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Gothenburgian epidemic to strike Sweden Posted by on Dec 22, 2009 in Swedish Language

Before you’d start running to your GP for another injection let me console you
that this epidemy although contagious isn’t a lethal one.
Guys, it’s gonna be a long one this time! And there’s a part two and a part three
coming up in the near future.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Konstepedemin (The Epidemic of Art):

The Epidemic of Art is a former epidemic hospital situated in the
centre of Gothenburg. It was abandoned in the sixties when a new
hospital was built outside the city centre. For a long time it stood
empty, until 1983 when a group of artists and architects “discovered”
the place and saw the potential. They presented the vision for some local
artists, the city council and the state authorities. Thanks to insecure plans
for the area, Konstepedemin was established in 1987.
I talked to Sofia Åhrman, project leader at Konstepidemin.

What is the story behind Konstepidemin, when was it established
and what has changed since then?

At that time there was a shortage of affordable studio spaces due to
major rebuilding projects in the central parts of Göteborg.
The ambition was to build a cultural centre where different types
of artists could work close to each other in a surrounding that supports

creativity and artistic exchange. There was
also an ambition to become a pressure group for the arts towards
those in political and economical power.

From that starting point Konstepidemin has taken shape. It is run as
a non profit organization with a board consisting of artists and
people from “the outside world” who can bring useful knowledge and
energy. Konstepidemin is financed by studio rents. Göteborg city
council supports the public work we do. For projects we apply for
support from all kinds of sources; the city, the region, the
government, sponsors and private funds. Besides studio spaces it was
early decided to have a common restaurant and a gallery as meeting
ground for artists and visitors.

The core from the start is still the heart in all work and in the
organisation. But since then The Epidemic of Art have obviously
changed… And as a contemporary actor in the field of arts, we have
developed with time and in a changing world. We have ambitions and
visions we cannot always fulfil with our limited resources. The
name, Konstepidemin, is a pun, for infecting people with the epidemia
of arts. Seriously, we work hard to make more connections both with
the local society and with the international world of art. The basis
is always the artistic work and the idea of the arts as a necessary
power source in the society.

Nowadays we run more aware public work and open up for new projects
and temporary activities. We are trying to reach a wider audience
and thus share all the knowledge the artists here have. The growing
activities with young people and children are very, very important.
And the world does not look the same as in 1987, there wasn’t internet back then!

So, most of all it is a working place for the artists, but on the
agenda there is also a lot of public happenings. The single gallery
is now for exhibitions, where you can see around 30 exhibitions every
year. Hnoss, is an artist run gallery dedicated to contemporary
jewellery. Galleri Konstepidemin also have two more experimental
exhibition spaces and a newly started web based gallery.
Konstepidemin arranges public events besides all the artist’s
individual shows and performances. For the young people we run a workshop
program and summer job program called “The Youngs”

and  “the Children’s Academy” gives around 1200 kids an artistic experience every year.

Five guest studios provide work space for mainly international artists.
Konstepidemin is a member of several international studio and culture networks. All
this could not be done if it wasn’t for the efforts of a dedicated group of artists and staff.

The arts program for young people at Konstepedemin,”The Youngs”.

You guys have made it possible for so many artists to create in an
environment where they can have interaction with other artists on a daily
basis. How many artists have studios at Konstepidemi and how hard
it is to get a studio like this?

– Yes, it is based in the spirit of non profit and solidarity. Close to
150 artists work in around 100 studios here. Some share studios and
some are on second hand lease. The main criteria to get a studio on
Konstepidemin are artistic quality and artistic integrity: that you
have a personal, artistic project. There is also an ambition to have a
diversity of art forms represented. We have sculptors, actors,
writers, textile artists, designers, dancers, jewellery and ceramic
artists, painters, performance artists, print makers, poets, film
makers and others.

In fact it is very hard to get a studio, as it is rare that an artist
leave Konstepidemin. Anyone can apply. A studio committee of artists will
decide who will be the lucky one. The people in the committee
changes over time to make the process more democratic.

Outside Konstepidemin in Göteborg.

Do you have programs for everyone? What projects are you the most
proud of?

– No we don’t have programs for everyone, this is most of all a work
place. But in all the things that we do for the public we do try to
be welcoming. There is something for everyone here… All the
productions made for children and adults, all the art that
is created, all the exhibitions, all the stage productions, all the different
workshops… Or perhaps you just want to have lunch in the restaurant or take a walk
in the park with the dog. The condition of the area and houses
accessability is not so much to brag about. The list can be long over
problems like slippery steps, lots of stairs, difficulties for
disabled…. But the hospitality and all the openminded people is what makes
this place.

How long have you been working here? Can you tell me about any
special areas that are close to your heart?

– For five years I have worked as a project manager, mostly for “The Youngs”
in different projects. So a big part of my heart is there, close to
the energy and work of young people. Hopefully to provide a place
for their creativity and to bring them a possibilty to find their own
different expressions and strengthen them in various ways. The main
point of the summer job program is the importance of realizing that
their art, made during the work period here, makes a difference for
someone else. The work is in much built on cooperation, for example, with
The Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital (Drottning Silvias Barn och Ungdomssjukhus),

it is one favorite. I also work as a producer for some of the artists at the producer’s office here.

I think that many families, people who were born and lived in
Göteborg, can tell their own stories related to the former Epidemic
Hospital. For example, my mother was hospitalized here in the end of
1940s. When I started to work here, she pointed out the window where
she stood as a four year old girl, waving to my grandmother because
they did not allow visitors. There are many stories to be told, both
from then and now – the world look different – and that challenge is
for the artistic work and for the visitors.

(foto: Bibbi Forsman)

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  1. Sofie Hjelm:

    I love konstepedemin! wished they had something like this i jönköping

  2. tibor:

    Hej Sofie!

    I really like them too. They are full of energy. It must be one of the keys for doing such a wide range of cooperations and important work.