The Creative.Quarters network meetings represent opportunities for those from the Ruhr metropolis active in urban transformation to come together. At regular intervals, ecce invites them to take part in meetings for dialogue, inspiration and reflection. These take place where future cultural activities are to emerge: in the heart of the quarters. The meeting venues may be alternative through to institutional but always held in places with potential and charisma such as Heimatdesign, Oberhausen's Bert-Brecht-Haus and the Dortmunder U. Partners present their projects here, learn from each other and have the opportunity to network and establish links with cross-regional showcase projects.
Current topics on urban development are focussed upon and given new understandings from the perspectives of politics, local government and the artists and creative minds themselves. As in all ecce projects, this requires transparency and participation. We want the network meetings to promote an open-ended culture of participation ranging from frames of reference and inspirational projects through to the forming of specific instruments for support.
Regenerated neighbourhoods, urban social development, independent urban tourism, new experimental spaces and event venues such as the Rotunde. These are just some of the ongoing cultural initiatives in 15 Creative.Quarters in the Ruhr region. They were presented and discussed at the 11th Network Meeting of the Creative.Quarters Ruhr state-government programme.
Since 2012, it has practically become a tradition for ecce to invite twice a year protagonists, promoters and performers from Creative.Quarters Ruhr to a major network meeting. The meetings are special because they are always held within a specific quarter. This gives an immediate insight into the activities and the progress of the initiatives taking place there.
Dr Hildegard Kaluza, Head of the Culture Department in the Ministry of Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sports of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), reported on the funding programme concluding that: "In five years, the Creative.Quarters project has received income of €2,257,280. A good investment." She said that it was particularly noteworthy that the number of Creative.Quarters had more than doubled from 7 in 2012 to 15 today.
Prof. Dieter Gorny, Managing Director of ecce GmbH, recalled some of the changes that had taken place across the whole Ruhr region since 2012. A dynamic is especially evident in the Viktoria.Quarter with an important axis having been established between the Anneliese-Brost Music Forum and the Bochum Rotunde. "Future challenges can only be met with and through culture. We must have the courage to create more culture and art! We need more of it", argued Gorny. What is often taken for granted from the outside actually requires a lot of energy and endurance. The programme was established in 2012 and rather than the quarters being sustained "from the top", they thrive through a multitude of local initiatives. ecce supports a dialogue, on an equal footing, between local stakeholders, city planners, and business and cultural promoters. According to the guest speaker, Prof. Dr Schmidt from the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, this is something unique when compared with other regions. It involves an open and integrated process of learning and an alternative approach to urban development perfectly matching Schmidt's inspiring concept of the city as a campus.
Who isn't familiar with the cliché of the "problem area in the north". Is this the case for Dortmund's Nordstadt!? Those who know better know that is an area with residential buildings of notable older architectural styles where not only migrants but also plenty of young people live. And it is an area with energy waiting to be released. Initiatives such as the Machbarschaft Borsig 11 e.V. or the KulturMeileNordstadt have now come together and are working intensively on the creation of the Creative.Quarters Echt.Nordstadt – from Borsigplatz to the harbour. This will provide financial support from the state-sponsored Creative.Quarters scheme. This is deserved recognition for years of often unpaid work but primarily represents a resource for new artistic impulses in the north of Dortmund. Still a problem area? Or has it now become a quarter of culture?
Will coolness become more visible in the quarters over the long term? And thereby attract more tourists to the Ruhr region to add to the "value chain"? The city tourism expert Jan-Paul Laarmann doesn't like to plan too far ahead. Like the desire to be in a league with the kind of tourist attractions of Berlin or New York, too much planning will condemn to failure the sole aim of conveying authenticity. It is much more promising to let creative milieus in the Rhine and Ruhr metropoles speak for themselves. The new city-tourism project #urbanana being managed by him is polycentric and eccentric and in any event surprising. Far away from the major shopping malls and well known tourist sights such as the Zollverein, the diffuse "banaana republic" in North Rhine Westphalia's western region wants to draw attention to the many tiny jewels available to the independent urban tourist. The many initiatives to be discovered in the Creative.Quarters are individual and non-conformist and a goldmine for the future milieu of Urbanana scene-seeking tourists.
Creative.Quarters Ruhr held the 10th network meeting on 7 December 2016. Around 100 participants from the arts, culture and city administration came together at the "Wissenschaftspark Gelsenkirchen" technology park to look back at the support provided in 2016.
From a total of 10 supported projects for the year, two were personally presented here: Jan Schoch and Peter Petersen presented a concept for the UFAM Ruhr interdisciplinary art convention. Guy Dermosessian explained how the Kalakuta Soul Workshop enabled meetings between local and international artists and musicians, experimentation with new musical forms and discussions on the production and marketing of music.
Helga Sander, head of Gelsenkirchen's urban renewal company (Stadterneuerungsgesellschaft Gelsenkirchen mbH&Co.KG), gave insights into the potential of Gelsenkirchen's Creative.Quarter Ückendorf and new opportunities for using buildings.
Included on the network meeting's agenda for the first time was an item dedicated to a new pillar in funding the Individual Support for Artists and Creative Minds (IKF). Suggestions for improvements in the application procedures and jury activities were discussed and experiences were exchanged. Bernd Fesel and Nele Marx (ecce), who are responsible for the projects, also gave an overview of the current status of applications and the first funded projects.
Dialogue is both basis and strategy of the Creative.Quarters state-supported scheme. It is therefore of no surprise that the 9th meeting of policymakers, local administration, artists and creative minds was an invitation to a dialogue event where discussion would take place. The occasion this time was the introduction of a new "pillar" of support for the individual funding of artists and creative minds. This instrument was initially planned as a pilot and now extends the support framework of Creative.Quarters Ruhr, a framework which, since 2012, has succeeded in establishing itself (now intentionally so). In a setting appropriate to the occasion, ideas were presented and discussed in the Dortmunder U cinema with plenty of participation from all those in attendance.
An overall good thing was the feeling among visitors. This was not only because any new support eases the living and working conditions of artists and creative minds in the daily routine of producing art. But also because the scheme engages with the ideas and criticism of those "affected" right from the outset.
Even though intensive preliminary work has been undertaken by the state of NRW through the Ministry for Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sport in consultation with ecce and in discussions with partners and protagonists, potential financial support this year for requests and ideas need to stand the test of reality. The specific ideas and concepts (available here for viewing) were therefore not only the basis for lively discussions but are also to develop optimally under a process of continuous reflection. From ecce's point of view, such a participatory approach has already proven itself in the state-supported Creative.Quarters Ruhr scheme. By also focusing on those forces on the front line (generally posited as bottom-up qualities), a good basis for achieving success has been established. Anyone wanting to become involved in future, with constructive criticism as well as inspirational ideas, is warmly welcome.
We are grateful for the visit from Duesseldorf's Ministry for Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sport (Reinhard Krämer) and the Ministry for Economics, Energy, Industry, Small Business and Manual Trades (Ulrike Coqui). We are also grateful for the attendance of our expert partners Dr. Uwe Schramm (KunstVereineRuhr) and Jochen Heufelder (new talents / Cologne), who – according to the Ministry for Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sport – will be supported in future as part of the Individual Support for Artists and Creative Minds. Thanks goes also to Sebastian Becker for the excellent photographic documentation of our network meetings that we exhibit here in excerpts…