Thanks to the Living Communities program and citizens’ original ideas, places you would otherwise overlook can turn into artistic works that delight the eyes and hearts of many. Take a look at how people are creating a colorful mosaic on a concrete wall, knitting sweaters for their town and turning old buildings into community spaces – all through Living Communities.
When a town has its own sweater
Can you imagine chairs or trees wearing personalized sweaters? In the town of Uherské Hradište, custom-knitted pieces are playfully revitalizing neglected public spaces while also drawing attention to this traditional craft. Project leader Eva Blahová and her team are asking other residents to donate unused knitwear that will be used to create new distinctive pieces for public spaces. On the occasion of International Knitting Day in June, the group led knitting and crocheting classes in waiting rooms, cafes and other public places. The project will culminate in an exhibit of the knitted pieces created to adorn various sites in the town’s historic center. “We want to create a vibrant and colorful space for dialogue between citizens, students and artists. We live here together. We knit. We recycle – and we are bringing to the fore themes like engagement, sharing experience, intergenerational dialogue, recycling and sustainability,” says Eva Bláhová.
A wall can bring people together
Until recently, a two-meter high concrete wall “greeted” residents and visitors at the entrance to the town of Nejdek. Tired of the dull gray wall, a group of friends joined forces with local associations and the town government to beautify it. They invited citizens to help create a mosaic on the wall. The event was a success, and got people away from their phones and TVs for an afternoon of joint stewardship of a public space. The colorful mosaic shines in the sun and welcomes everyone who enters the town. The work can be preserved for future generations, who will remember their predecessors through the mosaic and add their own creativity to it.
Puppets can enliven a neighborhood
There’s a Czech saying that playing is a good way to stay out of mischief. Playing can also bring people together. Jana Mokrá and other women in the town of Nedvědice are using regular puppet theater performances to create a space in which families and other residents can meet. They will invite the community to design and produce puppets and new plays at monthly workshops in an environment based on creativity and open, empathetic communication. “Through this project, we want to give people an opportunity to get together and do something for others. It will be a success if families, groups of friends or association members prepare puppet performances and other residents become their audience,” says Jana Mokrá.
Public space in Nymburk
The town of Nymburk, situated on the banks of the Elbe River, has a historic monument zone but few public spaces where people can gather. Near the main square, there is a relatively large, unused public space that holds a lot of potential in some residents’ opinion. They put on a community event where people made their own spray graffiti works, listened to local poets and bands and joined in jam music sessions. Citizens were invited to co-organize events, hold workshops or act as performers. “Through this event, we enlivened a public space that sees little use otherwise. Residents of various ages had a chance to meet, get to know each other, share experience and build stronger ties,” says project leader Gabriela Šinkorová.
Public space in Nový Bor is no longer on a side track
Nový Bor is a small town that lies between the Lusatian Mountains and the Central Bohemian Uplands. Although the population has declined slightly in recent years, there is no shortage of engaged citizens who care about their town. Thanks to the local glass industry and art school, the town is full of creative individuals brimming with ideas. Three friends – Leoš, Janek and Radek – formed an assocation called Vedlejší kolej (“Side Track”) with the aim of transforming an old railway warehouse into a multi-purpose space. It will be used for community and social events and as a base for artists, who will be able to exhibit their work there. “Our town sorely lacks this type of ‘unpolished’ space. Right now some events are held in unsuitable conditions – or aren’t held at all. We’re going to change that,” says co-founder Radek Kronika.
Fighting to save a mill
When you come into Jistebnice, a town in South Moravia, you may head straight to the Vildův mlýn (“Vilda’s Mill”) Information Center. It is named after the mill’s last inhabitant, painter and free-thinker Vilém Štěpánka. Unfortunately, the map of time has taken its toll on the building. When chunks of plaster began to fall off the facade, the question of demolition was raised. But local residents stood up for their mill and now want to find new uses for it. They established an association to hold cultural events and coffee get-togethers in the mill, where citizens will plan repair work and develop a permanent exhibit about the town’s history.
All of these projects involve local fundraising and improve the quality of life in each of these towns.