Imagine Europe

“We need to continue to build on the capacity of culture to heal, to bring communities together and to imagine a better way forward through our creative efforts.” – HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, President, European Cultural Foundation

Through our IMAGINE Europe cluster of programmes, we are committed to designing, developing and funding a portfolio of initiatives that tell the stories of Europe and imagine the future of Europe.

In a year that was confronted by the war in Ukraine, we swiftly opened the Ukraine edition of our Culture of Solidarity Fund – the flexible grants scheme that supports cross-border European cultural initiatives in times of uncertainty. We drew on our networks in Eastern Europe and our experience of crisis response during the pandemic to launch a new edition of the fund in solidarity with cultural initiatives in and around Ukraine.

The IMAGINE strand also includes two further flagship European Cultural Foundation programmes:

  • the Europe Challenge, which encourages libraries and their communities to design, test and deliver solutions to local problems that can benefit all of Europe.
  • The European Pavilion programme, which supports artists and cultural projects to work as experimental studios to stimulate critical debate on the future of Europe.

Culture of Solidarity Fund

“We believe that as a cultural exhibitor, we expressed our European sense of solidarity by giving a platform to the voices of those that are directly involved in the most significant events in the region and allowing them to be heard by those audiences who rarely get to listen about these issues from the people that are genuinely affected by them, and not just through numerous distorting intermediary sources.” – Andrew Curry, Samizdat Eastern European Film Festival 2022.

The Culture of Solidarity Fund was initially launched as a cultural crisis response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2020, it has evolved as a philanthropic-public platform of more than 20 co-financing partners, who provide support to a growing range of cultural emergency situations – especially the war in Ukraine.

In early 2022, by tapping into a widespread network in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, the Culture of Solidarity Fund team and partners were able to swiftly identify and support more than 100 emergency relief initiatives and on-the ground actions with larger donations, including 28 projects directly in Ukraine.

Working hand in hand with European partners, our goal through this emergency response has been to support the Ukrainian cultural sector and initiatives that build resilience, solidarity, hope and imagination for a better (post-war) future.

The Fund also supported various initiatives that fight disinformation and propaganda filter bubbles, provide safe cultural spaces and counter forces of fragmentation. From fact-checkers to residencies, from poetry platforms to film screenings, these initiatives worked towards future healing and rebuilding and maintain hope in a peaceful European future based on mutual support and understanding.

By mid-June, we disbursed 78 small- and medium-sized cultural emergency grants with co-financing from: Allianz Foundation, Sigrid Rausing Trust, Fondazione Cariplo, Fondazione CRT, Fondazione CSP, Deutsche Postcode Lotterie (through GLS Treuhand), Zeit Stiftung (through Haus des Stiftens), Bucerius Kunstforum solidarity ticket, Moleskine Foundation and Haus des Stiftens donation campaign.

In September, we also launched a special edition in partnership with EUNIC – the network of EU National Institutes for Culture, which looked to promote the visibility and embeddedness of Ukrainian culture across Europe. After a successful call for applications, 15 cultural organisations in 13 European countries arranged exhibitions, hosted assemblies, screened films, engaged in research and hosted public lectures.

Our partners included EUNIC, with funding from several EUNIC members and with core financing led by the Goethe-Institut (which held the Presidency of the EUNIC network), and the Institut Français and Instituto Cervantes.

The Europe Challenge

“There are 65,000 libraries across Europe. Just imagine if they were all connected. Libraries can connect the local with the European. I see them as a European Social Network.” – André Wilkens, Director, European Cultural Foundation.

The Europe Challenge brings libraries and communities together to define their most pressing challenges. It supports them to find ways to tackle those challenges by recognising that our libraries have a unique role in helping communities to tackle some of these burning issues.

Seven libraries from Latvia to Spain took part in the pilot programme from May 2021 to May 2022 – working on a range of innovative solutions including installing urban beehives at libraries to championing biodiversity and tapping into virtual reality to tackle digital exclusion.

On 9 May 2022, Europe Day, we showcased the stories of these seven libraries and their communities and shared how they worked together to solve shared challenges across Europe. At the same event, we also launched the next edition of the Europe Challenge.

The 2022-2023 edition includes 32 libraries and communities from 14 countries and 29 different locations – from the Outer Hebrides in Scotland to one of the most easterly islands in Greece – representing schools, prisons, universities, volunteer libraries and special issue libraries.

