The First World Summit of Community Arts Centers and Networks, 24-28 Sep 2014, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria





“Creativity and Wellbeing for All: Changing the Future!” was the theme of the First World Summit of Community Arts Centers and Networks, organized in Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, on 23-28th of September, 2014, by the International Council for Cultural Centers, in association with the European Network of Cultural Centers and the cooperation with various cultural networks and organizations across the globe, due to the generous hosting of the Municipality of Veliko Tarnovo.

The choice of the theme was rooted in all participants’ year-long experiences in international projects and research, which have so far revealed how people’s participation, in particular co-creation in the arts and in local cultural practices and intangible cultural heritage safeguarding, affects positively their personal wellbeing and thus in the long run improves the overall living conditions and sustainable development in neighbourhoods, communities, cities, and countries.  


World Summit’s participants were 80 representatives of a wide range of organizations, networks, and experts from Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia, united by the shared vision of employing the arts for social change and social inclusion and participation. The Summit’s opening written address was given by UNESCO General Secretary Irina Bokova on the importance of community arts and community cultural centers for the two main recent UNESCO Cultural Conventions, on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and on the Promotion of Cultural Diversity. Rich experiences on community arts and social change projects were shared in the presentation of the main continental networks: Africa and the African Arterial Network, with a presentation on the South African network of community cultural centers, mainly in the Johannesburg region, and the particularly rich experience of the Community Arts Project and the Greatmore Studios in CapeTown; Asia and the Arts Network Asia with an address from Anupama Sekhar, the President of the Asia-Europe Foundation; Europe and the European Network of Cultural Centers and the AMATEO European Network for Active Participation in Cultural Activities; Latin America and the Cultura Viva Comunitaria continental platform and movement together with the Latin American Network of Arts for Social Transformation as powerful grassroots movements that managed to lead to the drafting of national cultural policies in various countries on the continents and served as a main model and inspiration for many of the discussions and decisions of the World Summit.


The Budapest Observatory on Cultural Policies Director, Dr. Peter Inkei, shared his year-long academic research and discussions at international conferences and working groups on various cultural measurements and indexes, in which he consistently noted the lack of any consideration of “community cultural centers” as part of the cultural institutions that should be measured and included in any kind of cultural index, as well as the lack of the notion and field of “community arts” in the same field of cultural policy considerations and measurements. This is absurd considering the fact of how many such community cultural centers exist across Europe and the world and considering their crucial social impact engaging in co-creation people of all backgrounds, ages, disadvantaged groups, disabilities and special needs, immigrants, etc. Dr. Inkei has been proposing the inclusion of cultural indicators such as “community cultural centers” and “community arts” in various UN, EU, American, Dutch and other indexes, and this will be one of the future collective actions and research projects that will evolve out of the World Summit.

On the particular topic of the Summit “Creativity and Wellbeing for All”, the AMATEO European Network for Active Participation in Cultural Activities, fully supported this vision and global movement towards “Creativity and Wellbeing,” sharing their experiences from a previous AMATEO Conference on “Culture, Health, and Wellbeing” in Stockholm, Sweden. One of the First World Summit’s expert speakers, Damian Hebron, further shared the rich experiences of the UK Forum on Arts, Health and Wellbeing which ranges from co-creative programs in hospitals and prisons to various community-based initiatives, which due to the networks and connections established during the World Summit will spread beyond the UK to other continents, towards the celebration of an annual Week of Arts and Wellbeing to be celebrated across the globe.


The First World Summit of Community Arts Centers and Networks was concluded with the collective commitment by national and continental networks and organizations from 5 continents to start building a trans-continental, global network dedicated to the world-wide spread and impact of community/participatory arts. The global platform, provisionally called “CULTURA VIVA”, will build on the already successful and very strong Latin-American “Cultura Viva Comunitaria” continental platform and movement. The concrete steps towards constructing the CULTURA VIVA online portal/platform will be discussed at the next Cultural Viva Comunitaria international meeting in October 2015 in El Salvador, and until then the database with information of organizations partners of the First World Summit and new ones that will join between 2014 and 2015 will be gathered and available at the First World Summit website.

Within the CULTURA VIVA global platform, there will be chapters/networks dedicated to particular themes, projects, and types of cultural organizations working in community/participatory arts involved, and as such there will be specialized CULTURA VIVA Chapter for Community Cultural Centers Networks across the globe. This particular chapter will be supported and coordinated with the help of the International Council for Cultural Centers (I3C), which has been since its establishment in 2008 the visionary and catalyst for the creation and strengthening of such a global network.


The International Council for Cultural Centers (I3C), in addition to supporting the coordination of the informal Chapter/Network for Community Cultural Centers Networks in the CULTURA VIVA platform, will further build and develop a network of I3C associated members: global network of national networks of community cultural centers from all continents.  The reason for associated and not full membership was determined by the participants as a relevant first step, which at this stage allows the specialized networks of community cultural centers to be united in a relevant network that is useful in terms of sharing structures, vision, and needs, but is not rigid and bounding with membership fees or heavy administration and governing elections. Such I3C network of associated members is a light yet constructive first step towards a potential organization of a full-membership global network of networks of cultural centers within I3C with institutionalized membership and governance structure, if such a structure is considered necessary and useful in the future by all constituents of the network.


Through the World Summit, the networks of community cultural centers presented and invited as I3C associated members included: Azerbaijan, Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, the European Network of Cultural Centers (with its constituent European national networks of cultural centers), South Africa, and South Korea. These networks when national are in some cases represented and coordinated by ministries of cultures, in others by NGOs and civic networks, and in third by a mixed system of NGO-government partnerships, and as such any kind of organization or structure, including an individual cultural center in a country could become an I3C associated member, as long as the organization has the shared vision to promote social inclusion and civic participation through community arts and heritage preservation. I3C has located other similar networks in countries that could not be present at the World Summit or where communication has not yet been established, and I3C welcomes any future inquiries and applications towards joining the I3C associated network from countries, networks, and/or individual community cultural centers. The database of networks of community cultural centers will be gathered and available at the I3C website,


The key benefits to individual community cultural centers from the existence of such a global network, regardless of whether one-day institutionalized through membership fees or not, discussed during the World Summit include: needed and useful information and connection among similar networks in order to improve the local and national programs; to develop international partnerships and funding grant proposals and projects; to coordinate research on the social, cultural, ecological, and economic impact of these centers; to help increase the self-confidence and cultural management capacity of the centers and networks; to raise the profile and prestige of community cultural centers before their own national governments and cultural policies as well as before international cultural organizations such as UNESCO, the EU, MERCOSUR, OAS, and all other continental inter-governmental structures in order to seek and secure their support.