Written presentation, then live presentation

The saturday afternoon session looked in depth at how to present yourself to a potential funder or partner through the written word or through a short meeting in person.

Written presentation
Chris explained key elements to take into consideration when you present yourself in a written form. He drew on examples from the project proposals we had been presented by participants.

Be succinct and to the point.
‘As a Director of an arts centre, I often receive emails from people I don’t know. In the first few lines, I quickly need to know who you are, what your organisation is and what you want from me. I don’t want to read five pages before I understand why I reading this.’

He shared some examples of good and bad email communication – one request which was too short and not specific enough. ‘What do they really want me to do and who with?’ The second was much clearer explaining the group they wanted him to work with, the timeframe, the deadline, the content of the workshop.

Mention your partners
Noting who your institutional partners are will strengthen your case and give the impression ‘these people have got their act together’. It’s even better if you can be specific about what their role is in the delivery of the project.

Include what you know to be accurate
Explain who your team, what your project will do and be specific (where/when/what) – ‘everything that is a big question in your mind, do not include’. Make a short note of what planning has been undertaken so far.

Pay attention to your marketing and PR – ask yourself: who is this for, what audience do I want to attract?

(Notes on this section from Chris Keulemans can be downloaded here.)


Live presentation
Willemijn introduced an exercise on live presentation, based on a drama exercise which is intended to make you aware of your body language when presenting, and awareness of the impression your body leaves. In this exercise you are asked to present your project in just one minute to a specific person, so you have to consider the most appropriate way to present yourself. Another member of the groups would be then asked to duplicate the presentation, showing how they perceived it, and to exaggerate the style and body language, gestures.

She demonstrated this exercise with Chris. She asked Chris to explain his project to the Belarusian ambassador, who he meets briefly at an official function in Amsterdam. He has one minute to do this. Following this she re-enacted his presentation, exaggerating his gestures and body language. Each participant was then asked to act out specific scenarios, and audience members asked to replicate and emphasis them.

These live presentations were discussed. How did the person come across? Were they professional or unconfident? Did nervousness show? Were they stiff and a little bit boring? Did they use eye contact or look at the floor? Did their voice get higher. Did they act too nice?

Here’s a couple of examples…



Foggy outside, seeking clarity inside…

The Director of the Photocentre, Aleksei Shinkarenko, gave a presentation. He spoke of how as a photographer, with background as an engineer, he is inspired by the organic. He was interested in looking for possibilities to collaborate, to find a partner who understands what they are doing as a group. He chose to describe their work as evolutionary, like nature itself. He thought that there could be no institutional changes if you do not work with authorities as they currently exist.

He gave one example of lobbying for photographic education within university and further education  contexts, which resulted in an accredited course for photojournalism. They also work with schools, particularly 9-15 year olds.

‘Sometimes, this is what your project feels like..’

He finished with an image from the First World War of a soldier standing right next to an explosion. He used this to illustrate this point: ‘From this image, you do not know what happened after the moment the photograph was taken. So with your work with photography you never know what the end will be or what will happen, what is possible and what the secret potential is’.

They are currently working with the National Museum on exhibition about the First World War for the centenary next year, They are also in discussion with the Contemporary Museum of Art to establish spaces for photographic exhibitions.

Chris and Willemijn went through details of Planning, community building and presentation. As we would be working today very specifically on the projects, we needed to focus on how to build building a community for the project, whether online, offline, or with peer artist, educators, trainers, or a community, with your neighbours or the society around you.


Two short examples were presented. The first example – Das Magazine, a literary magazine on paper in the traditional sense, produced four times as year, with writers who don’t have a publisher yet. They then created a web site and an online community. Every 2 months they held an event which was very theatrical and festive – for example, there was a guy reading in bathtub. They also invited prominent Dutch writers to discuss old classics – Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ in one instance, with an interview with humorous questions, along with a funny quiz, so it became quite a performative event. They also held a Reading Club for young people – with writers presenting in a club or  bookstore, 40 venues in one night – which ended in one venue at a huge party. The audience could subscribe for a fee (approximately 20 euros) to receive the book of the writer and then meet the writer in person and ask questions – this in small groups of 10-15 people). They also used Facebook extensively. Key elements to realise this project were: style, taste, sense of humour, and being not afraid to take risks.

