State supports cultural meeting places in rural areas

As part of the "FreiRaume" program, the state is funding cultural meeting places in rural areas with more than 1.5 million euros. The aim is to bring people together through artistic and cultural activities and thus strengthen social cohesion.

With the "FreiRaume" program initiated by the Ministry of Science and the Ministry of Rural Areas and Consumer Protection, the state government is pursuing the goal of bringing people together through artistic and cultural offerings and thus strengthening social cohesion. Vacant or not appropriately used spaces in rural areas are to be filled with new life. Cultural events and social gatherings are to take place in the new "FreiRaumen": the old barn, which will become a theater, or the vacant company building, in which an exhibition and meeting center is being built. The state is making a total of more than 1.5 million euros available for this purpose from the impulse program for social cohesion. Fifteen projects have currently been selected from across the country, and eleven projects are already being implemented.

26 "FreiRaume" are being created in the countryside

"The Corona pandemic has shown us how indispensable personal encounters, the confrontation with art and culture and the exchange about them are. This is one of the reasons why we support projects that create meeting places in areas where there are few or no such spaces. Culture can be a door opener that brings people together. With the help of our state funding, new ‘FreiRaume’ are to be created, especially in rural regions: Places of art, places of encounter, places of exchange and places of social interaction," said Minister President Winfried Kretschmann.

Orientation towards special features and needs of rural areas

"FreiRaume" is geared to the special features and needs of rural areas and deliberately aims to promote cultural and meeting places precisely where people would otherwise have to travel to the nearest larger city. "Unused village inns or industrial buildings offer great potential for socio-cultural uses. We want to make it possible to experience culture not only in the places that can be seen and practiced beforehand, but also to create new places that provide low-threshold access for new target groups as well. Especially now – with and after the Corona-related restrictions in the cultural sector – it’s about winning back the audience and reaching a new audience," added State Secretary for the Arts Petra Olschowski.

"I am glad that with our two-year ‘Dialog | Cultural Policy for the Future’ launched in June 2018, we have already identified the fields that are crucial for culture, such as cultural participation, networking or the social situation of artists. Corona has brought these issues into focus again, as if under a burning glass. Now we are already in the middle of implementation with our programs on site," says Olschowski. She cited as examples the Center for Cultural Participation, which was launched last year, the "Regional Manager:in Culture" anchored in six regions, as well as the "FreiRaume" support program. "With all these building blocks, we are helping to ensure that cultural institutions and actors are well positioned during and, above all, after the pandemic," emphasized the State Secretary.

With the "Master Plan for Culture BW", which was launched immediately after the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, and the subsequent impulse program "Culture despite Corona", the state has so far made a total of around 200 million euros available to support culture in the state.

Strengthening local networks

"The focus for us is usually on the cooperation of various actors on the ground," the state arts secretary continued. This also applies to the 26 "FreiRaume" projects funded, which are based in particular on voluntary commitment – the prerequisite for funding is that municipalities, cultural institutions, associations and civic initiatives network with each other. "This is also about inner-village development – creating fixed places for culture and encounters that are developed from within the neighborhood. The joint use of such premises supports local networks and cooperation," said Olschowski.

"The support program contributes to citizens taking on local responsibility and identifying even more strongly with their hometowns. We also want to appeal to younger people or people who are hardly involved in society," says the State Secretary.

Examples of funded projects

The first eleven exceptional "FreiRaume" projects nationwide, all of which strengthen cultural infrastructure in rural regions, were selected in 2020. In the course of the second call for proposals, 38 project applications were submitted and reviewed by an independent panel of experts. Now 15 projects from Neckarbischofsheim to Wangen im Allgau have been selected and can look forward to the funding of their ideas.

The funded projects include the further development of the cinema in Kenzingen, which is threatened with closure, into a cultural center, the development of the village community center in Ostrach-Tafertsweiler into a third place that is open all year round, the use of a vacant bank branch in Schemmerhofen as a cultural workshop, the collaborative development and implementation of a historic castle festival in Ehrenkirchen or the conversion of a church in Braunlingen, which is in danger of being demolished, into a "House of Music".

Impulse program for social cohesion

The first eleven projects to receive funding include a new cinema and cultural center in a factory building in Loffingen, the opening of the Monchhof school hostel in the Swabian Forest as a cultural and meeting center, the overwintering of "Kulturpflanzchen" in the greenhouse in Riedlingen, the development of the Alte Stallhalle in Rottweil into a cultural meeting place, and a concert project in a former pasta factory in Gerabronn.

The "FreiRaume" funding program of the Ministry of the Arts is part of the state government’s impulse program for social cohesion. With 20 million euros, the state is supporting activities and projects – from the promotion of civic engagement and citizen participation to the implementation of a campaign for a respectful culture of discussion in social media to the revitalization of public places in rural areas.

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