My name is Andreja Kuhar. I work at The Centre for Alternative and Autonomous Production, which is one of the organizations that are now working and collaborating in Tkalka, which is a giant 2500 square meters building in a centre of Maribor. I think, that common point of organizations that moved to Tkalka and started to work last October is social entrepreneurships, cooperatives, social innovations and that kind of stuff. We also have a radio here on the top, and we have fab lab here inside. So it is a great mixture of different organizations with different themes.
Question: How many organizations? How many people approximately use this building?
Answer: I think at the moment around 34 organizations plus desk chairs.
Q: Are they paying rent for it?
A: Yes, they are paying rent.
Q: If I say "creative space," what is a "creative space"? What does it mean for you? How does it look like? How does it feel like? Is it a programme, is it a structure, is it an attitude? How would you describe it?
A: Like for me personally or for the big house?
Q: In terms of what you do at The Centre for Alternative and Autonomous Production.
A: A creative space here in Tkalka has many layers. It is a space, because you have to make a space. You can make a space where you can feel creatively. And you can make a space where you can be like shut down. So it is a space. It is so dynamic. In this house I think it is creative dynamic because of so many different actors, so many different genres from architects, to graphic designers, to cooperatives, to the supportive field for cooperatives and social entrepreneurship, it is also the programmes that are taking place in here, it is all that I guess.
Q: Does the space have any physical characteristics that makes it more creative?
A: Yes, I think it has to be bright in the terms of a physical space. It has to feel open. You can manage to put the stuff into the space so that people want to collaborate. You can put desks into the space where people are somehow forced to sit together. And I think every space needs to have a chill-out place like a social meeting space, because I think these informal meetings and coffees are simply the best, you can discuss a lot of things.
Q: I saw you did some interventions on the stairs. Is it playfulness? Is it a kind of the aim to support this?
A: Yes, I think it is. The aim is to bring this playful sphere into this house. Because I think the creativeness is playful. It also has to have a structure and discipline, but it has to make you feel open-minded too.
Q: So there is the balance between the two?
A: Yes, I think it has to.
Q: And your official title is?
A: Protector of space and shapes.
Q: Let’s say for young people like 18 – 25, do you have any special oriented programmes for them? Or are they just one part of the users?
A: They are part of the users. But when I think now, it is definitely The Creator Lab. It is on one of the floors of the FabLab that is the open source workshop, where you can go and make yourself the prototype, if you know how to use the programs and how to use the machines. They can also teach you how to use these different machines from CNC, to 3-D printer and metal cutter. There are many things in there.
Q: Do you consider also different culture backgrounds for certain users? I mean, there are some Roma associations part of it.
A: Yes, we have also one organization in house that is dealing with the Roma question. They want to integrate the Roma people into the society. One good gesture that they did last year when they saw the need for cleaning service for this house; they did it with mostly Roma people. Now they have a job and they created the service actually.
Q: What would you say is the main objective regarding young people? Could you say is it encouragement and development of their talent, or is it just empowerment? Is there any specific role, or you just do whatever you need?
A: I think everything you just said. Everything plays an important role. What this house Tkalka is providing to the people is. I think we have a lot of good stories inside, like successful stories.
Q: Do you think that people are attracted because they heard about the stories?
A: Yes, I think so.
Q: So they can see that they can do it themselves?
A: I would say this is the basic a lot of times. This is like the basic that attracts people. We also have the skills to lead, you know. There are many initiatives in Maribor that want to be involved or evolved so we have the skills and we have the knowledge to push them forward and to support them.
Q: What would you say about the specific drivers? What are the values? What is the mental landscape of the young people? What is driving them? What is motivating them? What they need? What they look for?
A: Opportunities, chances to make their ideas come true. I think a lot of young people have amazing ideas, but they do not have skills of how to make them true and how to live from them, how to be paid for their ideas. I think everybody needs to have a little bit of entrepreneurship in themselves. But this is not something that they teach you at the school.
Q: What would you say is the main barrier? What discourages young people from coming and participating in these programmes?
A: I do not know. I think it is that they do not have much self-confidence. I talk to a lot of people everyday; somehow I have this role I have to speak a lot to everybody. I do not know, they just are not sure that they can make it, they won’t make it good, I do not know. You just have to try it.
Q: Your role is also to be a host, to be somebody that introduces them to the place. How do you take them into the process that goes in here?
A: Somehow, yes. I am the gatekeeper. This is a joke. But yes, I mainly work by this entrance. Also the organization where I work in is basically the organization that works a lot in the terrain, that works a lot with people, with initiatives, that also provides the support to the initiatives.
Q: What is your experience? What makes the youngsters feel comfortable and welcome? How do you communicate that?
A: What makes them welcome? I think firstly physically when they enter the space that they feel it is an open space. And also that we are kind to them somehow. It is like a small part but an important part. That they feel accepted and you must give them a feeling that they can ask you a question if they have one. You have to be approachable. I think that is basically it somehow.
Q: What would you say? What kind of infrastructure or what kind of policy should be offered to the youngsters so they can develop themselves, so they can be more confident, so they can be more creative, more entrepreneurial? Pick whatever you find interesting either EU, or national, or city level policies, or resources. What would be the most important factor that you would need at your work or they need? Is it programmes? Is it people?
A: I think it is a wide range of everything. The way I see myself in this organization, I need everything of that you just said. Sometimes I need peace, I need to move myself to different place. We need programmes, we need education also in area that we are in. And with these trainings and education we are more and more self-confident. The more touch we get to the people, the more we discuss with the people or different initiatives, the more self-confident we get. So I think that is also the main role for the youngsters. Does not matter if they do not know nothing about something, if they feel integrated, they just have to throw themselves into it. I think no fear just go.
Q: What do you think how could school and educational system help in this field? Should they collaborate or should they do their own programmes?
A: I think we definitely should collaborate, because I think the time of working individually in this small-parts-system is completely over. The school is also not closed life. The school is teaching something. And then when you want to start something on your own and you see that you do not know anything and you have been learning for the life for so long. I think basically the school should be re-written all over like the whole system.
Q: Last most important question, is there anything I should ask you, but I did not and you would like to talk about? What might be the questions?
A: I could say from my experience what young people need to be creative; first to be in a space where they can feel to be free, where they can feel safe, where they have equipment and technology to work with and also training and education, so that they can easily learn how to work with this technology and also with the programs and in different fields; like a whole package that is the creative space for me. Also physically different places where you can think openly, where you can brainstorm, and small spaces where you can clean ideas up and meet with your team. And also people around the young people that can lead them through process that can provide them tools and knowledge and the feeling of security. Where they can also share their experience, where they can fail a lot of time. I think that is important.