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Pilot project “Voids2020” is a reaction to the longstanding problem of growing mass tourism and the seemingly powerless situation in Split as well as the question should we, 40 years after the inscription to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, be creating a new center. The initiative is primarily related to the reappropriation of the spaces in the historical core and gaining back the “ownership” of the heritage, but it also focuses on using the potential of the creative community that constitutes an integral part of the city’s genetic code and is currently repressed and invisible. It is precisely the creative community that can contribute to preserving the authenticity of Split and its historic core together with the active involvement of the citizens themselves.
In January 2020, we counted more than 35 closed spaces only in the area of Diocletian’s Palace. If we take into account the streets in its surroundings, the number easily reaches and passes the impressive amount of 50 closed spaces, with signs “closed for renovation” or “on holidays until spring”. With the project “Voids” we are opening these spaces used during the summer for touristic purposes and giving them to artists and citizens in the “low-season” period, during the winter. The long-term goal of this pilot project is that this type of temporary use of spaces becomes a common practice. Until now, the dominant discourse has been mainly focused on criticizing the current situation while the “Voids” project replaces criticism with action in real time and space, and allows everyone to shape their city and the urban space in general (at least) during the winter. In addition, the regional dimension of the project and the presence of the artists from the neighboring countries opens up a space for dialogue and promotion of the regional contemporary art production and thus contributes to a better mutual understanding between the countries of the former Yugoslavia and fosters new collaborative projects at the international level.
Between February 15 and March 7, five venues in the Old Town have become open studios for artists and spaces for citizens. Through a public call “adopt a space”, citizens and civil society organizations were able to propose and implement their own programs and activities in one of the spaces. The rich program therefore consisted of open studios of eight artists from Croatia, North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, as well as workshops and pop-up events (artist talks and meet-ups).
“Voids” initiative is an experiment that projects the functions of a future hub as a single space into the wider urban area of the old city center encouraging participatory process and active involvement of the local community.
The programme ended with a public event Creative Hubs: Impact, Challenges and Sustainability where we presented our impressions after a three-week long program of the “Voids” and moderated a conversation with the representatives of the European Creative Hubs Network.
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