Like many parts of Sweden, Gothenburg underwent big changes between 1960-80s. There was a lack of residential areas in the main cities and the government was making radical decisions. Old buildings were being torn down to build new residential areas. Areas where artists had their studios were being taken over to create new homes. The artists had nowhere else to move. They found themselves homeless and the city had no other alternatives to offer them.
Robert and Jens were artists themselves. They had just been discussing the issue over dinner and decided to take an evening stroll. They took a turn into a road but it did not take much time for them to find themselves in front of the city's former Epidemic Hospital, a place they knew about, but this time they could see the hospital through new eyes. The place was deserted and shabby, but they could see the potential behind the dust. Their vision was clear: building an Independent Art Centre for all kinds of art. Together with two architects, Bengt Lidström and Sten Henricson, they made an investigation and presented the idea to the municipality. This centre would provide working spaces for a lot of artists but also be a platform to spread art amongst society. Politicians are not easily convinced. To get a response for this project, they needed support and representation from other sectors of the society. They turned to Sören Eriksson, a politician in the city and Joen Holmberg, who worked within the Health Care Sector in Gothenburg to form the first Board of Konstepidemin. Their knowledge on how to organize a project and establish good communication was vital for turning this project into reality.
Overview of Konstepidemin area
Foto: Tommy Wiberg
The area of the former Epidemic Hospital was also a problem both for the state and for the
city. The Health Care Sector owned the buildings but the land was owned by the government. Demolishing the old buildings and rebuilding new ones were possible options. Aware of these circumstances, Robert and Jens started building their case. A case that would benefit all parties.
In 1986 ,the Health Care Sector still had some activities left, but the artists gradually started moving in the premises. In two years the artists took over house after house and the Health Care moved out.
At the opening ceremony in 1987, Bengt Göransson, the Culture Minister stated that ”I could not believe my ears when Robert and Jens first called and wanted to discuss their vision of Konstepidemin... I really could not understand how they could pull this whole thing off”. Today Konstepidemin is settled in the premises of the former hospital, which now operate as 105 art studios and 5 guest studios. All art forms are represented here. There is a well-established Art Gallery and activities for children and young people. Different kinds of conferences and festivals are also held a few times a year.
The vision of Robert and Jens became reality. Today Konstepidemin takes an active part in the cultural life of Gothenburg with a constant effort to make art accessible to people and a part of everybody's life.
On 1 September 2012, Konstepidemin is celebrating its 25th anniversary. 130 artists will be
exhibiting in the gallery; there will be films, plays, music, activities for all ages, and over 30 open studios at the public’s disposal. It is a Bottom-Up! celebration. A Centre founded by artists and still driven by artists.
Read more about
Bottom Up! - Independent Culture and Its Impact on Politics and Society, the theme of TEH Meeting 74 at Röda Sten Art Centre and Konstepidemin in Gothenburg, Sweden, 27-30th September 2012. Read more about the theme and the meeting here
Do you have any good examples of the Bottom Up! theme, please let us know.
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