Novo Naselje is the largest district in Novi Sad, Serbia’s second-largest city. At the time of the district’s planning and construction, the dominant philosophy was that all cultural needs were to be satisfied by the city center. Cultural venues in the Novo Naselje “satellite district” were never built.
Today, the district’s population is growing, and Team Novi Sad’s challenge is to create a place for cultural offerings in the district. Team Novi Sad used their participation in Actors to lay the groundwork of trust and common vision – to pave the way towards the long-term goal of establishing a cultural center in the district.
To do this, they had to bridge divergent strategies between groups, and skepticism towards collective, participatory and self-organized actions.
Project N.N. started a new participative approach to cultural production. Forced to change course early on, postponing the creation of a physical space – the team focused on figuring out the residents’ wants and needs with regard to culture.
Experience with “austerity urbanism” made Team Novi Sad flexible.
A massive interview effort collected over 2,000 citizens’ suggestions. Volunteers from Novi Sad European Youth Capital met people on the street, at local bus stops, and during cultural programs organized by a veteran civic organization. Focus groups and broadcast round tables helped establish a dialogue between the Team NN actors, neighbors and opinion and decision makers in order to create and profile cultural programs and activities – the “software” for the neighborhood’s future cultural center. The handbook “Road to Cultural Center” collected the information produced in these steps and combined it with a list of existing small-scale local activities and a collection of memories. Citizens are now continuing to create and suggest new cultural programs on their own.
The project led to better cooperation between leaders in Novi Sad, culminating in their successful bid for the city for two E.U. titles.
During participation in the Actors of Urban Change program, Novi Sad was selected as European Capital of Culture 2021 (ECoC) and European Youth Capital 2019 (EYC). Both of these prestigious designations include cultural decentralization, youth participation and bottom-up cultural practice among their goals. Team Novi Sad was able to successfully use the momentum of these and other national and international event to accelerate their cause. A cultural center in Novo Naselje is included in the European Capital of Culture and European Youth Capital masterplans.