A Serbian neighborhood has been waiting for the construction of their Cultural Center. While they wait, they imagine the future of their community after it opens.
When Novi Sad becomes a European Capital of Culture in 2021, things will change in Novo Naselje, the Serbian city’s largest housing district. Their long awaited Cultural Center will finally (most likely) be built.
Novo Kulturno Naselje, a nonprofit organization from Novi Sad and Actors of Urban Change participants from 2015 to 2017, has been working on establishing a cultural center there since 2014. Today, as the community waits, there are still many unanswered questions in the air — from who will run the future institution and how, to what kind of programs it will offer.
So they could start thinking about some of these questions, NKN invited artists to imagine the future of the neighborhood after the center has been opened, and to invite residents to do the same.
In “Moving in”, two artists in residency, Gildas Aleksa (Director, Kaunas) and Pedro Cavaco Leitão (Architect, Porto, also a member of Actors of Urban Change’s Team Porto), explored the community and created symbolic simulations of the neighborhood’s future Cultural Center. Leitão‘s interactive installation, for instance, will be used in the future as an open gallery space for exhibitions, a stage for different performances, a canvas for movie projections, as well as a sort of playground for Novo Naselje’s residents.
“It was crucial to set this concept in the material world and, at the same time, create a safe laboratory space for exploring it,” says Tatjana Mateša, the project’s co-curator. “The starting point was to ask people to imagine the building is already there and ask everyone, as well as the foreign artists: what is left from the good old times, and what changed in our values on the way there?”
The residency was part of the European Magic Carpets residency, a program funded by Creative Europe that entrusts stories to young emerging artists and sends them on quests for (self) discoveries. Through the Magic Carpets platform, 13 partners from across Europe provide support to rising artists, enabling mobility between artists from different countries, raising the visibility of their work, with the aim of empowering their creativity and artistic expression to create a lasting impact.
One of the main goals of the project is also to return culture and art to the streets — or in other words, making them more accessible to the people, by bringing them to an open space. The platform promotes freedom of thought and creation outside of institutional boxes, ideas without limitations, self-reflection, recognizing similarities and common problems on a human level with other cultures and places.
One of the themes the Magic Carpets platform approached last year, “Dialogues in movement”, inspired Novo Kulturno Naselje to create a place for open discussions about topics that are trending and ongoing at the time. That led to the creation of NKN Club, with the main goal of creating a public space where residents can ask questions, start discussions, and express their opinions on topics that concern them, empowering dialogue and critical thinking. The club opened with a panel discussion on the significance of the dialogue, where guests Sebastian Schlueter from Actors of Urban Change, Milica Nikoletić Rašković from Novi Sad 2021 and Ana Pajvančić Cizelj from the Sociology Department at the University of Novi Sad discussed how local initiatives achieve successful communication, and the role of social centers in shaping and nourishing communities and preventing their decay.