European ‘Houses’ of Culture

5 pilot projects selected

The Call for Ideas invited the EUNIC network, together with EU delegations and local partners to identify innovative ideas of European collaboration for European ‘Houses’ of Culture.

On 17 January 2020, the international selection committee selected five pilot projects for European ‘Houses’ of Culture to be implemented between March and October 2020. After deliberating all ten applications along the lines of all the selection criteria, the committee chose five proposals to be implemented as pilot projects and to be awarded EUR 50,000. The selection followed Phase 1 of European ‘Houses’ of Culture, during which the ten preselected ideas were working on their partnerships and project proposals for the implementation phase in 2020. Among other things, they conducted research and organised internal and external meetings to gather input. Some project teams were already testing artistic performances leading up to the pilot projects.The initial Call for Ideas, launched in April, resulted in 42 eligible applications coming from all corners of the world, involving 30 EUNIC members, 39 EU delegations and 121 local partners. The proposed ideas covered 51 countries in total, as some focused on cross-border activities.


Benin: Urban Cult Lab'Africa

The Urban Cult Lab'Africa project integrates the cultural and creative fields and activities of Fablabs from six countries in the sub-region, which are united in the Francophone network of Fablabs of WestAfrica (ReFFAO). ReFFAO offers a regional framework for cooperation between actors of digital innovation in forms - education, goods and services for people and communities - and offers conditions to bring together makers and artists in joint creation activities, around unifying themes in each of the countries concerned.

Associating six Fablabs of ReFFAO - BloLab (Benin),OuagaLab (Burkina Faso), BabyLab (Ivory Coast), Donilab (Mali), Sahel FabLab(Mauritania) and Woelab (Togo) - the project intends to make culture a social inclusion lever by promoting the co-design of cultural products (works, residencies of artists, live shows, exhibitions, etc.) and by encouraging there-appropriation of urban spaces to make these creations visible to the largest audience possible. This approach will be accompanied by actors identified by the European partners associated to the project. 

The selection committee saw potential in the project as model for socio-cultural collaborative innovations that are relevant to a local and global context. To utilise and mobilise a strong West African network through Fablabs - which is interdisciplinary by nature - together with other local stakeholders was seen as one of the winning strengths of the project. The committee found significant potential in creating successful cross-border collaborations, ideas and models in the region, especially by using currently marginalised spaces. Focus is not only through art but also potentially through traditional and local tech and science. It strongly addresses relevant need as well as having potential appeal and outreach to youth and students, not just artists/entrepreneurs or cultural producers.

El Salvador, Guatemala & Honduras: “Triángulo Teatro” (Central American European Theatre Circuit)

“Triángulo Teatro” (Central American European Theatre Circuit) is a production and exhibition programme of theatrical performances that revolve around the contemporary creation of European dramatic art, with the support of cultural agents in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The circuit, whose partners are European cultural centres and theatre entities in the three countries, will produce a number of plays resulting from a public call and will promote cross-border mobility of the companies and the exhibition among the three countries. The project will allow access to high quality artistic proposals for the Central American public. 

Through a public call that will be addressed to theatre companies from all three countries, the partners will collaborate on the production of a number of plays of different types and formats.Additionally, the project includes a support programme of technical training of the theatre sector and the dissemination of contemporary culture, aiming to contribute to the professional development of the theatre sectors in ElSalvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The plays produced under this project will be presented in all three countries, facilitating cross-border cooperation and the mobility of cultural products.

The selection committee acknowledged a clear and focused project that offers a strong idea of cross-border cultural co-creation. The “Triangulo Teatro” project leverages bottom-up exchange of artistic networks in the three countries into a cultural circuit towards sustainable collaboration synthesis. The selection committee saw how the project may push the theatre productions’ quality and build joint repertoire and capacities of the theatre communities in the three countries through an integrated yet decentralised co-creation model. The project addresses the needs and problems of contemporary theatre production in many places worldwide with a regional collaboration scale model. This approach is a potentially replicable model for many other contexts worldwide. Furthermore, the project was also considered strong for its inherent joint capacity building through cultural exchange, co-production, co-showcasing and co-organising.

