Conference on Collaboration in Culture

The aim of this year's conference is to re-mediate the meeting of representatives of mainly independent performing arts (umbrella organizations of theater, dance, new circus) and representatives of cities, regions, state administration and other established institutions. With a two-day meeting, we want to remove barriers, facilitate mutual communication and articulate what is essential.

The 2021 Culture Get-Together Conference facilitated a much-needed dialogue of participants in culture and performing arts. For the second year, Nová síť organized a cultural conference as a space for a vital dialogue between representatives of state-funded and private culture and state cultural administration. Participants’ presentations were followed by a discussion reflecting the current state of affairs in culture and performing arts in the Czech Republic. The conference took place in Prague at DOX Centre for Contemporary Art. The two-day get-together, entitled “We’re changing cultural practices,” focused on cooperation in culture and topics related to it, such as the status of an artist, inter-departmental collaboration, communication and cultivation, National Recovery Plan, function and role of the Czech Ministry of Culture, and culture in Czech regions.

Pavla Petrová, director of Arts and Theatre Institute ATI, identified in her presentation the need for a legislative framework, which falls within the competencies of the Ministry of Culture as well as other ministries, with the goal to create and guarantee specifics of art professions and establish an efficient Status of an Artist.

“Personally, I am convinced that should these relationships—these collaborations based on understanding and respect that are already in place—continue in upcoming years, it will be tremendously useful. It would literally mean, once again, that every cloud has a silver lining,” reflected on the coronavirus crisis Jakub Vedral, member of the Presidium of Czech ITI Centre. He further recognized the independent scene as a rightful participant who should be included.

According to Lenka Havlíková, chair of the Czech Association of Independent Theatres, the independent sector of performing arts consists of three levels: new innovative projects, long-term institutions, and excellent organisations that manage cultural and art subjects and buildings. In her presentation on state cultural policy, Havlíková appealed to public authorities to view the independent sector as such.

Nová síť dedicated a considerable space in the conference programme to a current student initiative, Ne!musíš to vydržet (You don’t have to endure it), which has recently revealed information about the alarming situation at DAMU – the Theatre Faculty at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, including problems of sexual harassment, an atmosphere of fear, and conflict of interest.

“Students at DAMU dropped a bombshell, bringing to public attention issues simmering under the surface for a long time. It seems we had to wait for a new generation with no tolerance for certain practices inherited from the time of normalization,” said Petr Pola, program director at Nová síť.

Participating in the discussion panel on the initiative were: students from DAMU and Jaroslav Jurečka, dramaturg at the National Theatre in Brno; Eliška Děcká, vice-rector, Academy of Performing Arts; Marie–Luisa Purkrábková, a student at DAMU; Alice Koubová, vice-dean, DAMU; and Karel František Tománek, vice-dean, DAMU. The panel was moderated by a publicist and teacher Eva Marková.

The discussion focused on possibilities and forms to set up clear rules that may help define boundaries for everyone’s benefit. According to all participants, a lively inter-generational dialogue would be a valuable and welcome output of the initiative. A former artistic director of the National Theatre, Daniel Špinar, joined the Q&A emphasizing a need to actively replace educators in art schools.

Another event at the conference—the cultural OPEN MIC—was also devoted to the initiative, evolving around the theme “Ne!musíš to vydržet.” OPEN MIC, featuring intense and sometimes very personal contributions by personalities from the cultural sphere, was moderated by a poet and director Jakub Čermák.

The entire second day of the conference was centred on the situation in the Czech regions. “Since Nová síť concentrates on culture in the regions, makes a great effort to help them, and strives for decentralization and improvement of relationships between large and smaller cities or towns and also with abroad, we will dedicate time to the regions also here at the conference,” stated Adriana Světlíková, director of Nová síť, in her introduction of the first-morning discussion panel.

The presentation by Květa Vinklátová, deputy for culture, historic heritage conservation and tourism in the Liberec Region, focused on the Czech Association of Regions and received a great response from the attendees.

Regional representatives, directors and managers of local organisations, as well as the representative of public administration, reflected on the current situation within the time set for the regions. Speakers outlined a number of challenges, such as lack of human resources and absence of technical equipment rentals, but also practical steps that could help improve culture in the regions.

A shared vision, effective communication, lively dialogue, systematic approach, and search for a common solution are the main pillars whose gradual implementation can change cultural practice for the better. The 2021 conference offered numerous experiences and its subject matter was indeed relevant.

The Czech-Norwegian residency programme is supported from the EEA and Norway Funds 2014–2021