The Cerveira Biennial Museum takes place in a small town in the north of Portugal, called Vila Nova de Cerveira, known as “Village of the Arts”, with approximately 9250 inhabitants. And this cultural and artistic project has an important background history that needs to be told.
Long before creativity became a buzzword for new trends in urban planning, art and culture were strategic investments for Vila Nova de Cerveira, which contributed to shape its own territorial identity.
In 1978, Jaime Isidoro, a renowned artist, was challenged by the mayor at the time, Joao Lemos Costa, to bring contemporary art to the countryside, to understand how public would react. That is how he decides to organize the V Edition of the International Art Encounters, giving rise to the I Cerveira International Art Biennial, which happens every two years since then.
With much effort and resilience, the event was persevered to these days, mostly thanks to its founding partners Jaime Isidoro, José Rodrigues and Henrique Silva, the great instigators of this artistic manifestation. Recognized for being one of the most striking Portuguese events of visual arts, it has become the oldest art festival in Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula and is undoubtedly a reference for national and international artistic culture.
The secret of its endurance? For over 42 years, it has been providing a space for meeting, fostering, and stimulating the region’s creativity, cultural decentralization, and internationalization. We have been promoting interaction and dissemination of ideas as an opportunity for the acknowledgement of (inter)national artists, public, community and heritage, promoting their awareness-raising and an intercultural dialogue. Each edition presents more than 600 artworks made by 400 artists from moreover 30 countries!
The Cerveira International Art Biennial is still structured according to the model that characterized it since the 70’s. It includes on its programme: an international art competition, exhibition tributes, curatorial projects, invited artists, representations of national and foreign higher education institutions, performances, artistic residencies, workshops, conferences and debates, guided tours, shows… and so much more! Our commitment? To present to the public the latest artistic and aesthetic trends!
It is a cutting-edge event, a cultural and creative project that not only has created economic profits at local development level, but also caused social change. The Cerveira International Art Biennial proposed to ‘bring art to the street’, as it emerged as a reflection and creation platform of opportunities for changing collective action, enhancing creativity as a driving force and as a bridge between culture, heritage and economy. The dynamic of this Biennial, while a national and international cultural and creative succeeded project, was and still is possible also due to the attraction of international artists and visitors, but above all due to the community evolvement.
This artistic legacy leads us to the presented project - the Cerveira Biennial Museum - which was founded in 2002. Managed by the Cerveira Art Biennial Foundation since 2011, it cannot be dissociated from all this historical background. It is clearly a natural consequence of this successful and long-lasting phenomenon that culturally revolutionized the once rural and calm town.
Therefore, the Cerveira Biennial Museum aims at the promotion of contemporary art and cultural heritage by organizing artistic and cultural initiatives. It holds an important collection, representative of the evolution of the Portuguese and international modern and contemporary art from the last 4 decades. It has moreover 700 artworks, some are awards acquired during the already 20 biennials and others are donations.
The Cerveira Biennial Museum main goals are: the cultural democratization and decentralization; the creation of an intergenerational meeting space between artists and public; the raise of exhibition activity as a mean of reflection on art and contemporary visual culture; the enlargement and development of publics; the promotion of good accessibility and social inclusion practices; the diversity and quality of artistic offer; and the research and experimentation as innovative practices of development and knowledge.
In the Cerveira Biennial Museum we promote, throughout the year, exhibitions from emerging to already known artists, as well as tours from our collection, nationally and abroad. But our activities embrace also a larger cultural multidisciplinary based on citizenship and freedom of creation/experimentalism. An artistic commitment with the heritage was made since the beginning, so we seek to provide experiences with the public in and outdoors. This awareness-raising has grown around tangible and/or intangible cultural heritage, contributing to the town’s sustainable development, which is nowadays an open-air museum, full of artworks. We may say we have been encouraging the production of avant-garde art in symbiosis with the cultural heritage and the territory.
The Cerveira Biennial Museum has a team of 13 employees divided into the following departments: Artistic Direction, Administrative and Financial Management, Educational Service, Museology, Public Relations and Communication, Translation, Public Procurement, Human Resources and Accounting, Workshop Production and Assembly, Reception and Customer Service, and Cleaning and Maintenance.
In the context of contemporary culture, the Museum has a conduct that, having reached the legitimizing entity status, creates opportunities for new generations of artists and favours the training of the future audiences. In this scope, our Educational Service has an extremely important responsibility by assuming the role of interlocutor with the public and culture mediator. Its action is mainly based on the reality of our region, seeking to combat inequalities in the enjoyment and cultural participation, to combat school failure, isolation, and social discrimination.
Annually, there are more than 5.000 participants in the various initiatives we promoted, such as guided tours (in and outdoors), workshops (drawing, painting, ceramics, engraving, digital art, etc.), trainings, creative holidays, and so on, which favours the enrichment of the public's experience. The scope of participants ranges from the school segment of the region (pre-school to higher education) to the senior public of Day Centres and Homes. In this way, we assume the role of a socio-cultural agent. Encouraging a participative dialogue, we stimulate creativity and, above all, develop the ability for observation and contact with contemporary art and heritage.
So our Museum seek the visitants and community involvement all year round - whether through the experience of visiting an exhibition and enjoying a guided tour, either by attending to conferences, ateliers of artistic production, live concerts, watching a performance or a cinema cycle... This is because we believe that the dynamic of our project, was and still is possible due to this interaction between national and international artists and visitors.
Hence, we believe that the Best Museum of 2019 award reinforces and underlines not only the excellence of our work, but also the fact that we are an important Portuguese case study of how the investment on cultural projects can bring positive externalities in what touristic, economic, and social development concerns.
When looking at the future, we aim to broaden our internationalization process, so we can pursue our mission of promoting the contemporary art, through an artistic international language, thus contributing to an intercultural dialogue.
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