June 15

TEH meeting #87: Dresden, Germany

Twice a year, TEH organizes two international meetings, which take place in different countries each time, and this year the event THE Conference #87 was from 16th to 19th of May. The event took place in Dresden, Germany and its main topic was “pARTicipation”. The hosting center called Zentralwerk has dark history, but aims to transform the space that was once used for forced labor from people from the near concentration camps, into a creative artistic venue representing a peaceful free European community. A4 participated again, 4 of our team members represented our organisation. They participated in the intense programme full of workshops, seminars, talks, performances, meetings. 

Trans Europe Halles (TEH) is a Europe-based network of cultural centers which aims to give a new life of some of Europe’s industrial buildings so that they can host art, culture and activism. The organization functions since 1983 and brings together cultural centers and other cultural organizations from all across Europe, from which A4 is part. 

The main activity for the A4 team was the Arts Education Platform which aims to facilitate exchange and knowledge transfer between art educators through professional meetings, study visits and training workshops on the topic of participation in the arts. There were two activities within the platform. First of all The Steering group meeting of all the participating organisations and then the workshop. 

At the steering group meeting we discussed several things. First, educational seminars which are organised once a year by one of the platform participant centers. This year seminar took place in Belfast, Ireland, next year it will happen in Luxemburg and the last platform education seminar will take place in A4, Bratislava. Next topics were platform study visits, accepting the new platform member, possibilities of the new funding for the platform and the mapping the current situation in our centers and next platform plans.

The second platform activity was the Arts Edu workshop “Share methods and practice D.I.T.”, where we had the opportunity to exchange experiences and methods of work in the different participating organizations. One of the workshop leaders Cesar Fulgencio, talked about the center he works in which is located in Stockholm, in Botkyrka municipality, which is a creative cluster called Subtopia. This is where artists, film producers, circus companies, NGOs, bands and other creative people follow their dreams and try to make the world a little better. He introduced us their inspiring Do It Together, D.I.T. youth culture program. We had also the pleasure to hear about the Seminar at Beat Carnival in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the UK, which happened in March this year. We also played a few games to get to know each other better, such as “Tango”, where we practiced our skills to follow and lead. Also, through painting and story-telling, we exchanged some future prospects in our organizations and gave advices to the each other.

Another  important and interesting parts of THE is also Staff Exchange Programme. There was next information meeting at this conference and we took part of it. TEH Staff Exchange Programme started In 2011. It gives mobility opportunities for cultural professionals to gather experience across borders. The main goal of the programme is to support the members of TEH to develop their professional skills and knowledge, get to know new perspectives on managing cultural centers, get inspired, and much more. A4 is also part of this programme, and 2 of our members already took part in it and brought valuable experiences. 

The next key event we took part in, was the participatory workshop DISCE Co-Creation Lab. It was the half-day long workshop with the topic Learning as a Sustainability Strategy. The workshop was led by Birgitta Persson and Sandy Fitzgerald. It took place in the frame of the DISCE Co-Creation Lab international cooperation project funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Programme and is realized by several organizations: University of Turku (Finland) King’s College (UK), Gran Sasso Science Institute (Italy), Stockholm School of Economics (Latvia), CUMEDIAE (Belgium) and Trans Europe Halles (Sweden).

The main focus of the workshop was the innovative concept of Learning organizations and the ways it could be put into practice in our independent cultural centers. Learning organizations, are according to Peter M. Senge, “where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together”. Learning organization is “continually expanding its capacity to create its future. For such an organization, it is not enough merely to survive.” During the workshop various approaches for learning on organizational level were discussed, including ideas about how they can facilitate the organizations’ members’ learning and personal development, which is the core of the whole strategy.

It’s main goal is to bring together TEH members from different countries with researchers and local stakeholders so that they can share and exchanging knowledge in strategic planning and cultural policy. The topic of the workshop in Dresden was “Learning as a Sustainability Strategy” – how to make a sustainable lasting organization, a “learning organization”.

During the first TEH afternoon, the participants of the DIY Furniture workshop managed to make the backyard of Zentralwerk into a great social and chill area for less than one afternoon by crafting tables, swings, chairs made from recycled materials. The people who participated in the March of the mirrors workshop were going around through the whole TEH space, learning choreography, playing instruments and performing their final act. We also visited an exhibition opening on the topic of Right within the city where you had the chance to leave comments on the walls and talk with the curators. 

One of the the evenings was dedicated to a big participatory performance, where the main actors were involving the observers and were moving around the main hall guided by the sound of classical music instruments. After that, as a closing evening act, all TEH guests and organizers were called by country and association to make a small “performance” in the mess of chairs left from the previous activity.  

The next evening, the Copy and Dance Party happened and it took place in Hellerau– a festival theatre and educational institution for music and rhythm. The building of Hellerau by itself was a piece of art since it was designed by the pioneer of modern architecture Heinrich Tessenow. The event as well was an act of art where people, wrapped by colorful lights, enchanted by different music sounds and guided by videos, moved freely around the dancing hall.

Other than the activities from the official programme, Zentralwerk was a suitable place for having relaxed conversations and inspiring each other. Its green spaces and handmade furniture are changing the gray building into a warm place where inspiring projects start to bloom. 

We would also like to thank Slovak Arts Council for supporting arts and for allowing us to take part in the Trans Europe Halles May 2019 conference.

Supported using public funding by Slovak Arts Council.