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Serbia/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.2 Cultural houses and community cultural clubs

Cultural centres as "houses of culture" were created throughout Serbia immediately after World War II, even in the smallest rural communities. Their principal role was to host cultural associations and amateur arts activities, as well as to present art works from the major cultural institutions (exhibitions, films, theatre plays, etc.).

During the 1990s, most of these centres survived by renting their spaces to local businesses such as small shops, billiard clubs and jackpot machines. They also gave their premises to local amateur groups and associations for their programmes. Today, there are more than a hundred active "houses of culture". 80 of these entered the "Capacity Building Programme" supported by the French Government and organised by the Centre for Professional Continuous Development of the University of Arts, Belgrade.

The role of cultural associations in the past 10 years was extremely diversified: ranging from those created to promote state nationalistic cultural policy, to associations created to fight against such policies. There were also amateur artists' associations, artists' unions, etc. The most important cultural associations created during the 1990s regrouped artists around a certain vision, to break internal and external co-operation barriers. Groups such as "Dah Theatre", "Led art", "Skart", "Fia" and "Remont" have widely contributed to the revitalisation of the cultural field and have introduced new ways of management and networking in Serbia. Amateur art associations, which were created during the period of socialism, have decreased both in number and in activities, not being able to find a new mission and a new purpose in the changing circumstances / conditions.

Throughout the 1990s, newly created associations and NGOs were very active. As an alternative to the established cultural system, they succeeded in getting international support and recognition. Due to this fact, many of the leaders of these NGOs were given the opportunity to participate in different management programmes and leadership training courses, which gave them new and better capacities to function in comparison to those running associations or cultural institutions in a traditional manner.

In the mid-1990s, the Fund for an Open Society (Soros Foundation) helped to create a Centre for NGO support, which provided consultancy and training advice to numerous NGOs in Serbia. Many were also encouraged and supported by different international organisations and joined various European and South East European networks and exchange programmes which provided them with new competencies as well as collegial support. The result was an improvement of the internal and external networking, especially in the cultural field and the inclusion of the NGO movement in a larger socio-political arena (e.g. Balkankult, Association of Alternative Theatres, etc.).

Chapter published: 18-08-2015

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