Mongolia: Nogoonbaatar - International Eco Art Festival

Half of Mongolia’s population lives in Ulaanbaatar(“Red Hero”) - the most polluted capital city on earth. To change this critical situation, the project team in Mongolia has created the first eco-art festival in the country: Nogoonbaatar (“Green Hero”). It will be directly implemented in the Ger District, where coal is used for heating and where everything starts: pollution and rural exodus. Mongolian andEuropean artists will work with local youth to develop key messages using arts, in order to make this district a better place to live. Activities of the festival will take place from 15April until 1 June in community centres, schools and public spaces throughout the Ger District, where the targeted population lives. 

Nogoonbaatar uses art to inform people of the effects of air pollution, to educate about protective behaviours, and to showcase best practices for a less polluting lifestyle. The festival adapts a people-to-people approach: both the events and the preceding artistic process will be co-creations of three EU artists in residence, 30 local artists, environmental educators, and the local population. 

The project convinced the selection committee with its clearly defined local needs, strongly built partnerships, and well argumented understanding of innovation in relations to the local context. It is important that such a burning issue for Mongolia as ecology is being addressed in a way that is not widely known to the local context. The jury agreed that this project can be seen as one of the models for European ‘Houses’ of Culture due to its turn to socially engaged art as an environment for knowledge and advocacy, as well as a platform of mutual learning and exchange between different partners. It is clear that the project is built on a thorough research and understanding between the partners.

Sri Lanka: Colomboscope - On Language and Multitudinal Belonging

The project consists of preliminary activities for the next Colomboscope festival edition ‘Language is Migrant’. Organised by FoldMedia Collective (FMC), a local team of creative producers, designers and curators, initiatives include workshops on professional development in the arts, mentoring circles, and tandem residencies across four regions in SriLanka with European and local cultural producers. The project team aims to enable FMC to engage with international and regional practitioners over an extended duration and bring about further networking, mutual learning and context-specific cultural activities through various artistic mediums such as film, installation, creative publishing, workshops and performance poetry. The festival will explore the relations between the conceptual role of language in society, migratory patterns and narratives around belonging.

By bringing together contemporary cultural practices that investigate local and global phenomena, activated through artistic vocabularies to conceive generative forms of expression through which communal memory, traumatic pasts and migrant futures may gain public attention. With the commissioning programme and tandem residencies, artistic projects will be developed through field research, social analysis and modes of narrative building. Some of the works produced during the residencies will become accessible to semi-urban publics through open studio formats in the local region and then travel to the Colomboscope festival in 2021.

The jury was of the opinion that the project offers an innovative way of combining cultural disciplines in order to promote values of freedom and cohesion and was convinced of the clear project delivery plan as well as the elaborated relevance to the local context. The project is based on local needs and experience, is co-developed and co-owned by partners with clear goals to reaching out to a number of smaller local partners and is built on active and inclusive roles of all the partners.Even though the project is based on an existing festival, the selection committee saw ample potential of creating new partnerships and reaching out to new and vulnerable audiences. The committee considered the project as a potentially strong model to use culture as means for promoting freedom and understanding.  

USA: The Grid

“The Grid” aims to incorporate art-thinking into the development of new technologies and to jump-start a conversation between artists, technologists, and policy makers from Europe, Silicon Valley and beyond. The project team aims to achieve this by organising multiple events in the San Francisco Bay Area, at South By South-West, in Washington D.C. and New York, including workshops, conferences, media art exhibitions, awards, as well as a virtual map to provide local stakeholders with a platform, information on current events, programmes, and other resources.

Emerging technology is both local and global. Tech/innovation from Silicon Valley has ripple effects throughout the entire world, dominating our lives in positive and often negative ways. In the preparation phase, the project team in Silicon Valley has successfully launched The Grid as a global network connecting artists and technologists. In 2020, they will initiate a pioneering experiment: by placing European artists within Research & Development teams in Silicon Valley, they will investigate if art-thinking can humanise technology, influence design processes, and anticipate destructive impacts. The activities build on the findings of their investigation published in its Art +Tech Report.