The second example: Terraforming, a project by two artists – working in Novi Sad, Sarajevo, Stockholm, Saravejo. ‘A project that was cross borders, based on idealism, depending on some European funding and a lot of hard work’. They were interested in using the arts to build a community and present a community in a new light – in this case the Roma community, a minority group associated with stereotypes, some of which were true, many of which were  false.

For one project, Fortune Tellers Future, they asked older adults in this community, ‘If you were young now, what profession would you like to be when you grow up?’ They received answers such as: I would like to be the director of a classic orchestra, a medical surgeon, Alfred Hitchcock – they then made photographic portraits of them in this role, blown up to real life size, images of their dreams of a different life.  They were then photographed carrying their portraits in the local landscape as a performance and later exhibited in a theatre, alongside a concert by local Roma musicians. The project took place over four months.

This kind of project completely relies on the artists ability and willingness to build up a relationship of trust and respect with community members.

She also spoke about a project undertaken by two artists in residence at Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, who created a maquette of an area in Cairo called Antikhana, the neighhour hood in which the gallery was housed and which was subject to potential regeneration and gentrification.  Over three months they created a scale model of the neighbourhood in exact detail, measuring the stones of the houses, the number plates, reproducing exactly the same colour. This started a conversation with local residents, which began a process of assembling stories connected with the neighbourhood. When the maquette was put on show, the local people came to the show and it started a discussion about change in the neighbourhood, about whose rubbish this was, whether this wall should be a different colour and so on. It developed into a richly layered project, with both intercultural dialogue and  educational aspects.

(Note from Weronika: another project which includes use of models as an essential ingredient is ‘Sejny Chronicles’, collecting oral histories connected with a town and used as part of a theatre performance.)


(Note from Brendan: Here’s two other projects where artists found interesting and playful ways to engage with local communities.

First example: Artists Cornford and Cross made a project using facial recognition software, where they scanned in hundreds of images of what was considered an ‘ideal’ from Nefertiti to the Mona Lisa to create an ‘average ideal based on the computer algorithms. They then invited local people to have their portraits made, and these were compared with the mathematical ideal. The top ten were selected and exhibited, and a prize awarded

Second example: as one of a series of artist commissions intended to engage with new audiences in Sandwell in the West Midlands (an urban industrial area of the West Midlands) curator Trevor Pitt and theatre practitioner Jake Oldenthal proposed a project called ‘Talent Squad’. This was planned as a simple intervention in public spaces to challenge peoples perceptions of what was considered artistic activity and skills. They were dressed in business suits with a few additional colourful flourishes, Men In Black shades, flowers, badges. Acting out the role of cultural researchers, they asked people of all ages on the street, or at an shopping centre or an event (a church fete, a festival day in the park) to share their special (and possibly secret) talent. For example, I can play air guitar/I play cello/I paint watercolours/I can make a funny face/ I can do back flips/ I can lick my elbow with my tongue. They made a photograph of this talent, a copy of which was given to the individual. The photographs were used to make a mobile display which grew each time they made the intervention, provoking a discussion about what was considered an artistic skill, what was considered a talent, and what was not.)

Chris and Willemijn then asked participants were asked think about the community they planned to work with; their own team; the volunteers and peers around them. Are you planning to work with a strong and tight community, or a light community, something which is temporary? Will it involve the people living in the villages around, will it involve people you do not normally interact with. How do you work together with the authorities – how do they hinder or assist your project? What must be done to build these relationships?

Participants were reminded that while their plan may involve a longer term project but for this exercise they needed to define one moment of the project – between August and November next year – and go through the details of the planning. What minimum budget do you need to make the project happen – what can be achieved with an ideal budget, a minimal budget, or no budget?



Over lunch break Chris and Willemijn looked at the proposals.  In the afternoon, the workshop looked at written presentation and live presentation, illustrated with examples from the planning and the project proposals.

