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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Dana Pekaríková (International Visegrad Fund)_interview by Orsolya Bálint (KÖM)

In supporting performing art, the Visegrad Fund is filling a gap in the region

The first Performing V4 – Biennial of VARP-PA Residents taking place in Prague on the 26-27-28th of February will provide an exclusive insight into the Visegrad countries’ (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary) contemporary art scene by presenting the very best works – theatre and dance performances, film premiere, concerts, workshops and a fine art exhibition – created in the framework of Visegrad Artist Residency Program—Performing Arts. We talked to Dana Pekaríková, programme manager of the International Visegrad Fund about the role, the results and the future of the VARP-PA program and the benefits of the first Biennial.

What was the purpose of the International Visegrad Fund with opening and specializing the VARP program especially for perfoming art?
In 2007, the Fund launched the Visegrad Artist Residency Program, which was opened to all art disciplines. However, the program seemed most suitable for visual artists as we received many applications from them, but very few applications from different art disciplines. In 2011, we were finally able to open a different residency format specialized in performing arts (prepared and run with the help of Truc Sphérique association from Slovakia) and started preparation for Visegrad Literary Residency Program (with Villa Decius association from Poland), which was then launched in 2012. We realized the need to offer to each group of artists a program that would suit their specific needs, so we needed programs with different conditions. This was not possible earlier, as the different residency formats meant also increased numbers of supported artists, which is not possible without increased budget. There are still art disciplines for which we do not yet have a specific residency program, though. 

How do you see the role of the program in the contemporary performing art scene of the region?
Unfortunately, it seems that there are not many opportunities of financial assistance to performing art residencies in our region. This bad situation in the support of this kind of trans-border collaboration puts the Fund in a unique situation. I wish that we could support more of these projects. Speaking of the residency support in V4 in general, it seems that the Visegrad Fund is trying to fill in a gap here. 

What were your experiences of the last three years, regarding the applicants, the chosen residents and the realization of their projects?
The number of applicants is growing, so it seems that the program is quite successful, also we have new artists and new host institutions in each deadline, which means that the information is spreading and the program seems interesting to wider circles. But also those who were supported already are applying again and we see also the same host institutions inviting new artists. This means that they appreciate the program as well. Sometimes, however, we are not able to grant the full support for a project, but only partial (for budgetary reasons), which affects the realization and outcome of the project. What seems a pity to me is that the artists rarely (if ever) stay longer than the minimum 2-week residency period (even if they are individuals). Also, not all the residents are ready to show at least a work-in-progress presentation at the end of the residency. On the other hand, the host institutions also need to learn how to handle the residencies. Furthermore, it transpires that many artists are not used to present their projects as they need in their applications, so they need to learn how to write applications, to present themselves and their ideas in writing.

Who would you recommend the VARP-PA program to?
The program is open to all kinds of talented performers (be individual, formal or informal groups, formed perhaps only to try a new collaboration). The program aims at supporting innovation, experiment and creativity in the performing arts – new drama, contemporary dance, new circus, physical theatre, visual theatre, alternative theatre and performance art. What the program does not support are stone theaters, already developed performances, or theatre festivals. The program wants to support exchanges and contribute to more intensive collaboration among freelance artists and performing arts organizations in V4 countries.

Do you think the Biennial can promote emerging V4 artists and the residency program? 
The Biennial is a good opportunity to see what has been done so far and what are the results of the VARP-PA program, to see several residency outcomes at one place and to meet people.
The Biennial definitely creates a platform for information exchange regarding contemporary theatre and dance in Central-Europe so it is a good chance to promote the residency program and the artists themselves. It is also a good chance to evaluate the three years of the program so far. 

Are you going to participate on the Biennial as well?
Yes, it will definitely be interesting to see the outcomes of more residencies at once. Especially so as the performances usually require more time, they are not finished during the residency. The residency is usually only part (though very important and probably one of the most intense phase) of the project. Also it is a good opportunity to meet the artists and get direct feedback from them on the residencies and host institutions (viewed already from some distance).

Do you have any wishes or suggestions regarding the future of the program and the Biennial?
I hope both the program and the Biennial will be a success and will continue. We are glad that we can contribute this way to the development of performing arts collaborations, meetings and such wonderful events in the region.

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