Tereza Dvořáková: Officials are sometimes little bit perplexed by us

Is Karlovy Vary able to offer anything after the peak season? This is what is the subject of consideration of the Wake Up Vary Initiative, which was created in collaboration of the independent associations Offcity and ProVary. This originally petty attempt to revive Vary in the low season has gradually developed into a comprehensive effort to develop art in public space, support community projects and slowly change the cultural and social situation in the town.

The initiative Wake up Vary arose approximately two years ago. At what stage is it now?

Besides the two years of the festival focused on living art and the support of community life, we organized several other events in the public space of Vary. From the beginning, the cultural advocacy line was important for me because there is no dialogue in the Karlovy Varys cultural space about meeting the needs of local actors and not-mainstream spectators. This is closely connected with the organization of public debates, thanks to which we find out how the cultural life in Vary is perceived by spectators and colleagues - cultural organizers. We try to support active people who want to start something new in Vary. Last year, with the support of Nová síť, we managed to put through a new line of subsidies for cultural projects focused on living culture and neighborhood festivals. Unfortunately, the town finally provided only one-third of the promised funds.

Together with my colleague Tereza Hadravová we put together a year-long program of activities. However, I have realized that we need more permanent collaborators with whom we would be on the same wavelength.

You have realized several working meetings with the mayor and the representatives of the town. What were the results of these meetings?

Collaboration with the mayor is one of the most surprising and at the same time promising moments. We agreed that we could begin to deal with the burning theme of Vary - the spa zone, the towns heart to which the inhabitants of Vary stopped walking. So far, we have organized two think tanks to which we invited all representatives of cultural and educational organizations as well as hotel directors. Finally, around 30 people participated and we agreed that we would jointly organize a one-day event later this year that would once again open the town center to the Vary´s inhabitants.

Are there any pitfalls or obstacles preventing Vary from becoming a culturally "friendly" town?

I have a metaphor for Vary - it is like a family in which many traumas have occurred, so there are taboos and thirteenth chambers that people are afraid to talk about or just do not know how. Some of the facts are well known - the removal of the German population and the influx of foreigners (not only from the former Soviet Union) after 1989. And, as a consequence, the local population has not taken roots here. All this affects and influences the cultural sphere. Moreover, the current Karlovy Vary also makes little use of the fact that people from different cultures meet there. In my view, it is exactly the multicultural environment of Vary which is very interesting and has a great potential.

As everywhere else, people do not like to get out of their comfort zone even though the status quo is unsatisfactory. And then I see here something I call the "regional cultural mafia" - some people working in culture, even in cultural societies, simply refuse to change anything because it would cause the collapse of the system and the position they have built.

Thus they create an atmosphere of fear around them. Unfortunately, they do not create anything new. They refuse new stimuli which are the essential essence of living culture. The Varys cultural system is relatively bureaucratic and officials are sometimes perplexed by our acts. The area of the spa zone is ruled by unclear rules which are sometimes a mystery even for the officials. I miss an elaborated dramaturgy aimed at multiple target groups, even within the established cultural institutions such as the municipal theater or the gallery.

What steps should be undertaken to make a change?

We have been trying to talk to politicians and officials about the need to create a high-quality concept that would lead to strategic thinking about culture since the establishment of our initiative. However, it is not an easy task and we still face a fairly great resistance. At the beginning of the year we together with other activists successfully halted the absurd construction of a large transport terminal. This achievement had, I believe, a positive impact on other initiatives — the Symphony of Karlovy Vary finally fights for a high-quality hall, a petition for reconstruction of the dilapidated pool in the Thermal hotel has come out. Furthermore, the colleagues from the PROTEBElive association have begun to seek possibilities of cultural use of the neglected space of the former café in Thermal. The inhabitants of Karlovy Vary slowly begin to believe that it is possible to actively influence events in the public space. So, to answer the question - it is important to maintain communication and encourage dialogue, even if those with power are trying to break it, ignore it or ridicule it.

What is the dramaturgy of the Wake Up Vary festival like and on whom it focuses?

This year's festival focuses mainly on the local genius loci, Spirit of Springs, which is according to legend located in the rocks of the Castle Hill in the town center. Therefore, the common theme of the festival is water, healing resources. And for us, living art is one of them. When we talked to Magdaléna Petráková (an organizer of the Luhovaný Vincent Festival), we agreed that the spa is an ideal environment for art. We hope we will be able to "cure" the spa guests and tourists by culture. Moreover, our aim is to enchant and surprise the Vary´s inhabitants by living art so that they have another reason to visit the spa zone.

What has recently made You happy in the field of culture?

Perhaps the summer transformations of Automatic Mills in Pardubice, which become another living fermenting multi-genre cultural space in Pardubice. Pardubices culture is a source of pleasant surprises and inspiration for me. Furthermore, when I fall into the skepticism because of the situation in Vary Pardubice represents a hope to me that change is possible. I am also delighted that new supporters have joined us in Vary.

A lot of new spectators came to the tango dance with Patrik Poráková and Javier Antae at the Tržní Colonnade. Besides, a cooperation with Tanec Praha on the project Ghanna Zrána (with Lenka Hodoušová) was also exceptionally successful. And I'm delighted that my colleague Tereza recently met Hana Franková Hniličková, theater conductor, who is the head of the great Dagmar Theater. So we finally managed to arrange a meeting that we had been seeking for a year and a half.

On the contrary, has anything disappointed You?

The decision of the Karlovy Vary Culture Commission on the amount of subsidies for certain projects. Never ending exhausting negotiations with some of the officers or other competent persons who then fail to comply with their agreements. Gossips behind our backs and occasional aggressive attacks against us. But its also a good school of mental martial arts.

What are Your wishes?

Most of all, I would like to be able to create in Vary and its surroundings a place with soul where we would together with others bring our ideas to life.

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