The project was seen by the selection committee as considerably relevant to the global context and by extension, relevant to the local one since this particular local context is quite global. The proposal was well elaborated and the selection committee saw the project as an answer to a ‘silent war’ between tech and art. The committee acknowledged the need to support the artists, which Europe has a duty to support. The committee saw potential in the strategic dialogue and partnerships the project proposes, bringing together people from both worlds, helping to create a common language, and in doing so, innovative solutions to various (ethical) questions.


The European ‘Houses’ of Culture is an EU-funded project attributed to EUNIC. The EUNIC Global office manages the action and carries out the main actions of the project, from conducting the mapping and preparing the call to evaluating the project and reporting back to the European Commission.

The Preparatory Action was initiated by the European Parliament to test and implement innovative collaboration models between European actors (EUNIC members and EU delegations) and local stakeholders in non-EU countries. The project helps to deliver the EU strategy on international cultural relations.

The term ‘Houses’ is to be understood rather symbolically: the project tests collaboration models and practices in a broader sense, that create spaces, whether physical or digital, permanent or temporary, for cultural exchange, co-creation and people-to-people contacts.

The overall budget of the project amounts to EUR 833,419 for two years. It is co-funded by the European Commission (90%) and by EUNIC Global (10%).

For more information about the project and its process, contact:
Robert Kieft (Project Manager) at
Roxane Schavoir (Project Officer) at


The baseline mapping presents the results of the mapping process in the European ‘Houses’ of Culture. The mapping process looks at past and current practice of European collaboration in culture both inside and outside of the EU, realised by EUNIC members as well as by other actors or organisations (e.g. civil society).

The baseline mapping is not intended to be a comprehensive inventory of all the initiatives that could be labelled as European ‘Houses’ of Culture; it rather serves as inspiration for future collaboration projects. Proposals submitted to the Call for Ideas within European ‘Houses’ of Culture may result from adapting the collaboration projects presented in the baseline mapping, or they may be completely new ideas. You will find the report here.


The Call for Ideas to identify innovative collaboration models between EUNIC members, EU delegations and local stakeholders in third countries. The call will have two phases:

Phase 1 identified 10 innovative ideas where developed into project proposals:

  • 3 April 2019- Launch of Call for Ideas
  • 23 June 2019 - Deadline for submission4 July 2019 - Selection of 10 ideas
  • 5 July 2019 - Publication of selection results
  • 30 September/1 October - Creative Lab (project team invited to Brussels to work on follow-up proposals)
  • September-December 2019 - Further development of proposals into project plan

Phase 2 selected 5 out of the 10 project proposals to be implemented as pilot projects:

  • 15 December 2019 - Deadline for submission of project plans
  • 17 January 2020 - Evaluation of project plans
  • February 2020 - Publication of results
  • March-October 2020 - Implementation period (8 months)


Evaluation of the concept and collaboration models of European ‘Houses’ of Culture, notably to what extent they could become a tool to help deliver the new EU strategy for international cultural relations. The results will be presented during a conference in Brussels in December 2020.

The evaluation will include:

  • Policy recommendations
  • A toolkit with the models identified, lessons learned, good practice and recommendations

Main Actions


The role of culture in EU external relations has been a priority for the EU since 2007. Over the past few years, there has been a shift in the EU’s approach to international cultural relations, with the emphasis being placed in going beyond the notion of presenting the diversity of European cultures and focusing instead on a cultural relations approach based on people-to-people contacts.

A turning point in this process was the Joint Communication “Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations”, jointly published in June 2016 by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security, Federica Mogherini, and the European Commission. This document sets the framework for the EU and its Member States’ activities in international cultural relations. It calls for enhanced cooperation between EUNIC, the European External Action Service (EEAS), and the European Commission (EC).

The Joint Communication was endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union in May 2017. Following the publication of this document, an Administrative Arrangement between the EC, the EEAS, and EUNIC was signed in May 2017 to strengthen collaboration between EUNIC and EU Delegations in non-EU countries.

In July 2018, EUNIC was invited by the European Commission to submit a proposal to test and define the concept of European ‘Houses’ of Culture. EUNIC Global submitted its proposal to the European Commission, in particular the Directorate-General for Education,Youth, Sports and Culture (DG EAC), in September 2018. It was received positively, and the project was launched in December 2018.