‍“It is important that every idea is deeply rooted in a local situation”

Jul 12, 2019

On 4 July 2019, the selection committee for European ‘Houses’ of Culture evaluated the 44 applications received for the Call for Ideas. After the meeting jury member Kateryna Botanova sat down with EUNIC Global and discussed the meeting. In this interview, she talks about her impressions of the meeting, the importance of involving local partners and the need to develop every idea based on the local context.

What are your impressions of the selection meeting?

It was a very interesting meeting. It’s a huge challenge and a lot of new information coming because the scope of projects is huge, both geographically and thematically speaking, but also the expertise and geographical reach of the jury is quite strong, which made it an amazing experience.

What do you take out of the meeting?

That European ‘Houses’ of Culture is not such a simple idea. It sounds very obvious: creating a space –whether physical or virtual – where European cultures can interact and deal with those outside the EU. But in reality, when you go through projects you understand that the issue is not that simple. Because what might seem as a very easy way of collaboration, is not always that easy. It’s sometimes quite tricky to find the right mode in collaboration between EU actors and local partners.

This right mode you find when this collaboration is really equal, when it does not involve hierarchial models of teaching or sometimes preaching – and that is what we sometimes had in projects –, and when it’s really mutually beneficial for local actors on the ground but also European partners and where the learning and experience in reaching can happen in both ways. And we did have quite some of these projects and that was very rewarding.

Are you happy with the 10 projects chosen?

I am super happy with five projects, I am quite happy with another three and I am quite ok with the rest.

What potential do you see for future models of collaboration?

My big hope is for the development in phase one. In general, I think it was quite a good idea to make this call in two phases. Some of these projects we have selected, they obviously have a huge potential in becoming models that can be replicated, albeit not everywhere. Some of the ideas have very interesting potential but they need to be seriously worked on and developed. And if this work is done, then I am pretty sure that a large part of these projects can serve as models.

One of the selection criteria was ‘relevance to the local context’. How did you personally evaluate the projects according to this?

I have this double background: I have been working in Ukraine for a very long time and that’s actually a major part of my background. Now for the last couple of years I have been working in Switzerland. It’s not the EU but it’s still a country that has a lot of cultural diplomacy going on, so I see the projects and the processes from both sides. And for me it is always very important that whatever happens or whatever idea is being developed, that it is deeply rooted in a local situation, that the needs and the context of a country or of a certain issue are understood and that the local actors and the whole group of participants and their knowledge is not only taken into account, but taken as a valid partner. Because only in that case the outcome of a project will really benefit everybody involved. Otherwise, with the best intentions and the best knowledge, it will be merely delivering or copying certain models from the EU, which might be beautiful models and working fantastically, but are not relevant to a local situation. So I do hope that out of the projects that we have selected true collaboration will happen and the result of the projects will really be beneficial to the local participants.

How do you rate the overall quality of the 44 applications received?

With a project or competition like this I would never expect that all the projects will be of very high quality. So for me it is actually quite ok to see a big scope and variety of competencies, involvement of European partners in the local scene and understanding of the context. Some were quite poor and some were really brilliant. And I think it’s a good mixture. It’s a good comparison that lets the members of the jury understand what is really important, where the knowledge is in place and then how this knowledge can be built upon.


Do you have a favourite project?

I think we all had one favourite project, we still debated it a lot but then it had all five votes. It’s a brilliant project.

The ten ideas chosen by the selection committee will now be developed further. In this process, the project teams will receive up to 10.000 Euros and they have invited to the Creative Lab on 30 September and 1 October 2019. The projects teams will have to submit a follow-up application until 15 December in order to be considered for the next phase, when five out of these projects will be supported with an additional 50.000 Euros. The projects will be implemented in 2020. More info on the 10 projects can be found here.

Kateryna Botanova, cultural critic, journalist, curator, former director of Foundation Center for Contemporary Art Kyiv and currently co-curator of CULTURESCAPES festival in Basel is part of the jury of five international experts responsible for choosing the project ideas for European 'Houses' of Culture.

Image: (c) Oksana Tysovska for povaha.org.ua