Since Romania joined the European Union 10 years ago, over one million Romanians have emigrated in search of better work opportunities. The effects of this mass migration are evident in neighborhoods like Mănăștur, a residential district in Cluj, Romania where the local population is disproportionately old and young — made up of grandparents left to raise children while parents work outside the country and send their earnings home
Community culture has also been a missing resource in Mănăștur, primarily made up of socialist-era mass housing projects with few places to gather. The goal of Team Cluj was to create programming for the new “Cinema Dacia” center, together with the residents and to build a greater feeling of community across generations.
“Cinema Dacia” was to be the first indoor meeting space for the district, and residents wanted a say in what went on there.
Normally, the Cluj municipality manages the planning of cultural programming top-down. Team Cluj focused on bringing life to Cinema Dacia through participatory methods — creating activities together with the residents based on what they wanted to use the center for and what they could offer. Building from community members’ ideas, Team Cluj first focused on activities where different generations could meet: workshops, film screenings, community theater and collective projects like designing and building of an outdoor stage and seating area. The biggest events were two editions of the annual Neighborhood Days, a three-day event in the district attracting thousands of people to share food and enjoy performances. Team Cluj brought in a well-known hip-hop artist from Bucharest, increasing publicity for the event and interest among young people.
Team Cluj organized a series of workshops and film-screenings on the theme “People. Cities. Environments,” highlighting contemporary urban issues.
The impact of the momentum generated in the Cinema Dacia programs went beyond the temporary activation of the space. The team facilitated the forming of the ‘Initiative Group for Dacia’ – a group of active citizens including parents, teenagers and grandparents, who together drafted a ‘Strategy for Dacia.’ The Mayor of Cluj accepted these recommendations at a city summit held in the Cinema Dacia — a promising sign.
Team Cluj has published a book about their experiences in Mănăștur, which will facilitate knowledge sharing between similar projects. The team also shared its learnings across the Actors network, helping other teams such as Geretsried to increase the impact of their own community center projects, while bringing new inspiration to Cluj.