CITIES CONNECTING THROUGH ART - WeBalkans | EU Projects in the Western Balkans

CITIES CONNECTING THROUGH ART

How one project is helping a Macedonian artist link up with EU counterparts and promote his work abroad.

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Goce Ilievski is an artist from Skopje, North Macedonia, who works with contemporary, traditional, and digital art forms. He has held 12 solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions both at home and abroad, and won many awards for his oil paintings, watercolours, and photographs. His professional journey, however, has not been without its challenges. 

Goce explains that while his family and friends have always been supportive, it is very difficult to live and earn a living as an artist in North Macedonia. “It’s a limited market here but fortunately the internet opens up much wider possibilities. I derive most of my income from other countries and by focusing online, I can apply for many projects and promote my work to new audiences. Otherwise, it would be very difficult for me to live off my art.”

Artists gain much inspiration from exchanging with other cultures, and visiting other countries opens up possibilities for showcasing their work more widely. Goce is no exception in this regard, and when he saw an announcement to participate in the EU-funded CreArt project, he immediately applied. CreArt (the Network of Cities for Artistic Creation) is a network consisting of European cities, and public and private cultural institutions. Artists who participate in CreArt activities are selected through open calls, and benefit from residencies, training and promotion opportunities in the participating cities. 

“I derive most of my income from other countries and by focusing online, I can apply for many projects and promote my work to new audiences. Otherwise, it would be very difficult for me to live off my art.”

Inspiration and connections
Goce’s application was successful, and the project provided him with the opportunity to visit Kaunas, Lithuania, where he stayed for a month and exhibited his work. “Although the timing of the residency was not the best – as it was very cold while I was there! – the people were very nice and warm. I also liked the landscape, and the ways in which their community and infrastructure systems work.”

Apart from inspiration and cultural enrichment, this trip also allowed Goce to overcome his main professional concern: selling his work outside of his native North Macedonia.

“This was a highly valuable experience, as I now have additional channels and possibilities to market my art through my newly-gained connections and skills.”

His study trip included workshops where he learned about building connections between artists and sales agents from different countries, and the promotion of joint artistic cooperation across borders. “This was a highly valuable experience, as I now have additional channels and possibilities to market my art through my newly-gained connections and skills,” Goce says, adding that he believes this was perhaps the main benefit of his experience.

Creating ‘culturally alive’ cities
The CreArt network’s coordinating body is a Spanish cultural foundation – the Fundacion Municipal De Cultura – Ayuntamiento De Valladolid. The partner institution in North Macedonia is the city of Skopje, which joined the project in its second phase. Goce is one of over 380 artists and 65 curators who have already taken part in network activities since its launch eight years ago.

Funded by the Creative Europe Programme, the motto of CreArt is, – ‘When culturally alive, a city is both healthier and freer’. Research carried out by the network has shown the value of artistic creation to local development, not only creating jobs, but also attracting investors and contributing to social innovation. By broadening opportunities for cultural operators, this collaborative platform is playing a key role in creative, social and economic development of cities across Europe.

Photo Credits: Gorjana Jordanovska