Here in Minsk, of course everything is perfect

We gather in what looks from the outside like an office block from the 1960’s, though it was constructed in 1973. From the other side it reveals a more industrious purpose. It was a former factory which, in the Cold War times, made the guidance systems for rockets. Today it is rented out to a variety of small businesses – on the top floor is a centre for photography – our host for the first workshops – with different spaces for printing, a library, meeting rooms and an exhibition space.


Weronika and Agnieszka gave a brief introduction to the workshop, reminding participants that this was an opportunity to fine tune their project proposals (and welcoming some fresh participants). Following the development of the proposals, in the new year there would be the opportunity to submit them for potential funding. The intention of the Borderland School is to assist at least one project to be realised in each country from April onwards.


In morning session, participants were interviewed by Chris and Willemijn after a short demonstration where they interviewed each other about their respective projects in Amsterdam – the Read My World literary festival and The Tolhuistuin, covering their motivation and inspiration, their contexts for their work, target groups and audiences and, as importantly, communication skills. They stressed that it is not an easy task to tell the story of your project in short sentences, in a short space of time, to say what it is and why it is important, and this is a skill to develop – and these workshops will provide a continuing opportunity to do that.


Starting the afternoon session Chris and Willemijn shared a couple of projects – one which was still in the making as a new literary initiative and one which a music festival that had started small in scale and now extremely popular and profitable.

The first example was from Utrecht – Cultural Sundays – which they described as a programme intended to be easily accessible to a wide range of people – ‘entertainment but with some thought’. As part of a Sunday in November an event called Visiting the Book (Op bezoek bij het boek) would be taking place. This would be a series of readings by authors in people’s houses, or in libraries, restuarants, different kinds of spaces. It was a format that is replicable, a great way to introduce new audiences to literature – which was a particular concern for some of the participants.

The second example was Into The Great Wide Open,  a music festival for all ages on Vlieland, an small island in Northern Netherlands, which had started out as a very small event – almost you might say for family and friends – the initiative of a guy who had a record label, who went on holiday there regularly with his kids.

(Note from Brendan: another example might be The Goat Milk Festival in Bela Rechka, a small village with less than 500 (mostly elderly) people in the mountains of northern Bulgaria, which began over 10 years ago with a small group of cultural professionals visited the village where their grandparents came from and decided it would be a great idea to reconstitute the traditional village sabor (festival) in May, an event which had not been organised since communist times.)

Chris then told the group about the time a few years ago, when he was writing the final proposals to gain support for his arts centre, and at the last moment felt that there was a vital ingredient missing. So he decided to write  ‘A Day in the Life’ of the centre, imagining what it would be like in a year’s time, once it had opened.

Extract from: A day in the life of Tolhuistuin
8:14 Uncle Abdel is cleaning up the garden, together with the students of the high school next door, who have joined our maintenance team. Scattered all over the garden, they find the colored balloons of Malika’, who had her 8th birthday party here yesterday.

9:08 Piet and Jaap, two retired harbor workers, have a cup of coffee at their fixed spot at the window of our cafe, overlooking the water.

10:00 The alarm bell goes off in the artist residency in the former building of the Shell medical service. Erzen Shkololli, video artist from Kosovo, has been editing til 4 o’clock in the morning on his short film about an Albanian marriage in our neighborhood – and turns over, because he decides he deserves a little more sleep.

10:05 Slight confusement in the meeting room in our main pavilion. Both the intercultural committee of the Foundation for Literature and the management team of Mentrum (arts&culture for people with a mental handicap) have rented the space for their meeting. Touria, our manager, solves the situation. From the kitchen ladies arrive with platters of coffee and baklava.

12:10 Ellen welcomes a gallery owner from Perpignan in her ceramic atelier in the former security building. The French lady finds her way through the tiny new Picasso’s from the primary school around the corner, who are fingerpainting on the floor, coached by Saskia of Noordjes Kid’s Art. Sarien decides to close her office door, to be able to have a concentrated meeting with her partners from three other cities in Holland about the national young poets competition, that she will organize in our main hall next month.

13:08 The weekly team meeting of Tolhuistuin starts with the announcement that the wildwater cycling race across the river has been canceled because the municipality didn’t approve of the idea after all.

