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for creative experiment, talent development & empowerment of young people throughout Europe

Rajzefiber Biro

Maribor, Slovenia

Rajzefiber Biro, Maribor,  Slovenia

My name is Maja, and I work with the House Society for People and Places. The main theme of the Society is detecting and enhancing the potentials, the hidden potentials, of the inhabitants of the town. I also work with youth, and we have several programs that try to make people participate, so a lot of participation, methodologies, approaches on how to form and co-create their living spaces, as well as lives. One of the things that we have is Rajzefiber Biro, which is concentrated on tourisim in various fields, creating new ways - approaches to tourism on a small scale. Known as nanotourism, which we developed in the Biennale of Design in Ljubljana. 

One of the other things is that we also run a printmaking studio, which is based on classical printmaking techniques that can be developed, adapted to find new approaches of cultural, artistic, and design approaches for the development of printmaking, design, and creating new things that would influence the cultural life of the town. 

Question: If I say "creative space," what’s your image of it? What is a creative space? How would you define something like that? 
Answer: I would define it as limitless. I think that’s my favorite word to define a creative space. 

Q: How does it look? How does it feel? What are the characteristics of it? Is this a creative space? 
A: It is a creative space. It has to motivate creativity; limitless in the sense that everything is open, you can do anything, you just have to be open-minded. Through the feeling of the space that you get once you step in, you see all the equipment, you see all of the colors, all the smells, they are all supposed to help and enhance your creativity. So you manage to step over some borders that you think that you have, but they’re not there, you just have to go step-by-step and not think that ‘this is not possible, this is not possible’ but you can go further. Once that’s established, once you feel comfortable, it just opens up, all doors are open. 

Q: But what about structure, and regulations, and rules, and agreements? Do they need to exist in such spaces? And if so, to what extent? 
A: I would say, if it’s a co-working space where you’re not alone, then yes, then you together define what the structures are, what the rules are. If there are not, if you’re alone, then it doesn’t matter. You are the one that works in it. 

Q: Is the age group from 18-25 one of your target audiences? Do you target them at all? Or do you just welcome everybody in these creative spaces that you run and hold programs? 
A: Everybody. We have some programs especially for youths, but in general, everybody. Everybody can be creative. 

Q: In these special programs that you do, what are the main objectives? Is it to encourage talent or the detection of talent, is it involvement, is it citizenship regeneration, what’s the main aim? What do you try to give them or teach them? 
A: First of all, we try to empower them to be aware of their own potentials. It’s very important that they know that they can do it, that they are able to do it. Then we help to develop it into a tangible project, something that will come out of it, it has to be tangible. It has to be shown. This, again, empowers them to develop more, to go further. So we try to build up the potentials that the people here have. They know the town, we’re trying to revive the town and the people here make up the town. Without the people, it’s just empty. 

Q: What’s your approach to fulfilling this objective, or objectives? Do you presuppose the complete output or do you leave a broad spectrum of possible outputs? Or do you just introduce a space and a method and run wild with it? 
A: It actually goes both ways. So you have methods of, first of all, to approach people, and then you have methods, where they start thinking about what they want. And then, you get concrete and you tell them, you kind of pull out what they actually want. Then you start getting a bit more concrete until the phase where you make it happen. So it’s various approaches. 

Q: But do you have a certain way of speaking or addressing youngsters for collaboration? In what ways is it different, if it’s different? 
A: Specifically for young people, if I can get concrete, once we gather, I introduce myself, I introduce the Society and what we do. Then, they have, because they’re students, they have to have the task to filter out and find out what they think is problematic. And then you work with them, so this has a base, so it’s not just theory. It has to have a theoretical base, where they get to do research in theory. Is it psychological, is it geographic, is it ecological, it doesn’t matter. The field is very broad at that point. So they have to choose, so it narrows down. Once they do that, you start working with them concretely on several projects, like life-size board games, eco-friendly games for cleanliness of the town, they start, in various ways, thinking about their living space and just actually getting into it. Making a change, small-scale change, but it’s there. 

Q: Would you say that there are any common characteristics, any kind of usual suspect profile that comes and participates in your programs? Age, occupation, background, or are they very diverse types of people? 
A: Absolutely very diverse, which is very good because, this is a good thing, because they start interacting and they get input from each other from different points of view, which makes them develop better, more. 

Q: What do you think they chose your organization, your program? What was their driver? What was their mission, motivation, what was the value that brought them to connect with you? 
A: To be honest, we hear all the time that we are doing a good job, for what we are doing for the community of the town. It’s for the people. This is what makes them come and say ‘I want to participate, I want to help, I want to do this.’ Thankfully, it’s becoming more apparent, more and more people come. 

