First Bulgarian YCI Hub Project Highlights Issues Faced by Creative Community




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Jun 29, 2017
by Oscar Tollast
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First Bulgarian YCI Hub Project Highlights Issues Faced by Creative Community

Bottom Up Culture Project reviews culture-led urban regeneration practices, developing creative places, and cultural entrepreneurship  The Bottom Up Culture Project was organized by the Bulgarian Hub of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCI)

Participants of a YCI Hub project in Bulgaria have been urged to act more courageously in their work by taking risks and implementing experimental approaches.

Cultural change-makers and innovators received this advice last month while participating in the Bottom Up Culture Project, an event organized by the Bulgarian Hub of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCI).

The project's main aim was to highlight and discuss the current issues the creative community in Bulgaria is facing in the context of developing a cultural capital on the continent. The grant for the project was administered by Salzburg Global Seminar as part of funding received from the America for Bulgaria Foundation. It was one of a series of regional grants offered to YCIs from Session 569 - Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators III – to undertake follow-on activities.

This project, which took place on the 11th and 15th of May, featured as part of the educational platform of the Plovdiv 2019 Foundation. Events were held in Sofia and Plovdiv. Topics discussed within the framework of the forum included culture-led urban regeneration practices, cultural entrepreneurship, and the question of developing creative quarters.

The participants’ disciplines included art management, contemporary art and socially engaged art, festivals, publishing, regional development, consultancy, academic research, illustration, tourism, theater, music, and architecture. Salzburg Global Fellows and YCI faculty members Peter Jenkinson and Shelagh Wright were on hand to guide the discussions and support participants' ideas of using their work as a catalyst for cultural, economic and social change.

In Sofia, Jenkinson and Wright participated in an open talk which was moderated by YCI Victor Yankov, from the Plovdiv 2019 Foundation. Jenkinson and Wright were able to share their international experience with cultural and socially-engaging projects to Bulgarian cultural organizations and artists. In Plovdiv, meanwhile, cultural practitioners took part in a skills-building workshop. Lyubov Kostova, director of the British Council Bulgaria, joined Jenkinson and Wright to discuss cultural events organizers' issues from the Bulgarian perspective. 

Participants received practical advice on how to meet their challenges and took part in activities to help them learn how to communicate a message easier. They also considered the positioning of arts and culture in relation to activism and social engagement, the role of government in relation to artistic and cultural activities, and the effects of economics in creating a long-term presence in communities. A popular point of discussion revolved around the development of a creative district in Plovdiv - the Kapana - which was built to create an arts and culture community.

To meet some of the challenges faced by participants, an economy of exchange was suggested, starting from within the artistic community. People can form meaningful partnerships through identifying what their assets are and what the possibilities within the community are. This idea is essential for creating a type of ecology rather than a system of competition. There is a lot more output from the ground which needs to be acknowledged, and the idea only artists can be creative is one which needs to be challenged.

Jenkinson and Wright shared several examples of the intersection of arts and cultural development. This list of examples included the Open School Project, which brings together education and art practice in the UK. Participants also learned about the work conducted by Turquoise Mountain. This organization has helped restore Murad Khane, one of the poorest areas in Kabul, Afghanistan, which has been included on the World Monuments Fund's Watch List of the world's most endangered sites. From having no running water, electricity, and buildings in ruin, the area has since transformed into a flourishing cultural and economic hub after investment in schools and the younger generation.

Participants were advised to look at examples from other countries and explore existing working systems. Essential practical tools include taking action, allowing culture to happen as a natural organic process, and identifying and sharing assets. Crowdsourcing is a viable way of building resources, finance, and energy to support bottom-up projects. Communication remains key in the creation of a sharing economy. A belief in sustainable change can occur from the bottom up where individual stories become integral to the story of the future. Jenkinson and Wright left their audiences in Sofia and Plovdiv with a key piece of advice: "Do what you can with what you have where you are."

YCIs from the Bulgarian Hub will continue to create and lead projects to expand the vision created through organizing the Bottom Up Culture event. Developing international projects across the global YCI 2016 network also remains an ambition. For more information about the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCI), please click here.