13:16 Crowds at the self service counter for lunch in the cafe. The piles of sandwich with local Waterland cheese are disappearing at an alarming speed. Co-owner Eddy Muller runs around shouting and cursing because his food suppliers are still not catching up with the surprising number of visitors.


Participants were then asked to prepare a similar piece, in their teams, to present back to the whole group. ‘A way to make it visual, to bring it alive – try to picture what is going to happen in the future’ – not only by including the things that are great and they would like to see, but including the things that might be obstacles, so they could think of solutions in advance.


Participants had one hour to work on these descriptions to present back for discussion and critique.

Yuliya Tsimafeyeva presented the project to promote ‘PrajdziSvet’, an internet-journal of translated literature, to both fill a niche (literature translated into Belarusian) and as an independent platform where translators, critics, writers can discuss actual problems of modern literature and culture. (We’ll share her presentation to give you an idea of how this session went…)


Sviatlana Haidalionek presented the project ‘Academy on the Grass’, a five day event in a village in a national park, based on the idea of alternative education with discussions and practical activities involving art and ecology, social animation, DIY, performances, concerts, film screenings.

Alina Dzeravianka and Marina Zavvazhnaya  presented the project ‘Brest Fortress’, which aimed to restore the old abandoned citadel on the outskirts of the city as a cultural and historical attraction for both local people and tourists, to reclaim its story through contemporary art installations, performances and cultural events.

Oksana Karpovets presented the project ‘Cross Line’, which intends to bring together artists, curators and art managers from Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Poland, in three different spaces with diverse historical contexts which are united by one concept – the space of migration. The first event would be in Turov (Gomel region, Belarus).

Ianina Kazchuk presented the project ‘Kara’, which aims to create a cultural centre (both incubator and platform) with non-formal educational activities and an active community around it.

Aleksei Shinkarenko presented the programme of the PhotoCentre and how it aimed to engage with partners and institutions to promote a wider interest in photographic practice.

Kaciarynka Pikirenia presented the project ‘Ja knihu maju’ (‘I have a book’), which aims to is to change the very perception of native literature among Belarusians by introducing the reader to forgotten, historically banned or simply currently unavailable authors.


In the evening Pavel Kasciukekich gave us a tour of “Ў” Gallery of Contemporary Art and the adjacent bookstore and literature centre, Kniharnia Loguinaŭ,  which holds events and publishes work. There is also a small arts & craft shop here which sells material made by local artists – lots of goodies to be found here on Nezalezhnasty av. 37a. (Their very nice t-shirts which caught the eye of our co-ordinators).





Let the local workshops begin…

Follow up local workshops are taking place in Minsk in October, 2013.

Here’s the outline from workshop leaders Chris Keulemans and Willemijn Lamp.

Photo: Ivliane Chitidze

From Vision to Practice
A three day workshop (25th- 27th October) to develop your cultural initiatives on the way to realization in 2014.

• each session starts with 5/10 minutes  looking at inspirational project from abroad
• after the opening of each session, the teams will work separately on their projects
• Willemijn and Chris will join one separate team for 30 minutes, alternating between the teams (every general question mentioned below will be specified for each project, before each session).

1. Introduction
• Chris and Willemijn, both 15 minutes, interviewing each other
• Then we interview each participant 10 minutes:
what do you do in your professional life, why are you participating in this workshop, what do you want to achieve /change

2. Project
• A day in the life…:
An outline of the Ideal situation of your project, in 2014, if you will have received the Support for Democracy Programme funding

3. Participation: building a community
• how to develop your communication with a/ authorities b/ strangers c/ peers
• on the local, national and international level

4. Presentation
• Written
– Handout: do’s and don’t’s
– For funders/participants/teachers/press/invitations
– Good and bad examples
• Live
– Real life demonstrations of presentations, plus exercises and training

5. Final presentations
• referring to questions and answers from first session

Lublin Congress

Agnieszka Podpora and Weronika Czyżewska spoke about the recent summer school at the Eastern Partnership Culture Congress held in Lublin in October. (You can find some comprehensive photo documentation of the Congress here on Facebook). They had the opportunity to present some of the documentation, including this short film – Polish voiceover.