinema, of which Instituto Cinema e Audiovisual (ICA) is of note. He was the founder of Teatro Meridional,, Apordoc and Associação Portuguesa de Realizadores and is artistic director of Associação Vo’Arte and does consulting work for various associations and specific artistic projects. For the past 14 years he has devoted himself simultaneously to the area of ​​pedagogy, creating and directing laboratories dedicated to creation and experimentation, both documentary and fictional. He was a visiting professor at the School of Theater and Cinema (ESCT), Dance Forum, Piaget Institute, Ana Wilson School, Glasgow Film and Video Workshop (GFVW), Centro Em Movimento (C.E.M.) and ETIC (Technical School of Image and Communication). Of note is his collaboration, as consultant, in the reform of artistic education with the Ministry of Education.

Raquel Gomes is Community Project Coordinator at SAMP (Sociedade Artística Musical dos Pousos), a music teacher, expressive therapist, and end-of-life doula. She was born in 1972 in Sé Nova, Coimbra. Married to Nuno and mother to Tiago and Simão, Raquel Gomes is an end-of-life doula. Although she has the title of music teacher and expressive therapist, her real school, course, master’s or doctorate is from the university of life, from contacting others on a daily basis: when, through art, she visits a paediatric unit, a pain unit, a palliative care unit, a psychiatric unit, a Roma neighbourhood, a prison, when she contacts a family member of a prisoner, a senior citizen, a bed-ridden person, babies and their families. Her passion for the arts and for the human being helps her understand that life is too short to be wasted. She lives by dreams and dreams of living life. She looks at death with the same affection and respect as she does when she looks at life. For Raquel, her safe haven is in her spirituality, family, and friends.

Richard Willacy is Geral Director of the Birmingham Opera Company. He is artistically leading, producing and assessing many large scale and outward facing projects and actively encouraging new forms and engaging new audiences for Opera, Experimental Music Theatre, New Writing, Site Specific Work, Digital, Theatre, Dance and participatory projects, funded through a wide variety of delivery drivers including ERDF, ESF, ACE, City Council, Lottery, Neighbourhood funds, Trusts and Foundations and earned income. Birmingham Opera Company aims to make opera that speaks to everyone, reflecting the city they’re based in – with their audiences, artists and stories that they tell. Their groundbreaking work constantly attracts new and ever-changing audiences. With very limited resources, they work on drawing some of the world’s most exciting artists to Birmingham to create a large-scale performance in an extraordinary space.

Valentí Oviedo is a Catalan cultural manager, and since May 2018 the general director of the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Oviedo holds a degree in Business Administration and Management from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and a management degree in MBA, IESE and a postgraduate degree in Management Control. He has collaborated as a lecturer in Finance and Marketing in the Master’s degree course on Cultural Management of the University of Barcelona and the International University of Catalonia, and has been a member of the board of the Association of Cultural Managers and of the Cultural Association “El Galliner” of Manresa. In 2008 he became the manager of the Kursaal Theater in Manresa, a position he held until 2013, when he left the Manresa facility to take over the management of the Barcelona Auditorium. In 2016 he was appointed manager of the Barcelona Institute of Culture.

Vanessa Rodrigues is a story hunter. She is a journalist, documentarian and University Professor. She holds a PhD in Studies in Communication for Development, focusing on audiovisual narratives and counter public spheres. She is a member of MEXE Associação Cultural, a non-profit association that also organises MEXE - International Meeting of Art and Community. She lived in Brazil and Jordan, and recently has work in progress in Guinea Bissau and Mozambique.



The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation reserves the right to collect and keep records of images, sounds and voice for the diffusion and preservation of the memory of its cultural and artistic activity. For further information, please contact us through the Information Request form.


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