Anna Strnadová: Space is not only an instrument for us

The Czech cultural network Nová síť has extended to the multi-level partnership since the beginning of this year. As a consequence, a scope for the start-up organizations which need exceptional support in the initial period has been established (apart from the experienced ones with a history of long-term cooperation). The organization called ArtproProstor operating in Jablonec nad Nisou ranks among these new partners.

Jablečné lázně is a project that has caught an unexpected interest of the public not only in Jablonec nad Nisou. The opening of former spa was realized by a group of young people (ArtproProstor) lead by Anna Strnadová. Despite the difficult communication with the town representatives they have successfully realized the project and pointed to the valuable contribution of the creative management, for example as far as the revival of abandoned town architecture is concerned. The number of projects implemented by young drivers or cultural animators has slowly increased. Frequently, only great enthusiasm is their main driving force. New generation brings another way of communication, positive impetus to the development of the local culture and living standard.

What was Your personal journey to Jablonec? Tell us Your story.

I was born in Jablonec. To be honest, my feelings towards this town weren´t too warm during my studies on the secondary and basic school. Therefore, as soon as I could, I fled to Prague to study the university. However, everything changed when I together with my brother established an association „Jablonec bez hazardu“ ("Jablonec without gambling"). All of a sudden, I started to see the town with totally different optics. I began to perceive its insufficiencies. And one of it has remained deep inside me. The town´s centre is empty, people just pass through it on their way to or from work. No gathering in a public space may be seen here. And this has become an issue to which my further activities (be them intentional or spontaneous) have gradually focused on.

And this experience of proactive fight for something You are strongly convinced that will make the public space we all live in better has swelled inside me. Plus the desire to create freely in a monumental space. These were the motivations for the establishment of the association ArtproProstor in 2015 focusing on the revival of the building of former Jablonec´s spa, bringing new theatre to Jablonec and creation of the active community. Currently, I divide my time between Jablonec and Prague, and this arrangement so far perfectly suits me. In Prague, I draw the inspiration which I afterwords try to elaborate in the area of Jablečné lázně.

You study the cultural management at the University of Economics. Is the majority of the students determined to change the things around them or rather to simply provide the service? Where, in Your opinion, are the greatest opportunities for the graduates?

Well, I don´t fell like evaluating my classmates and, furthermore, even if I felt like, I probably wouldn´t be able to do it objectively. Nevertheless, in my opinion both options will be needed in future. On one side, the persons with their own vision, able to communicate it to others. However, even equally valuable are going to be the students/graduates, who will perfectly dominate their job — to provide „the cultural services“. This is, as I see it, the main mission of the course of study of the Arts management — to bring up competent producers, managers, marketers, etc., who will be able to sensitively apply their knowledge into the world of art.

Recently, I have gained a feeling that nowadays we are overwhelmed by a world where a hunt for money is in the first place. Unfortunately, as we say, nothing better than democracy with a free market has not been invented so far. Therefore, it is of great importance that current art managers were capable of withstanding this great pressure and of commencing to dig alternative pathes in a current system. They should be able to establish themselves in a hard world of business, corporations and companies, but also, on the other side, to maintain their own integrity in terms of – I have an aim, I have to find the resources for it and not vice versa.

Besides, let me allow a slight criticism — hopefully a constructive one — of the current studies of Arts management at the University of Economics in Prague. Its basic idea seems to be genial. However, I would expect a great deal narrower focus on the particular sectors of culture, above all on those that, not only nowadays, have a direct impact on the society, like film or theatre. Currently, our studies mainly focus on the protection of monuments.

To some extent, the creative management is a question of talent — communication, empathy, imagination — do you agree that it must be strictly distinguished from the cultural management?

I do agree, indeed. And I would like to illustrate it on the case of the spa. The space is for us not only a place where a particular theatre piece or social event should take place. I try my best to create a dramaturgy, which would incorporate and use the space itself and take into account its potential. These old, shabby abandoned buildings invite us to do so. In my opinion, it is essential to reflect the potential of genius loci of places like this. And this is exactly why these places are so attractive.

We may say that basically two types of events take place in the spa — theatre performances, concerts and authors´ readings of different ensembles, which have to be selected with caution so that they correspond with this unorthodox space. The other group consists of events like design markets, discussions or flea markets which are mostly supplemented with our own production pointing out the topics closely linked to the spa building.

Anyway, back to the answer to Your question on the difference between the creative and cultural management. As far the cultural management is concerned, I see it as a production of a particular event on a particular place. On the other side, as far as the creative manager is concerned, I expect him/her to reflect the broader circumstances and to contribute with his/her own creativity. In fact, he should be an artist and a producer in one person. In my opinion, it is very close to the concept of dramaturgy.

What other projects outside Prague do you find inspiring?

Jirka Vydra has been my long-term driving force. Currently, he operates in Valdštejnská Lodžie. Every visit or cooperation on one of his events is a great inspiration for me. I am truly convinced that Jirka ranks among few persons who are able to use to a maximum extent a potential of these enormous buildings with a great sensibility.

Shortly, ArtproProstor is going to become one of the youngest partners of the Czech cultural network Nová sítˇ. With this respect, do You have any expectations?

Obviously, we are looking forward to the new encounters with the projects and organizations dedicating to the similar activities like we do, through which we will have an opportunity to find new inspirations. We would undoubtedly appreciate if we had the possibility to participate on the workshops organized by Nová síť as I am deeply convinced they would push the quality of our work even further.

Do You prepare any new project or a novelty in the existing one?

Well, some new projects are in their initial phase and, therefore, I would prefer not to talk about them right now. If everything goes smoothly with the reconstruction of Jablečné lázně that has to be carried out for the damages caused by winter, we will organize a Big flea market, exhibition "Slam poetry" or a second round of the discussion “Old does not mean nonfunctional” dealing with the future use of abandoned buildings. We are gradually going to publish the information about the forthcoming events on our pages or Facebook.

The association ArtproProstor, together with the association PLAC, Jablonec without gambling, La kavárna and a bookstore Serius has recently begun to publish a newsletter “Apple seed” (Jádro jablka). So far, we have issued a pilot edition and now it’s time for raising the money for the following one. Our aim is to offer to the inhabitants of the town other points of view on the most burning issues that actually trouble the town and thus engage them more in the public life. As far as other than cultural matters are concerned, we have launched quite a big project — collection of the signatures to qualify the referendum on the ban of the gambling (except the live games) on the Jablonec’s territory.

What has recently made you happy in the field of culture?
Lots of events, definitely. However, to save Your time, I am going to choose just the three most interesting ones. Firstly, Slam poetry, which with incredible enthusiasm revives poetry and makes it more accessible to the contemporary society. Secondly, the new theatre festival Malá inventura, on which I could for the first time participate as a Nová síť partner. This event gave me lots of strength and positive energy desperately needed for my further work. And the last one — a documentary on Jatka78 made by Eva Langšádlová which describes the hard work of this unique space. At the same time, it nevertheless demonstrates that the effort we make (and I don’t mean just our work in Jablonec, but these efforts in general) reflects the testimony of the young generation that dare to take the things in their hands and take responsibility for the environment we all live in.

On the contrary, has anything disappointed You? What are your wishes?

I would be very grateful if we persuaded the public and above all the political representatives that the activities we realize are beneficial for the town and have great potential to wake the town up in the future. I wish we discussed jointly these issues and sought the ways of our town’s revival.

Regular blog of Nová síť published in the Internet newsletter on the contemporary theatre in context