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S.P.A.C.E. – Rebirth of cultural spaces in rural areas of East-Germany, Albania and Romania Back

S.P.A.C.E. – Rebirth of cultural spaces in rural areas of East-Germany, Albania and Romania

4 Aug 2022

001_Study trip in Romania, May 2022 by Una Jovovic: Former Synagogue in Fagaras (ROM) Discussing potential ideas and concepts for activation as a cultural space

Although most villages in Albania and Romania have designated cultural centres, such spaces are still anchored in mindsets from the previous regimes and mostly disconnected from the present life of communities. Meanwhile, community spaces emerge in East-Germany, providing also new models of social activation through culture. By enabling new partnerships of cultural spaces in East-Germany, Albania, and Romania the project S.P.A.C.E. aims to activate local communities and to inspire communities to develop future-oriented cultural solutions to systemic challenges.

Striving for an open dialogue between civil society, private initiatives and the municipalities, the S.P.A.C.E. partnership aims to bring together activists, artists, cultural managers and community workers from Romania, Albania and East-Germany to enhance peer exchange, mapping of local environments and joint hands-on activities.

002_Study trip in Albania, May 2022 by Tiemo Ehmke : Visit at the Cultural house in Lac (ALB) A public space without production budget nor strong political support

As Ivo, co-initiator of this project, has shared with us, what triggered this partnership among the grassroots movements and civic organizations, was the limited possibilities for networking, for deeper learning exchanges and for creative co-productions in those rural and post-socialist regions.  The project initiators created a temporary network of 11 local initiatives to explore and to understand local dynamics, similarities and practices applied by cultural practitioners in various local community development models in the three countries. However, East-Germany is not a country in that sense, is it? But, with S.P.A.C.E. we have the opportunity to get a closer look also into the East-German transformation, and this combination of partners and the specific layer of a common past is rare, but of high value for us.

Moving forward with the motto There is no sustainability without fun the team initiated a series of partner workshops to share their own backgrounds, regional study trips to various sociocultural and artistic community centers. These were carried out in rural areas of Albania and Romania in May 2022 and a micro festival of interventions in un- or “under”-used civic spaces in the area of Făgăraș in Transylvania in July 2022.

“We believe that cultural spaces in rural areas of in East-Germany, Albania, and Romania can re-emerge as spaces of freedom placed at the heart of local community development.”
003_micro festival in Romania, July 2022 by Eyal Davidovitch: Village of Mândra (ROM) Neighbors open their houses to tell their family stories

Ivo has explained to us how the exchange of diverse community practices to emerging challenges, such as migration, climate and energy crises, can be of crucial importance to the participating communities. But what’s striking is, that trust in success models coming from other contexts often fail in post-socialist societies with different standards of living, as Ivo points out. The contextualization of methods and tools, the direct communication with and the involvement of community members has the priority while starting these collaborations. Trying to establish a triangular framework between these three regions with a somehow similar historical context, the S.P.A.C.E. project aims to shape a common ground for peer-to-peer learning to overcome the mentioned challenges.

Europe: A crossroad for cultural diversity and freedom

Awareness of diversity and curiosity, common sense of existing problems and desire to learn from each other are global shared sentiments. However, when it comes to the commonalities among the S.P.A.C.E. partners, it often boils down to the shared experience of socialist pasts, which actually shape the present realities. Europe is not a unified body, and it should be a post-nationalist concept that allows individuals to move freely and experience solidarity in the regions and everyone could pursue what they want despite the outstanding differences.

As Ivo furthermore describes, the exchange and learning experiences within the S.P.A.C.E. project is very practice oriented and context driven realized. For example, the micro festival in Romania was planned as a collaborative prototype and as a three-day program in various locations around the city of Făgăraș. It was co-produced by the project teams and local initiatives to activate spaces or cultural houses by community gathering and discussion, film screening and photo shooting like in the village of Mândra, by interventions of lost places like at the river banks of the river Olt with hundreds of people to reclaim this public space for themselves, or just to name the unexpected dynamic of a theatre and a traditional dance workshop in the village of Șona, turned into a big village party in the mainly abandoned cultural house of the community.

005_micro festival in Romania, July 2022 by Tiemo Ehmke: City of Făgăraș (ROM) River bank interventions to reconnect the community to their own resources.

So main elements of the project’s vision are social participation above and beyond the local communities, collective decision-making and active citizenship to overcome lack of citizens’ engagement while strengthening their communities. The value of social participation is often forgotten. In Albania f.e. social values are very different from Western countries, like gender equality, patriarchy, xenophobia, homophobia, or discrimination against Roma people. S.P.A.C.E. doesn’t focus on these challenges explicitly, but it creates the space for segregated communities to meet and discuss.

Just to give an outstanding example from Romania how to foster social participation and cultural involvement, is the model of restoration camps in Romania by the Monument Ambulance.  We met and coordinated our interventions in Șona with these activists. The Monument Ambulance work with other local organizations and restore empty houses in villages, transform them into accommodations for tourists or into open cultural venues, which rapidly develop a strong solidary community atmosphere. Such practices don’t solve crises, but they face socio-cultural crises of shrinking communities in a promising way.

Looking ahead, S.P.A.C.E. envisions to keep strengthening trans-regional grassroots networks to continue collaborating beyond the scope of the funding network. Additionally, the bigger picture involves shaping policies to set potential solutions and models of civic partnerships, governance of spaces and community participation in the political agenda on local, national and European level.


Granted: 59450 euro

'Our long-term goal is to support communities to bring civic spaces and democracy back on a local level.'
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