In October, the challenge teams came together for the first Europe Challenge live event in Florence, followed by events in Milan and Sant Boi (Barcelona). Selected Europe Challenge teams took over our Instagram feed to show a behind-the-scenes look at the live events and share details of their challenge topics.

One thing that stood out was that the challenges facing communities across Europe have so much in common – from tackling social isolation to helping to integrate refugees and other newcomers into communities, from dealing with cultural and linguistic challenges to equal rights and inclusion, from challenging fake news to building a more sustainable society…

The challenge teams’ inspiring initiatives were showcased at our Europe Day event in May 2023.

The Europe Challenge was launched in collaboration with the following partners:

  • Democratic Society (DemSoc)
  • Public Libraries 2030
  • Amsterdam Public Libraries (OBA).
  • The 2022 edition of the Europe Challenge is supported by:

  • Fondazione Cariplo
  • the Scottish Library & Information Council (SLIC).
  • The European Pavilion

    “I think that one of the most important things that we are trying to do with the European Pavilion is to open spaces, connecting communities not only transnationally but also across regions. The spaces that we open should take care of the differences, and also allow us to confront, to discuss, to explore ways of doing things.” – Mabel Tapia, Deputy Artistic Director, Museo Reina Sofia

    The European Pavilion programme was created to imagine a cultural space that encourages experimentation and reflection on Europe.

    In collaboration with our partners, we set out to support a European network of arts and cultural organisations that acted as local ‘studios’ for exploring ideas on the future of Europe. More than a physical structure, the European Pavilion and its studios aim to initiate a cultural movement that fosters trans-local and trans-national collaborations and triggers curiosity, interest and imagination across borders, sectors and generations.

    A series of local activities since 2021 culminated in a three-day artistic programme in Rome in November 2022, which was co-developed with Fondazione Studio Rizoma and co-curated by Lesia Kulchynska from Kyiv and the ECF team. The first appearance of the European Pavilion as a public programme in different art institutions of Rome was generously hosted by Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History, Goethe-Institut, German Academy Rome Villa Massimo, Académie de France à Rome Villa Médicis, Istituto Svizzero, Museo delle Civiltà and NERO.

    Bringing together artists, thinkers and researchers from all over Europe, the programme included 20 different local events – panel discussions, talks, workshops, music performances, a virtual reality environment, as well as sculptural and multimedia installations.

    Questions were addressed such as: How, through the metaphor of the pavilion, can we rethink the space and the landscape of Europe? What does a European Pavilion look like and what can it mean? The programme paid particular attention to the rich diversity of languages and voices that make up Europe, including and especially those that are too often silenced or marginalised. Read more about the European Pavilion event in Rome here.

    Other 2022 highlights for the European Pavilion programme included:

    • The Democracy Pavilion for Europe – an international three-day conference in Ljubljana in March 2022, organised by the L’Internationale association in cooperation with ZRC SAZU. This platform was used to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people after the invasion of Ukraine. Delegates discussed a range of issues including democracy, Europe, colonial legacies and contemporary empires, all of which were live-streamed via our YouTube channel.
    • During the Philea Forum 22, which took place in Barcelona from 30 May to 1 June, we co-hosted – together with Philea’s Arts and Culture Thematic Network – an inspiring session on the European Pavilion at Fundació Mies van der Rohe, with various speakers discussing how arts and culture can shape a better future (in times of war). Through the lenses of the arts, culture and philanthropy, we explored ways to imagine and contribute to the effort of rebuilding not only Ukrainian cities and infrastructure but also generating emotional bonds between people across cultures.

    The European Pavilion was developed in partnership with the Camargo Foundation (France), Kultura Nova Foundation (Croatia), and with the support of Fondazione CRT (Italy).

    The following organisations and partners have been involved in the pilot edition of the European Pavilion:

    • Ambasada Kultury (Vilnius – Berlin – Minsk)
    • ARNA (Sweden)
    • Brunnenpassage (Vienna)
    • EUPavilion (Rome – Zürich)
    • Fondazione Studio Rizoma (Palermo)
    • Iniva (London)
    • L’Internationale (Madrid, Warsaw, Barcelona, Ljubljana, Eindhoven)
    • OGR Torino (Italy)
    • State of Concept (Athens) and
    • Studio Wild (Amsterdam).

    Since 2021, ECF has provided grants or co-financed their work as local ‘studios’ which concluded with the first public European Pavilion programme in Rome in November 2022.

    Annual Report 2022 Please visit this website on a larger screen.