Alter-Places is an action-research project with a mission to empower Alternative Cultural Places (ACPs) as pivotal catalysts for innovation in the cultural sector. Investigating and sharing sustainable practices that contribute to a more equitable, eco-conscious, and sustainable Europe.

About this Initiative

Over the last few decades, ecological awareness has emerged on a global scale, reinforced by the Covid-19 crisis. However, these global issues also call for action by those involved at the ultra-local level. Even if political actors and associations are already taking action locally, it's crucial to remember the importance of artists in bringing new imaginations to bear.

In this actual context of social, environmental and political crisis, it's urgent to develop a more sustainable model of society implicating cultural actors, especially on a local scale. Therefore, it is important to emphasize the unique role of alternative culture and art in achieving sustainability goals, and particularly through freedom brought by creative processes and experimentations, explorations of margins and boundaries, and power of expression.

This is where the Alter-Places project & the Alternative Cultural Places (short as #ACPs) come in play. Being at the crossroads of artistic creation and social and/or environmental commitments, the #ACPs act in our local ecosystems as laboratories of sustainable practices in their unique way. Through the experimental aspect of their organization and programming, these places bring “alternatives” from dominant paradigms and emphasize the articulation of ecological resilience, social justice, inclusiveness and vibrant modes of life.

Alternative Cultural Places (short as #ACPs) are defined as interstitial places in the creative city gathering collectives and organizations characterized by:

  • a "do it yourself" approach,
  • focus on exploration,
  • hybridization of artistic practices,
  • possessing a community orientation.

Usually, ACPs are occupying post-industrial buildings and situated in marginalized areas in the cities. They are seen as factories and laboratories of new ways of living together, as well as:

  • urban resilience,
  • commoning practices,
  • keys to support the ecological transition in the urban areas, in which they are located.

Alternative Cultural Places, or #ACPs in other words, experience tensions in their ability to be durable, because of:

  • physical and architectural constraints,
  • a lack of material resources,
  • space,
  • skills,
  • institutional and political constraints,
  • a lack of political support and policies etc.

It is necessary to determine the unique value of informal and tacit knowledge in terms of sustainability of these places that remains unclear, poorly documented or shared.

Alter-Places is a cooperative project about sustainable practices, which explores the value and contribution of sustainable practices implemented by #ACPs in the development of:

  • green,
  • fair,
  • diverse urban ecosystems through collaborative work.

It all started in the autumn of 2023 when the leading partner Association MU which is operating La Station - Gare des Mines in Paris (France), alongside six dedicated partners in Sweden, Ukraine, Croatia, Germany and Canada embarked on a journey with the Alter-Places project.

Taking as a starting point a holistic perspective of sustainability and ecological transition, Alter-Places aspires to explore, taxonomize, map, and disseminate sustainable and innovative practices implemented by #ACPs in Europe, belonging to Trans Europe Halles network. The project involves in-depth case studies of #ACPs facing significant urban revitalization challenges. The project aims to:

  • map #ACPs' sustainable practices in the domains of social inclusion, economic and social innovations, ecological transition, and sustainable policy actions;
  • expand the understanding of how #ACPs can serve as catalysts for ecological transitions through the development of new socio-economic models and artistic practices;
  • provide fresh insights into sustainable innovation by offering a toolkit and training resources to bolster the ecological transition of the cultural sector in Europe.

Major activities

The project will be structured in the following way:

  • a survey on sustainable practices in #ACPs led by the LabEx ICCA (Paris 3 - Sorbonne University);
  • 5 meetings offering a program of activities: panels, workshop, prototypes, visits:
  1. Hybrid meeting during Trans Europe Halles Camp Meeting in Tartu (late May-early June 2024) to focus on cultural actors' issues they experience in their ability to be durable, particularly in crisis context will be the first two steps.
  2. 3 workshops organised in Malmö, Zagreb and Berlin respectively by NGBG (Sweden), CDA / Mocvara (Croatia) and Urban Spree (Germany) in late 2024 to focus on the local context and experiences of the place. It will be the chance to create prototypes to help #ACPs to be more sustainable by tackling issues of different layers: internal organization, artistic programming, audience experience, and relationship with space and aesthetics.
  3. Final event in Paris, La Station - Gare des Mines, in early 2025 as a release of the works and prototypes created during Alter-Places.

Discover who is part of the consortium

Université Paris 13 – via the Université Sorbonne Paris Nord Department

LabEX ICCA – a research laboratory based in France

Trans Europe Halles (international network based in Lund, Sweden)

& the following Alternative Cultural Places:

La Station — Gare des mines (Alternative Cultural Place or #ACP based in Paris, France)

NGBG (Alternative Cultural Place or #ACP based in Malmö, Sweden)

Culture Development Association (CDA) (Alternative Cultural Place or #ACP based in Zagreb, Croatia)

Urban Spree (Alternative Cultural Place or #ACP based in Berlin, Germany)

Izolyatsia (Alternative Cultural Place or #ACP based in Kyiv, Ukraine)

Survey on sustainable practices

  • Are you representing an alternative cultural center being involved in sustainable practices?
  • Do you have around 15min of free time? Is English or French are ok for you?
  • Do you want the sustainable practices of your cultural center to be mapped and studied?

Feel invited to participate in the survey. It is up & running!

The Night of the Arts Festival in Turku 2023

Hybrid panel discussions

  • Curious to attend Alter-Places hybrid panel discussions entitled "Culture and care: rebuilding alternative cultural spaces & ourselves" & "Alternative culture places under crisis: resilience, renewal and challenges", both on 31 May 2024?

Feel invited to participate in Trans Europe Halles annual Camp Meeting #97 in Tartu (Estonia) this year from 30 May to 2 June. The theme is "Art of Survival".

Co-financed by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.