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Progr: Bern's fertile ground for culture

img  Tobias

What would have happened if the city would have rejected the plan in the end?
If the other project (Doppelpunkt) had won, PROGR would have continued at another central place with enough space for artists to work. A special group which has already started to search for a building before the artists intitiative started would have continued its work had it been necessary.


The description of the Gymnasium as a location for organisations, artists and various projects. How would you describe it to someone who's never been there?
PROGR is a kind of cultural "bee-hive" in the center of Bern, which offers space for more than 100 visual artists, actors, graphic designers, dancers, musicians, as well as curators and cultural managers. At the same time PROGR is a project workshop and venue for events. The management team of the house curates and coordinates projects, lectures and exhibitions and supervises selected guest events. The artist-in-residence programme invites guest artists from Switzerland and other countries and gives them the opportunity to work on their projects in their own studios for several months. A great network developed in the house and many people from PROGR work internationally. The former gym-room is now a well-known CaféBar (Turnhalle) in Bern which offers concerts from the organisation bee-flat twice a week and in between dancefloor „nights“.

Why is PROGR so important for the cultural scene of Bern?

PROGR is a studiohouse in the center of Bern: around 100 artists from different fields and culture-organisations work in the former school rooms on their projects and in their networks.
It is unique in Switzerland, that a big building in the middle of town is used for art-production, not only for presentation, as is usually the case. In addition we offer rooms for temporary projects and events. PROGR is a platform for activities of residents and we are involved in many co-orporations with cultural institutions in Bern and Switzerland. We do not want to compete with the local art-scene,  but try to supplement it.  We show to the public how artists work today and what their topics are.  Also we are a place which lots of people can identify with, not only the artists who work here but also our visitors. The project PROGR stresses the crucial importance of a young and active cultural life as the fertile ground for the blossoming of the cultural city of Bern. Initiated by the department of cultural affairs of the city of Bern, the project means direct and active kind of support for art-production.

What are the key points of your new contract?
The artists of the PRO PROGR KünstlerInitative offered the city government of Bern to buy the building for exactly the same price that the winning project "Doppelpunkt" (architects & investors) of the official competition offered. The whole PROGR_Community has managed to collect over 12 Mio within five weeks!  A foundation will guarantee the financing of the whole project and the renovation of the building. The renovation will be smooth, so it means no big change in the existing architecture. This foundation shall also care for renting out the artist studios and offices for cultural institutions. The selection will be curated by a professional jury. The mix of various art fields remains important as well as a rotation of the artists. Another important point: the PROGR shall remain a plattform for young professional artists, for experiments and a host for internal and external  „event-organizers“. This means that the successful cooperation with other cultural institutions in Bern and Switzerland shall be continued.

What kind of feedback have you received in general from artists?
After the decision of the city council, there were some sceptical voices. Some disagreed that the result of the competition was challenged at all. One of the most frequent asked questions was, why the artists  announced their offer late. The answer is easy: Only after the competition has been finished, the PROGR-people recognized that the price to buy this building was not 10 Mio sfr (as expected before) but only 2.5 Mio sfr. And that the yearly rent would not be higher than today.
Organising all the necessary  material  and concepts in such a short time was a big effort. It was amazing to see how the energy and motivation in the PROGR, but also in our networks spread all over. Suddenly a big range of media were interested in our house and also in the artists’ group initiative. The publicity through the media and a lot of positive support from people from all over Switzerland helped to collect the money in time  and to organize a great benefit-party at the beginning of December 2008.  The people who know about our place know how important it is for the people who use it and they appreciate the programme we developed over the last 4 years.

Homepage: Progr

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