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18 Global Cities Selected to Participate in the World Cities Culture Forum’s Leadership Exchange Program Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies & Google Arts and Culture

Cultural Leaders will Collaborate on Innovative Solutions to address Challenges Facing the Creative Sector in Global Cities Including Inequity and Financial Stress Escalated by COVID-19

NEW YORK AND LONDON – Cultural leaders from 18 cities will take part in the latest round of World Cities Culture Forum’s Leadership Exchange Program. Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and Google Arts & Culture, it will facilitate collaboration between cities facing common challenges and bring together urban leaders in creative fields to support culture and the global creative economy. Leaders from Amsterdam, Austin, Barcelona, Chengdu, Lagos, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Milan, Montreal, New York, Paris, Stockholm, Sydney, Vienna, Warsaw, and Zurich have been selected to participate in seven collaborative exchanges.

Justine Simons OBE, Chair of the World Cities Culture Forum and London’s Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, said: “As we continue to deal with the devastating impact of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that we work together to improve life in our cities. Culture and creativity have the power to accelerate our economic recovery and to unite our communities during these challenging times, and by bringing cities together from around the world we have a unique opportunity to learn from each other.”

Cities are laboratories for the development of creative solutions to some of our planet’s most complex challenges, including social and racial inequality, climate change, overcrowding, and the housing crisis. Particularly as cities face a global economic downturn and a steep decline in tourism related to COVID-19, cultural projects can serve as the testing ground for solutions that bring communities together, elevate creative thinking and improve the quality of life for residents.

The selected exchanges will address a range of issues facing global cities, many of which were heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include supporting culture as an expression of democratic participation, providing equitable access to affordable creative space, addressing at-risk cultural venues, models of cultural funding that embrace diverse artforms, use of data in mapping access to arts activities, and ensuring inclusion in the Cultural Olympiad, a program of cultural events that accompanies each Olympic Games.

Kate D. Levin, Arts Program Lead, Bloomberg Philanthropies, said: “By bringing together cultural leaders from city governments across the globe, the World Cities Culture Forum’s Leadership Exchange can inspire and drive problem-solving for the biggest challenges faced by cities. Despite the unique hurdles faced this year, institutions and individuals are meeting the moment and producing creative solutions that demonstrate how important culture will be for recovery efforts.”

Amit Sood, Director, Google Arts & Culture, said: “We are pleased to continue our support of this incredible initiative, in partnership with the Mayor of London and the World Cities Culture Forum. Projects like this are even more essential in times like these, where cultural innovation can enhance the sense of community and connection in cities around the world.”

Culture and the creative economies across the globe have been devastated by the pandemic with theatres, music venues closed, festivals cancelled, and thousands of livelihoods lost. For the past seven months, the World Cities Culture Forum member cities have regularly come together virtually sharing their experiences and lessons learned in real-time as they champion and support culture in world cities.

Over the next two years, the Leadership Exchange Program will support the following exchanges between 18 cities, with information sharing and inclusion of the larger network membership:

  • Arts biennials to encourage civic participation: Warsaw and Lagos will bring together their two Biennales to explore different strategies to encourage engagement with pressing urban issues, including culture as a space for freedom and imagination, as well as a tool to support participation in society.
  • Neighborhood-based arts and culture policies: With a focus on their respective Cultural Quarters policies, the Lisbon and Montreal exchange will share how cities can support and strengthen culture in neighborhoods, ensuring engagement with a broad cross-sector of partners.
  • New funding models for culture: Vienna and Zurich will collaborate to explore new forms of cultural support for diverse forms of art, including innovative funding mechanisms and new ways of promoting arts participation among a wide range of communities.
  • Access to affordable creative space: Austin, Sydney and Melbourne will exchange strategies for increasing equitable access to long-term, affordable creative space, and grow the capacity of the creative community.
  • Cultural equity and inclusion at the Olympics: With Paris and Los Angeles hosting the 2024 and 2028 Olympics, the exchange will focus on cultural equity and inclusion across aspects of the Olympics and Cultural Olympiad (a program of cultural events that accompanies each Olympic Games).
  • Cultural mapping and data: Amsterdam, Austin, Barcelona, Chengdu, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Montreal, and Stockholm will share and develop solutions to support mapping cultural assets, activities, and participation in their cities. This exchange will develop shared learnings on the methods, challenges, objectives and ethics of data collection, as well as using data to strengthen evidence to support culture in our cities.
  • Addressing Culture at Risk: London and New York will share strategies on how to support cultural organizations and venues at risk of closing, as well as explore broader definitions of informal arts activity that is at risk.

As travel restrictions in the near-future are still unknown, the exact structure and timing of Leadership Exchanges will be determined collaboratively and will include digital convenings as well as in-person meetings as possible. All Exchanges will operate in accordance with local public health guidelines, ensuring the safe exchange of ideas and solutions between participating cities. Exchanges will share findings and actionable models with all World Cities Culture Forum cities.

The cities were announced during the World Cities Culture Forum’s one-day digital ‘Global Conversation’ on culture, COVID-19 and cities. The conference draws together what cities have learned so far and explores how culture can accelerate recovery over a series of panels, focused discussions and a Mayoral public panel. The Leadership Exchange will enable selected cities to further target and deepen these conversations.

The inaugural Leadership Exchange Program, which took place between 2018 and 2019, supported four exchanges between 9 cities. These exchanges addressed issues such as ensuring affordable space for artists, recycling discarded materials for use as art supplies in schools and non-profits, promoting local culture in neighborhoods, and celebrating and engaging marginalized communities.

About World Cities Culture Forum
The World Cities Culture Forum is a leading collaborative network of the world’s major creative cities supporting dynamic government leadership. The Forum’s members champion culture as an essential driver for the social and economic success of cities, through sharing ideas and data, designing innovative and equitable policy, and advancing positive change. The World Cities Culture Forum includes 40 cities – Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Austin, Barcelona, Brasilia, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Chengdu, Dubai, Dublin, Edinburgh, Guangzhou, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lagos, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Milan, Montreal, Moscow, Nanjing, New York, Oslo, Paris, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Stockholm, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Toronto, Vienna, Warsaw and Zurich. The World Cities Culture Forum is an initiative of the Mayor of London, convened by BOP Consulting. For more information, please visit

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in more than 570 cities and over 160 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3.3 billion. For more information, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok.

About Google Arts & Culture
Google Arts & Culture is an innovation partner for cultural institutions. The team provides technologies that help preserve and share culture and allow curators to create engaging exhibitions online and offline, in museums. The Google Arts & Culture app is free and available on the web, on iOS and Android, allowing users to explore exhibitions from over a thousand museums.

Press Contacts:
Rebecca Carriero, Bloomberg Philanthropies,
Martha Pym, World Cities Culture Forum,