Bratislava: Pizzas and culture compete for public space


Slovakia's culture ministry funds and houses quite a few cultural institutions. All of Slovakia's churches for example along with the national opera house and gallery. But one of them is about to lose its home - and where once there was art, there could soon be take-away pizza... A4, an art gallery on a central square in Bratislava, has to find a new home because the ministry has put out tenders for its premises. It's reported the winner wants to build the city's biggest pizza restaurant on the site.

The Culture ministry does of course fund and house many institutions, some are happy and some are not. One of the latter is a4 which is housed right now on SNP námestie or square, a square almost in the centre of the capital city famed for and named after the Slovak National Uprising which saw a massive protest on the square. They are in the initial stages of being removed from their home. I spoke to Slavo Krekovic, the manager of the space a4, where he told me about his cultural centre.

"In Bratislava it is the only cultural centre that is constantly running several activities in all the performing art fields projects so it is very unique, in this sense that it is a non profit, independent cultural centre. We have been here since 2004 and we have organised around 800 events, in this space many of them were organised by ourselves and some of them were external but we also provide space for other independent organisations that want to realise there cultural projects".

How reliant on state funding are you and how is the current relationship?

"a4 is a cultural centre that has different sources of funding. The state is one of the most important sources, and they provide one quarter of the whole budget. Of course it’s not sufficient and the financial part is something that we gain through the grant system of the ministry of culture but the other thing is they also provide the spaces that we are running this centre in but there is now this whole problem -the decision that they want to rent this space to somebody else".

If you want to be state funded, how difficult or easy is it?

"We are not happy with the amount we get from the state I think it’s difficult to get sufficient money. There should be more money for independent activities and you have to know the people who are deciding. So we are not very happy about the amount we get from the state. Well you can say some of them are very happy. If you run a festival that gets 7 million crowns and you get a grant for 1 million, you should be very happy. Its incomparable I think.

I also talked to culture ministry spokesperson Sona Ulicna on how organisations and projects get funded.

"So basically every applicant is supposed to follow the instructions published on the webpage of the ministry, meaning he has to fill in the electronic questionnaire and then he has to deliver it to the ministry".

Is it easy to get funding?

"Well that depends on the point of view of course, we are trying to make it easier and easier every year, because people don’t like to fill in paperwork but some paperwork has to be done because this is public money. And we have to have some basic control and some evidence that the money will be used properly so we believe the procedure as it is right now is quite reasonable".

How prolific is cultural funding in Slovakia?

"Well of course it depends from year to year but in general we can say that we could support more or less one half of actual requests".

What about current projects, do they still have to apply for further funding, do they get points for being a successful project and so on?

"Actually if a project has been supported and is long running activity which has good credit it helps but nevertheless the applicants are forced to reapply every year".

Back at a4 I wanted to know what would happen to them if their space actually did become a Pizza Parlour? Would they, in fact, cease to exist?

"It would be very difficult to pay a commercial price for such as space in the centre it would be possible for somewhere on the periphery maybe the problem in Bratislava is the old industrial spaces are being demolished so now this is this new boom of new investors building something in the almost city centre. Most probably we will exist because there are people who want to do things and I don’t think it would be impossible to do somewhere but the question is whether we find a space or convince the culture ministry and the state and also the people that come that this is the space where we should also exist also in the future".