Q: On the other hand, what would you say is the biggest barrier that discourages them from coming? What are the obstacles? What are the barriers so people don’t come? 
A: So this is again a full palette of various types of people that are also against, and most of it is fear. And the previous experience of the deterioration of the town. They are discouraged by it, thinking that they are not capable. That nothing will happen. A lot of people feel discouraged from doing things, they don’t want to, saying ‘nothing’s going to change anyways.’ I think fear is the biggest thing that prevents them from being active by themselves. 

Q: Would you say there is a particularly appropriate medium to reach this age group? Is it digital, physical, informal, is there a particular channel through which they are responding more? 
A: I’d say Facebook is one of the best ways to get youths engaged. With the more elderly, it’s the newspapers. But a lot people respond to Facebook. 

Q: What kind of influence structure or policy should be offered to youngsters, or cultural organizations working with youngsters, from the city/national level? What kind of approach, what kind of spaces, what kind of programs would be best? 
A: I’d say that first of all, they need a physical space, and then they need tools that will allow them to create, to develop. This also includes mentors, people that support them in their ambitions. A bit more positive thinking is very important, especially from the mentors. Then, of course, somebody, some kind of financial support to actually do the things they want to do. Usually they don’t get paid for it, they just get the materials and they do it voluntarily because they are motivated, they want to do it, they want to be positive. 

Q: What do you miss most? What would you change in your organization, with yourself, the national level or state level? What would be one thing? 
A: That’s a good question. First of all, for me, I’d like to have some more time to be able to develop the programs for the youth. Because I’m doing so many other things, I kind of have to be really particular with how I put all my schedules. On the regional level, or the town level, they’re taking steps already, as I don’t know what the outcome is going to be, I can’t say if they’re good or if they’re bad, but there are steps being made to involve youths in the policies of the town. As for Slovenia, comparing the country and the Ministry and my experiences that I had abroad, I would say they are slowly establishing, or at least detecting how to engage youths. But compared to other EU countries, we are very, very far behind. They are not doing anything to motivate them to be more active, even in engaging in projects that would help them learn more in their own fields as it is. So I think they don’t have enough opportunities, or they don’t know about the existing opportunities. 

Q: What would you say is the role, or should be the role, of the educational system, of schools in this process of empowering and collaborating with youth? Do you work with the educational system? Do you liaise with them? 
A: Yes I do. And so far I’ve had very, very good experiences, but it also depends on the individual lecturer. We’ve had bad experiences as well. First of all, being a teacher myself, at least educated as one, they need to change the educational system because it’s very, very old. Having faculties, certain programs still doing teaching on the curriculum that was done 30 years ago is a disgrace. You can’t have that. We are this far behind everybody else. The system needs to be changed, and opportunities for getting experiences outside of the formal educational system need to be established because it broadens their horizons. I mean, you just get more out of it. They will be better experts. They will know more once they finish. I think this is one of the main things that needs to be changed. 

Q: There is always encouraging people to be active in their community. And there are two kinds of people, those who are leaders, and those who just want to be part of something bigger, because basically a community can’t have 100% leaders. Do you think there are some ways to raise leaders, or if they just naturally step out? How do you have a creative space which is available for leaders, but also for those who want to be just participants, not to discourage some of them from stepping in and being selective, but also not to discourage those who only want to be a part? 
A: So maybe this is going to be an interesting experience for you. So we’ve been through this process for a few years, developing actors of urban change, getting people to actually participate. And some people don’t get the fact that participation is not about just telling, people say their ideas, they make them and you tell them what they have to do. Honestly, I had a bit of a struggle with that this year, because I learned that a good leader allows everybody to participate in their own way, but doesn’t tell them what to do directly. He is the support, and that’s it. A creative space supports them, the person that runs it is the support. They need to develop themselves. If you do not develop, you’re not creative in a sense. So, in the end, I kind of understood that I need to leave them alone. If they need something, if they have trouble, I am there to support them. But that goes for everybody, those that are active, those that want to be partially active, and those who just observe. In the end, those who observe helped to us to clean up the street. They were a part of the program, they were participating out of their own free will. It’s kind of a deep core of belonging, and of being a part of it, participating in something that’s bigger. It gives you some fulfillment. You are there just to support them. 

Q: So basically, in these types of programs, there needs to be room so everybody can find their own role, be it a leader, or a participant, or observer and just have the possibility of taking orders as the want, without too much interference from the producer/organization or whoever is providing the space? 
A: You have this limitless space, where everybody gets in and does what they want. You’re there to support them to get further, to develop, to participate, to water the flowers, to construct or to make an exhibition. To be the artist, to be the kid that runs around with water. You don’t tell them what to do, you support them, maybe you direct them a little bit, but they are the ones who develop through that. It’s also being in their experience and the position of growth. Creativity is not just, you know, there for artists. It’s nonsense. Everybody is creative, you just need a space that’s limitless and leaves you with everything open, so you can do what you want to do. It doesn’t have to be high art to be creative.


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