Will mining revenues benefit Mongolia’s arts and culture industry?

Profits from the animated film “Toy Story 3” reached 1 billion USD worldwide. Last year the Canadian paleontological Royal Tyrrell Museum welcomed its 10 millionth visitor. At a time when such information showcasing the economic benefits of the arts and culture industry emerge, Mongolians are heatedly discussing ways to spend revenues generated by the mining industry. Composer and state prize laureate Mr N.Jantsannorov suggested during the Mongolian Economic Forum that profits from the mining sector be invested in the development and promotion of the country’s arts and cultural industries. “Mongolia has a great artistic potential which could be recognized and acknowledged worldwide,” he said, adding “if Mongolian artists were born in developed countries, they probably would be world-renowned. It is time to pay attention to human development in Mongolia in order to bring the country’s intellectual capabilities on to the world arena.”

During the duration of the three-day Mongolian Economic Forum, exhibitions were organized by the Mongolian Arts Council at the State Palace. Their themes - “Human and Nature”, “Human and Society”, and “Human and Intellectual Thinking” - have not let the public indifferent, and on the contrary, attracted a lot of interest. The display of paintings, sculptures, videos, photos and feature films by 35 Mongolian artists has, perhaps, succeeded in promoting Mongolian arts and culture to the Forum’s thousand and more foreign and domestic participants. An initiative that contributed to distinguish the Mongolian Economic Forum from others events organized in Ulaanbaatar in the past.

World practice demonstrates that any country that organizes a large international event strives to promote their national arts and cultural heritage. During the G-20 Summit taking place in South Korea, guests were simply flooded by art exhibitions and cultural events. As well as special shows and exhibits, many interesting spectacles took place on Seoul Street from dawn to dusk. Museums opened wide their doors to the vast number of visitors present. It seemed artists barely had time to rest and sleep during the G-20 Summit. But what can be said about the development and promotion of the arts and cultural industry in Mongolia?
The statement made by Mr Jantsannorov that the “world is recognizing the fact that culture is not an expenditure but a large sector of the economy” is correct. However, it is probably not an overstatement to say that in Mongolia, the arts and cultural industry has been neglected for many years. In fact, the industry has been surviving in the buildings of the Mongolian State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, of the Mongolian State Academic Theatre of Drama, of the Mongolian State Philharmonic, and of the Children’s Theatre, which are all almost on the brink of collapse. In addition, highly valuable historic and scientific findings and artifacts lay wearing out in the outdated buildings of about 40 museums. The 60 years’ old Natural History Museum, for example, has not experienced any major renovations since its creation. In 2009, the Ulaanbaatar City General Agency for Specialized Inspection “handed out” to the administration of the Natural History Museum a “red card” document forbidding it to carry out its operations. The museum has disregarded the red card to this day, probably due to the lack of other alternate facilities. However, there would be benefits to be made from renovating and modernizing the nation’s museums.
Since its establishment in 1985 the Canadian paleontological Royal Tyrrell Museum has grown to welcome 500 thousand visitors each year. In 2010, the museum welcomed its 10 millionth visitor! Could Mongolia perform such an achievement? Foreign and domestic paleontologists show a great interest in Mongolian dinosaur eggs and bones. Why not use this opportunity to build a museum unique in the world? People and paleontologists would come from all over to visit such a museum, and while their number would increase, so would the benefits to the economy. But the state of the country’s buildings and museums is not the only issue and the life and livelihoods of Mongolian artists also depict a worrying development.

The resolution number 351 adopted by the Mongolian Government has outlined the amount of remuneration of a public servant in the arts and cultural industry. According to the resolution, the highest salary only amounts to MNT368,000! A situation which explains why artists at the Mongolian State Academic Theatre of Drama joined without hesitation a peaceful demonstration organized by the Mongolian Trade Union WHEN? to demand for a salary raise of public officials. During the demonstration Mr N.Myagmarnaran, People’s Artist of Mongolia WHAT?, said that “the Government lacked policies to support arts.” “We have a monthly salary of MNT230,000 and despite the fact we play white-collar wealthy persons on stage, we have nothing to give our children back home,” he continued. However, Mongolian artists did not back away from their artistic path. And while the question concerning the kind of measures the Government takes to support Mongolian artists who devote their lives to classical arts and culture remains; experts state that with little support, these artists could easily rise and reach world stage. A statement supported by many ex