The European Capital of Culture as a European project with 30 years of experience has gained a role of a catalyst of change in a city with new incentives for cultural development.
One of the key topics of the project and its program in Pilsen—the city which holds the title for 2015—is connection and cooperation of creative industries, arts, and business. The project, focused primarily on culture, is seeking ways to contribute to this interconnection.
Traditional cultural organizations in general are not perceived as crucial contributors to creative industries. They seem to be closed, living their own lives, not intending to overlap beyond pure art. However, we believe that cultural organizations and projects have a great potential to become a provider, a broker of communication between creative individuals (artists, designers) and businesses (traditional industries and commercial projects), and help discover and connect potentials among creativity, innovation, industry, and politics. Therefore, with a little exaggeration, we are looking for a cultural organization with an attribute “for the 21st Century,” in another words, a current (up-to-date), responsible, and innovative cultural organization, which is aware of the changes the society is going through and of its role within.
At a recent meeting devoted to the relationship between creativity, innovation, industry, and politics organized by the Czech Department of Analysis and Coordination of Science, Research and Innovation, there were several current challenges of the present day economy mentioned which may just be addressed with the help of creative industries. The first of these issues was aimed at a degree of interdisciplinarity, the need of cooperation across sectors and industry fields. Another challenge deals with ways of harnessing the potential of traditional crafts for the purpose of innovation, their support, and maintenance of their continuity.
We have been working in Pilsen already for two years on establishment of a so-called creative zone DEPO2015, a central place devoted to such challenges. DEPO2015 is situated in the former depot of the local public transport company, and Pilsen 2015 leases the space from the City of Pilsen. The sustainability of the space has evolved…
Interdisciplinarity is promoted and utilized here in various ways: we are interfering with art through thematic interactive exhibitions (a green and sustainable design, the phenomenon of plastics, the Festival of Light), with education by offering three-month training program within the Creative Incubator DEPO2015, which helps creative start-ups to increase their entrepreneurial skills (6 teams have passed the program so far, 2 of them have transformed into limited liability companies, 5 new teams are taking part in the program right now), and with crafts and new technologies as we have opened a workshop with tools and machines, as well as fab-lab with 3D printers, a laser cutter, and other experimental equipment. The connection of art, design, and business is starting to show that active networking and linking of these worlds gives ground to new contracts and business partnerships: a design studio prepares rebranding and packaging for a network of bakeries and cafés, a manufacturer of office chairs awards a design tender, game programmers work on a content for an interactive exhibition, etc. The next step is to take advantage of the potential of local traditional crafts, such as cooperage, glass manufacture, or machining, to accomplish innovative solutions and products.
The question still remains, not only in Pilsen, how to reach and nourish the community which helps to reveal and develop these innovative approaches. Mapping of companies from sectors of creative industries took place in selected cities of the Czech Republic and should generally be the first step in setting up their support—determining what entities in which fields are active in the given locality and what their needs are. The mapping realized in Pilsen has revealed that, in the city of about 170 thousand inhabitants, there are 1,056 entities engaged in cultural and creative industries, employing almost 4,000 people. A survey done before the opening of DEPO2015 inquired about the interest and needs of creative entrepreneurs in facility and programming. Results of the mapping have showed that Pilsen lacks a space suitable for social events where creative individuals, especially graphic and product designers, would be able to present their work, and, at the same time, where potential customers can come to search for creative services, receive help and advice on whom to contact.
After six months from the opening of the creative zone DEPO2015, the largest and most progressive customers represent creative companies at the beginning of their business life, which take advantage of shared offices, new technologies, and open workshops for prototyping their products etc. Although the mapping document has correctly identified the need for establishing a space for social events and connection of the worlds of creativity, art, and business, the mapping itself has not captured needs of creative start-ups as such, which were discovered later, during the period of the zone’s creation in order to target them correctly. This happened through networking events, face-to- face interviews, or cultural events that bring the community together.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that, thanks to its interdisciplinarity, this type of institution, which DEPO2015 represents, is still looking for its position in the market—it is not an academic institution nor a technological laboratory or a technical-scientific park. It is a platform for innovations, an inspiration to creative work with fitting and informal environment allowing natural encounters. Regular meetings of UX designers are held here thanks to the inspirational environment and atmosphere offering exhibitions and demonstrations of ongoing works presented in the handicraft workshop. This is exactly the right way to open the hidden potential in collaboration of art, design, and industry. Here we see our role in activating the potential of the Czech Republic for innovation and development of industry.
There are several technical steps to be undertaken to ensure the sustainability of the DEPO2015 project. The City of Pilsen has recently decided about the mandate given to the Pilsen 2015 o.p.s. foundation to run the venue in the long-term. It has decided to transform the legal structure into a city-founded NGO. There are basic funds secured from the resources of the City of Pilsen, but overall the project will split the support basis in between the regional government, central government (especially Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Industry and Trade), European Funding (ESF and Interreg) and of course its own income based on a business plan. The revenue should be primarily flowing in from renting the premises to startups and creative companies, from fees for educational programs, for services such as advisory and events. In general, DEPO2015 is an example of a legacy project sustainable as a result of the project Pilsen—European Capital of Culture 2015.
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