Centre of Visual Arts and Research

Rita Severis

Executive Director, Costas and Rita Severis Foundation

Centre of Visual Arts and Research

Museum of the Costas & Rita Severis Foundation - Centre of Visual Arts & Research 285 Ermou Street 1017 Nicosia Cyprus


Nicosia, Cyprus

EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2017


Building Bridges from our Past to our Future



The Costas Rita Severis Foundation was established in 1999 as a non-governmental, not-for-profit foundation with two main objectives:The Costas Rita Severis Foundation was established in 1999 as a non-governmental, not-for-profit foundation with two main objectives:

> To promote the culture of Cyprus locally and abroad

> To work for the reconciliation, peaceful coexistence, understanding and cooperation among all communities of the island.

To that end, our motto has been: "Building bridges from our past to our future"; - which is aligned with the slogan the European Commission has chosen for the European Year of Cultural Heritage.


In 2014 the Severis Foundation, with the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and EEA Norway Grants, established the Centre of Visual Arts Research (CVAR) - a permanent home for its extensive collections, within the walled city of Nicosia, only steps away from the line that divides the capital in two.  The location was purposely chosen to facilitate access for our Turkish Cypriot compatriots but also in the hope that one day this dividing line would be erased and the two parts of the city would become one again. 

The Museum hosts a collection of over 1.500 paintings of Cyprus by foreign travelling artists to the island in the 18th - 20th centuries. The visitor can appreciate a panorama of Cyprus's landscapes, monuments, people and scenes of everyday life. Over 500 costumes and textiles showing the development of the Cypriot dress and the influences it received from East and West along with numerous memorabilia from the last three centuries supplement the collection. Special corners of the museum focus on the Maronite, Armenian, Latin and Turkish Cypriot communities. 

The Research Centre, an intergral part of CVAR, provides free-of-charge access to the public to over 10.000 books on history, art and travel, related to Cyprus and the Near East, a large archive of manuscripts, diaries and articles as well as over 20.000 old photographs of Cyprus. 

CVAR is the first and only bi-communal museum in Cyprus, with Turkish Cypriot members on its Board of Directors and a Turkish Cypriot partner (The Turkish Cypriot University Women's Association). It is the only museum that has received Turkish Cypriot schools for visits. We use English as our main language to facilitate understanding by all and where possible we publish materials in all three languages: Greek, Turkish and English. 

In its short life CVAR has become a hub of cultural events and a venue for bi-communal socialisation. In 2016 it was officially recognised by the Government of Cyprus as a Museum. The same year it won a Stelios Award offered by the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation to Bi-communal projects, and in 2017 it won the Grand Prix of the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award in the category Education, Training and Awareness Raising - the only Cypriot institution to date to have won in this category and a Grand Prix.
We focus on the young. We offer free educational programmes that combine fun, games and learning, especially learning about the "other". We are visited by schools daily while members of our staff visit schools and give talks on the history of Cyprus. A new project this year will take the museum "suitcase" to faraway locations, to schools too distant to visit us, so they, too, can learn about our country's past and see samples of our exhibits. The community of each village visited will be offered an evening lecture on aspects of the island's history.
In our efforts to approach the generation born after the 1974 division of the island, which is distant from its neighbours on the other side of the divide, we founded a football team - to our knowledge, the first museum to do so. The young men meet and play with Turkish Cypriot football teams and in the process get to know each other and build friendships. 
Culinary nights with food from different communities and countries provide opportunities to taste the multicultural aspect of our island and beyond. Theatrical performances on themes from our history, bicommunal concerts, film and book presentations, lectures and seminars, debates, temporary exhibitions, and annual conferences provide opportunities for people from all communities to meet and share their common culture. Regular monthly gatherings, such as Music Talks and Read a Painting have developed a steady following. Fashion shows, such as Here come the Brides and Undress the Bride, modelled by Greek and Turkish Cypriot students wearing clothes from the Museumrs"s collections, become live examples of the common denominators the communities share.


This year, in cooperation with various embassies, we are starting a series of lectures on the lesser-known minority communities who have inhabited the island since the medieval period. We will also be hosting a number of gender-related seminars and debates, along with the monthly Women Walk meeting among women from all walks of our society, under the auspices of the Head of Mission of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). 

Through our outreach program we organise cultural tours all over the island so that members of both communities get to know each other and the other part of this divided country. We involve our neighbourhood in street fairs, we organise dances and opera flashmobs in the streets of Nicosia, and we cooperate with the Cyprus Tourism Office and the Nicosia Tourism Board in efforts to promote our cultural heritage.
Through a long-lasting cooperation, the University of Cyprus has been scanning our materials free of charge while CVAR hosts University seminars and theatre performances. Other universities, like the University of Nicosia, Frederick University and the Open University frequently visit CVAR's galleries and hold seminars on our premises.

The appreciation and popularity of CVAR's work translates into a steady stream of donations of all sizes by private individuals who contribute memorabilia, costumes, books and archival material to the collection. By far the largest of such donations was the personal collection of books, memorabilia and photographs of former President of the Republic of Cyprus Glafcos Clerides, which now occupies an entire floor of our Research Centre. 

While from a political point of view the launch of CVAR came at a very timely moment, the same was not true in terms of the economic situation on the island. The renovation of the building started in early March 2013 just before the climax of the financial crisis in Cyprus at the end of the same month. As a result of the "bail-in" that was imposed on deposits and the wiping out of the shareholders of the Bank of Cyprus as well as the austerity measures taken by the Government, the economy suffered a serious downturn from which it is only gradually recovering. Being one of the largest private individual shareholders of the Bank of Cyprus, the impact on the Severis family's finances was severe.

This made efforts to raise funds for CVAR's operating expenses from large corporations, banks and the government very important but at the same time very challenging as the crisis had an impact on all economic activity, with art and culture being relegated low on the ladder of priorities. Thus CVAR's sustainability is at a constant risk. We are a very lean operation depending on a staff of no more than 3-4 persons and a team of trusty volunteers. We are grateful to all of them. 





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