CESTA (Cultural Exchange Station in Tábor) is an international not-for-profit center established to foster cultural understanding and tolerance through the arts. Since 1993, CESTA has concentrated its efforts on international arts festivals, community projects, group exchanges, residencies, and the development of an informational global network for artists in all fields of artistic expression and cultural production.
The concept of cultivating cultural understanding and awareness through the arts is based on the recognition that traditional dialogue has its limits and prejudices. Through an open and flexible environment, CESTA strives to challenge these limits in a contained context and present alternatives for use in a larger context.
Our location in the Czech Republic provides us with a keen perspective on a transitional society, both ideologically and economically. In effect, CESTA is a laboratory where committed cultural work takes place alongside community-building projects. We do not see CESTA as so unique that our activities will not translate across cultural lines or societal values. Rather, we pursue a course of one amongst many projects -- the many including the known and the unknown.
Art, to us, is not limited to the abstract, the ethereal, but includes social awareness. Thus, the sociopolitical aspect of cultural work is inherent in all of our productions and processes, from our events to our administration to our facility design.
Our founding principles are based on the need for improved communication on a global level. We seek alternatives through creative expression, challenging artist and audience to face traditions, affirm cultural imperatives and articulate individual process through artistic collaboration.
Often contemporary art is difficult to interpret, yet it is even more frequently censored. Perhaps this is because the work is not as difficult to interpret as to accept. We see the artist as using a base language that supersedes traditional interpretation, but which undeniably describes their (our) environment. By broadening our scope of understanding and widening our source of information we can discover new ways for us all to cross barriers of intolerance and isolation.
CESTA is committed to developing communication through creative expression. We view ourselves as a laboratory where experiments in theory and practice have room to develop. Interdisciplinary collaborations encourage us to cross traditional communication barriers both in process and presentation. Collaborations involving participants with different cultural backgrounds catalyze the emergence of contemporary and historical perspectives on a given theme.
Through the selection of themes for our Community Events (e.g. Women's Cafe, Open Cultural Net), and our International Events (e.g. Lying, Orient to Occident, Facing Gender, 'At Home' Abroad), we intend to provoke a sense of social awareness while providing an accessible, non-threatening and creative approach to real and sensitive social issues.
As is the case in many Central and Eastern European countries, development of the "third sector" (a term used to describe non-governmental agencies, charities, non-profit associations, etc.) is an important element in balancing the impact of a free-market economy. Until now, the definition of the third sector in the Czech republic has been too vague and too broad. As the state argues over the relevance of the third sector, cultural organizations are finding themselves excluded from new laws regarding non-profit status. Many worthy projects have already faced closure, while still more are struggling to survive.
We are opposed to the argument that a democratically elected government means there is no longer a need for any other kind of activity to serve the community's needs. On the contrary, developing partnerships is the key to survival and growth. The third sector needs legitimacy and visibility in order for real participation to be accessible to all members of civil society. As a not-for-profit organization CESTA actively promotes and advocates cultural work in the third sector by collecting and sharing information about the changing laws in the Czech Republic.
It is no secret that the industrialization of the Czech republic left in its wake severe environmental damage. We designed the CESTA center's renovations to include eco-positive elements in an attempt to serve as a model for other projects in the region. We use local materials to adapt our industrial facility to include renewable energy sources, alternative waste management systems and sustainable architectural designs.
Our intentional implementation of these techniques in a multi-purpose facility introduces lesser-known, but desperately needed technologies to an audience which otherwise might not have the opportunity to see how they work. Additionally, people already working in green-conscious community development will have one more example to reference.