– Art Capital Exhibition –
How can a creative group in today’s world find a place for refreshing architectural and artistic pastime in a small town of Eger’s scale, characterized by general (also cultural) emigration? Only if they create a suitable environment for themselves.
The idea of the arkt arts centre was conceived in 2013, as a large proportion of our time and mental capacities were liberated on account of the economic recession. In recent years, the revitalization of existing buildings has come to the fore. Throughout our work, we experiment with different renovation strategies, in terms of design as well as financing. Out of this impulse, as our own initiative, we contacted the local government to provide us a building that no one found the inspiration to refurbish and was too expensive to maintain. Un-fortunately, but luckily for us, there were a number of choices. We opted for the former GAMESZ (Economic Technical Supplier and Service Provider Organization) building, located on the premises of the historical Gárdonyi Garden, next to the Géza Gárdonyi Memorial Museum, vacant for years and deteriorated by slow decay, marked as dangerous in the city’s cadastre. We received the building of nearly 400 m2 floor space and the 4200 m2 plot with native trees for a 15-year lease. We had outlined a sustainable model hinged on local needs: we had undertaken to implement a value-added reconstruction and fill the building with cultural content. The realization of the project was founded on mutual trust, with a focus on communication, involving the continuous presentation of partial results. The municipality’s responsibility and risk-taking, as well as their conscious participation, were indispensable elements of the process. In this case, dependency on the local government equalled an opportunity for a long-term innovative cooperation.
In defining our requirements and aesthetic standards, our guideline was to satisfy the basic technical require-ments, but in terms of usability, we sought to achieve maximal functionality. In a collaboration involving the social sphere, the institutional sphere, and the con-struction industry, we managed to realize an exemplary renovation, making the most efficient use of only already available resources, entirely without seed capital and cash flow. We reversed the usual course of planning: first, we found material support for the required tasks and then came up with architectural solutions to match the materials offered by sponsors. Using the construction materials received and recycling the objects found on site, we managed to activate the building in less than a year.
In addition to our contacts in the construction industry, established throughout the years, we involved some students of the local Bornemissza Gergely Polytechnic High School who specialized in the sector. We thus provided them with a site for field practice that not only raised their interest, but also resulted in a possible improvement of the quality of technical education. Through our contacts in the municipal library, which offers tale reading therapy sessions, we reached out to the Heves County Penitentiary. For the convicts of the institution, participating in a collective construction project provided an excellent opportunity to improve their social acceptance and self-esteem, and facilitate their rehabilitation. These collective efforts proved constructive for the participants and the community at least as much as for the building itself. Planning gained new meaning and construction became a collective activity. The greatest added value of the project turned out to be the growing social network of organizers and collaborators. The process rendered people’s presence personal, owing to which friend-ships and relationships were formed, and as a result, the building itself lost some of its significance, as the human relationships became much more important. A community was formed, integrating engineers, artists, college students, polytechnic students and teachers, experts, civilians, and last, but not least, convicts and their guards.
This is how the Arkt Művészeti Ellátó (Arkt Art Provider) was brought to life as a centre for engineering, arts, and culture, offering exhibition spaces, workshops, studios, and a community space. In cooperation with the café and wine garden, as well as the Eger-based Eszterházy Károly University’s Visual Arts Institute, the “Provider” endeavours to operate a new form of institution with exhibitions, workshops, performances, and events. Owing to architectural presence and active engagement, a building that was once considered worthless has become a space full of life: a small but emblematic example of the power of community and the will to make a difference.