The KC GRAD is an European centre for arts culture debate, that was opened in 2009 in Belgrad. The project includes a big gallery, with a focus on domestic and international contemporary art. Another important part of the project is the residence program, called “Air Belgrad”. The program offers International artists, curators and writers a space in which they will be able to live and work in the Balcanic region. The offer also consists of a music program, a cultural forum and a design exhibitions which has something like 8000 visitors eachmonth, approximately 70000 per years.
During a trip to Belgrade I met Ljudmila Stratimirovic, co-founder and co-director of the project along with Dejan Ubovic.
How did the idea of creating a Cultural Centre such as Grad cameabout?
We started our NGO Cultural Front in 2000 when it was finally possible to establish an NGO after the politicla changes in our country, for the first time there was possibility forapplying to the Ministry of culture. That is how we started to be involved in cultural management. After 9 years of working on many projects, festivals, exhibitions, conferences and events, we got in contact with Felix Meritis foundation of Amsterdam with whom we collaborated for a project supported by the Matra program. After a while of dealing with public institutions we realised that it was time for our project to walk on its own feet and it was a good time to take a step forward and try to open our own cultural centre. It was the first independent centre run by a NGO in our region and from the beginning we had a very big audience. It seems that Belgrade needed an independent space where everybody could go come and offer projects.
What are the projects in progress at the moment?
We are partners in one of the EU project Frontiers in retreat, together with six partners of other countries form all around the world. Beside that we are working on our annual programme, which is planned one year in advance. We have few open calls for exhibitions and artist in residence programe, certainly we always look for new projects and future partners. Currently we are realising project that gathers domestic, Dutch designers and experts involved crafts and traditional manufactures. After finalising the first phase of the project, which is currently taking place in Serbia, we plan to expand it within Belgrade through the establishment of a hub for the promotion of the domestic design.
We don’t have steady budget, we never did and that is our big problem, but also it forces us to be creative and to work harder in order to survive. We always apply for different funds, we have apply to the Ministry of culture and City council (almost the 10 % of our annual budget…) but our main thing is that we are open and everybody can approach us and offer their own projects and also we have bar that help us to cover part of our expenses, that is why we have a big audience.
As you are an independent reality, how do you manage to receive the necessary funds for the Centre production?
We don’t have steady budget, we never did and that is our big problem, but also it forces us to be creative and to work harder in order to survive. We always apply for different funds, we apply to the Ministry of culture and City council (almost the 10 % of our annual budget…) but our main thing is that we are open and everybody can approach us and offer their own projects and also we have bar that help us to cover part of our expenses, that is why we have a big audience.
How have the Serbian and Balcanic History/culture influenced your identity?
It influences us even if we don’t want to, or are not aware of it, we were born here and we live here. We are very much inspired by the Balkan. This place is crossing road of many cultures, identities in a very turbulent history, but what we find great is the collaboration of nice people from everywhere. We think that it is great to be different as we learn more from each other.
How do you feel like working in the international world and notably in the European one?
If you mean that Serbia is not part of Europe, I never had the feeling that I am not European, there are these “trends” in politics that are insisting in making lists of who is who and who is not part of a certain group. I am not a politician and I was never interested in those issues except, of course, for when we as citizens are suffering because of politics. We were always in contact with other countries, especially with ex Yugoslavian republics when there was no contact between us any more. We stared our independent radio show: Cross radio, and that became a big network of 13 radio station in region (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Slovenia). We do exchanging news about alternative cultural scene in region even when there was no internet and no connection between ex yugoslavian republics, that was great project. We are in collaboration with many countries and we find it really great. Of course there are some limitations since we are not part of EU.
What are Grads aim for the near future?
To continue with our regular annual programs, to try to work on some EU projects, to open new spaces for different activities that we plan since Grads program is fully booked, but we will se if that will really happen. I hope so.
photo courtesy gradbeograd.eu/info
Sara Cattaneo / about.me