Zdeněk Závodný: Another miracle in Pardubice

Divadlo 29 celebrated sixteen years of its existence short time ago. Originally, it was established by the Cultural Center of Pardubice, a contributory organization of the town of Pardubice dissolved at the end of the last year. The municipality decided for another model after lengthy problems in the management of the Cultural Center. Therefore, as of January 1, 2018, the Center for Open Culture was set up, consisting of a multi-genre cultural and production center Divadlo 29 and Gallery of Pardubice, a Kunsthalle type exhibition area. Both places are profiled as places for non mainstream production across genres of contemporary art.

The activities of Divadlo 29 were always associated with non-profit entities operating in the Pardubice District - Offcity and Terra Madoda. What did the transformation bring about and what are the advantages and disadvantages of operating at the intersection of established and unsettled culture - these are the issues discussed with the founder of Divadlo 29 and the current director of the Center for Open Culture Zdeněk Závodný.

When it comes to the Divadlo 29 in Pardubice, distinctive and original dramaturgy, regular interventions into the town's space or efforts to strengthen the community life in Pardubice call to mind. Has the "project" of Divadlo 29 fulfilled the expectations you had when establishing it?
At the beginning, we were full of euphoria and enthusiasm because of creating a space such as Divadlo 29 in Pardubice. It seemed like a miracle to us when the municipality opted for our concept of its use. At that time, there was no alternative to the activities of the “stone institutions” such as Východočeské divadlo, Východočeská galerie or the Philharmonic Orchestra. Apart from the activities of two rock clubs there were only activities organized by my friend and colleague Jirka Dobeš, one of the founders of the Jumping Hamada theater group and Terra Madoda Club. And then also the painter Jiří Lacina, whose studio was placed in the theater hall. He has been organizing unofficial exhibitions, concerts, reading, etc. since the second half of the 1980s. This is how the the Divadlo 29 has been evolved.

As far as the expectations are concerned, at the beginning I thought that I would only try to establish the Divadlo 29 and put it in motion. My idea was that it would last no more than 4 or 5 years. However, after approximately four years, a crisis emerged. Fortunately, overcoming it made us even more strong and the whole D29 project gained new dynamics and opportunities. And we may say that this pattern was then repeated several times. When it looked like the end came, a new path emerged, something that gave us new energy and a desire to continue. It is obvious in hindsight that things have their time and there is no sense in trying to hurry up or skip something.

Today, D29 is probably the closest to what we expected at the beginning. It has a certain reputation and acceptance, a continuous and conceptually built program, a high-quality and professional team of people, a good technical background and, to a great extent, economic stability. However, essential is that we still enjoy doing our job, that it still makes sense to us, and that this is perceived by our audience and supporters.

The dramaturgy of the "D29" was specifically shaped and developed in the early days (for example, the Islands in Motion, Jazzconnexion, Foreigners in Bohemia). Has heading of the program changed since the theatre’s founding?
The particular projects were set up and are set up because of the need to compensate certain inadequacy, gap or absence that we felt at the moment. Our aim is to keep the dramaturgy of the projects alive. It means that the dramaturgy should reflect what is happening now and should have both genre and territorial overlaps. At this time, ten year-round projects are realized in Divadlo 29, three of which are realized by Terra Madoda and Offcity in cooperation with us. They cover a really wide area of performing arts and visual arts. Besides, we provide educational activities, site-specific projects, residential stays, etc. I am very glad that our team consists of the persons like Šárka Zahálková, Jiří Dobeš, Jára Tarnovski or Jarin Horecký who are able to formulate their visions and implement them in the form of particular programs and projects.

Currently, Divadlo 29 and the Gallery of Pardubice operate within one institution. Can you describe how the cooperation between these two entities looks like?
Divadlo 29 and the Gallery of Pardubice (GAMPA) formed one organization called the Center for Open Culture in the beginning of this year. I consider their interconnection to be a systemic step because both deal with contemporary live art and their concepts are very close to each other. I would like to see the synergy to be created between the multi-genre 29 whose domain is mainly performing arts and Gampa focusing mainly on the contemporary visual arts. Gampa is located in a historic baroque granary building located about 250 meters from the D29, so there won’t be any obstacles of interconnecting of particular programs due to the technical or logistic reasons. What is probably the biggest issue of the last few weeks is that the municipality of Pardubice decided to buy a lot on the premises of Automatické mlýny. A construction of the Central Polytechnic Workshops and of the new building of the Gallery of Pardubice will be completed within three or four years. This is an unbelievable opportunity for us to take part in setting up a completely new gallery space with full backgrounds and other functions. If all turns out well, it will probably be another miracle in Pardubice. And, of course, it will bring huge potential to our activities.

What do you currently work on?
At the moment, we mostly dedicate to the discussions on the new Gallery of Pardubice which is to be created in the area of the Pardubice Automatické mlýny. Exhaustive discussions are carried out with the architect, designers and the whole implementation team over the layout of the space, its interior design, technical solutions, etc.

What has recently pleased you in the field of culture?

My answer is a Pardubice-centric one. I am very glad that the fate of the Automatické mlýny, which we viewed as a possible Pardubice Kulturfabrik five years ago, seems to head in the right direction. It looks like an extraordinary place is going to be established there - a new town center where cultural and artistic activities will take place. From my point of view, it is perhaps the most important event in Pardubice since 1989, not only as the cultural infrastructure is concerned. Moreover, the municipality of Pardubice approved a cultural strategy at the end of 2017 - a document being drawn up for several years that had once before been rejected by the municipality.

What are your wishes?
Not a long time ago I had a strange dream. I worked as a recruitment officer or an agitator who tempts various artists to move to Pardubice and shows them signs of how long the journey to Pardubice takes from Hradec (20min), Prague (55min), Brno (1h32min), Ostrava (2h5min), Vienna (3h) or Berlin (5h18min).