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  Nr. 70 - May 2004
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Apothiki Art Centre

A major new cultural project will be unveiled to the public at the official opening on Saturday, 22nd May at 8pm.

The "Apothiki" Art Centre is situated in the Kastro area, the historical heart of Paroikia, occupying the site of restored 600 year-old buildings where olive oil and wine used to be stored. The dictionary defines "apothiki" as being a storage place for precious goods, an apt name for somewhere that will now house a gallery of art.

In cooperation with artists, art galleries, foundations and cultural institutions - both Greek and international - this multi-functional space will host contemporary art exhibitions and cultural events and provide a working and living space for artists in residence. With a multi-disciplinary approach and state-of-the-art communications facilities, the "Apothiki" aims at introducing artists and organizations to the "island atmosphere" of Paros - a unique and creative environment that has inspired artists for more than 5000 years - and further develop Paros as a meeting place for creative people from around the globe. The 2004 programme includes 25 artists from 15 countries exhibiting their work over a three-and-a-half month period.

"Apothiki" is the brainchild of Dirk Drijbooms and Hilde Van Lindt who have been visiting the island together for 23 years. "Since we first came to the island, something strikes us every time we set foot on Paros: the purity of the environment in the broad sense of the word, light, air and friendly people that live at a normal pace close to nature in all its dimensions. The key issue, I guess, is the light - the source of life and inspiration for many artists," Dirk explains when asked why they have chosen Paros as the place to make their special project a reality.

"The more we travelled and worked abroad, the more we became motivated and decided to invest in friends and some form of creativity as soon as we would be able to slow down from our hectic travelling and work schedules. From increasingly artificial happiness in our modern world back to basic stuff."

Realizing that they would have to plan their "escape" in stages and that they could not cut all ties with their previous existence, they found in the "Apothiki" project a way to combine their different worlds - bringing their friends and contacts from all over the world to Paros and simultaneously exposing Paros to interesting developments and people from outside the island.

"Even when you are not physically on Paros, a sort of mental webcam helps us to deal with very irrational situations in our daily lives in the much too busy world. It is as if the world is running at a different pace on the Greek islands. It has always been like that," Dirk continues, "Both Hilde and I have been working in international organisations where I often use the example: If tomorrow, you were to install a complete blockade around the island of Paros, the quality of life and the people's self-sufficiency would ensure that the population of Paros would survive. For all these reasons, we call our gallery a centre for the living art and the art of living.

"The 'Apothiki' will always be more than a gallery; our aim is to offer the 130 square metre meeting place to creative people who appreciate art; to be a place where we can create a cultural centre where the artist can be in close contact with their exhibition audiences. We want to offer a space for visiting writers, sculptors, actors and painters to feel welcome to drop in and exchange ideas and attend our "Art Table" sessions and discussions. The contemporary art scene in Athens is developing very rapidly and many galleries and foundations want to escape to the quieter environment of the islands. Galleries are concentrated on islands like Hydra and Mykonos and there is no reason why this should not be possible on Paros too. If you were to make a map of all the working artists, their ateliers and the existing exhibition spaces
and galleries on Paros, you could already create a kind of 'parcours d'artistes' that could attract potential visitors to the island."

Dirk and Hilde are already being approached by people who seem to want to get away from the too business-like approach of big galleries. They have painters from Paros and abroad, sculptors, video-artists from Egypt and the Netherlands and installations from Belgian, Canadian and German artists. They view cooperation with existing cultural initiatives in Greece and abroad as crucial and an isolated initiative as doomed to failure. For this reason they want to combine the visibility of Paros-based artists with the presence of artists and organisations from around the world who are inspired by Greece.

They hope to encourage an informal contact where art becomes more than just a superficial experience and contact between artists, art experts, journalists, gallery managers and cultural institutions reaches a deeper level and touches on the real inspiration of the artist.

"Apothiki" also participates in the "Artists in Residence" programme, Resartis (see www.resartis.org). Members of that network offer the possibility for artists to live and/or work for a longer period in a specific place with appropriate facilities. They are in touch with artists and foundations that want to come to Paros out of the tourist season and work in the "Apothiki" and are able to provide residential space, either in the "Apothiki" itself or in nearby places in the Kastro. The idea is to make Paros attractive to visit in the off-season and experience it in all its beauty and authenticity.

They are also working on an "Art Table" session on the impact of Cycladic art on contemporary artists and have invited experts of the Cycladic Museum in Athens and of the Andros Museum of Modern art to attend a session on Paros. The actual "Art Table" is a specially crafted 8m x 2.5m table which will seat 36, constructed on Paros by Costas Apostopoulos.

It is hoped that IPAC (the International Paros Art Circle) will use the space for exhibitions and "Art Table" sessions; talks are also ongoing with the Dutch Institute in Athens and with contemporary art centres in Beijing for 2005 initiatives. They believe that a good mix of Paros artists and organisations and outside art networks is very important for everyone.

They'd also like to convey their thanks to all those who have supported them so far and who have worked so hard to be ready in time, as well as to the neighbours of the "Apothiki" who have had to bear with the noise and dust for almost three years!

The opening programme on May 22nd will include: a tribute to Yiannis Kaparos with poetry by Stelios Ghikas, Billio Tsoukala, Jeffrey Carson and Stelios Kalamaras; the exhibition "Sweet Greek Memories" with paintings by Eleonora Stol from Holland and photographs by Juan Jose Islas from Mexico; a theatrical performance "Odysseus - Returning Home" by Hilde Uiterlinden and Charles Cornette of the Zuiderpershuis, World Cultures Center, Antwerp and a concert "Notes from Paros" with the Paros Music School and Athens Museum for Traditional Greek Musical Instruments. The centre will be officially opened by the Mayor of Paros and H.E. Claude Rijmenants, Ambassador of Belgium to Greece.

The full programme for the 2004 season as well as additional information can be found at www.apothiki.com. "Apothiki" are working closely with Parosweb and aim to make a virtual visit to the "Apothiki" possible through a webcam installation. Everyone is welcome!
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