Tatiana Rais is the Director and founding member of Espacio Odeón: Centro Cultural, a non-profit cultural centre in the heart of Bogota. She is one of the 2014 winners of the British Council Young Creative Entrepreneur Award, which celebrates young entrepreneurs from around the world who are pioneering at the intersection of culture and technology. She speaks to Aesthetica about reimagining a ruined theatre and the cultural life of the city.
A: What does it mean to you to be one of the winners of the British Council International Young Creative Entrepreneur award?
TR: It was an absolute honour to have received the British Council YCE Colombia award for the culture category. At first, what excited me the most, was the opportunity to be able to attend the Remix LDN conference, but being here now has made me realise that Remix is just the tip of the iceberg. It is an amazing to privilege to get to know other cultural and creative entrepreneurs, working in such different regions of the world, and to learn that we are all trying to overcome similar obstacles. Being a British Council International Young Creative Entrepreneur means that I am now part of an incredibly talented and motivated community with great opportunities to collaborate and network and I very much look forward to working with all of the 2014 Culture YCEs in the coming months and years.
A: Can you explain to me the idea behind Espacio Odeón: Centro Cultural?
TR: The main idea behind Espacio Odeón, is the creation of a contemporary cultural centre that breathes life back into an abandoned theatre. We seek to create unique experiences for our audience, inviting national and international artists to create their most innovative work. Without the commercial pressure of a gallery or the institutional pressure of a museum, artists really have the opportunity to explore and create unique works. Recently we also started working with contemporary theatre directors and troupes to bring back scenic and performing arts to our iconic space.
A: How important is it to you that art is accessible to everyone?
TR: At the core of our belief as an organisation is that art, and culture more generally, is a tool that is absolutely instrumental for the development of society. For this reason, all our exhibitions, lectures, film screenings and most workshops are free. We actively work trying to engage the local community of La Candelaria (one of Bogotá’s most unequal and impoverished neighbourhoods) in our programme by giving everyone the opportunity not only to see art, but also to interact with artists. There are few spaces in Bogotá were people from all walks of life can come together regardless of age or socioeconomic status, and our goal is for Espacio Odeón to become one of these spaces.
A: Your organisation works out of an abandoned, historic theatre in the heart of Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, why did you want to work in this way?
TR: I’ve had some experience working with abandoned buildings in the past. During university, I interned with Asher Remy-Toledo, the co-founder of No Longer Empty; a New York based organisation dedicated to recuperating abandoned spaces with temporary exhibitions. This business was very inspiring to me in making me realise how important it is to rejuvenate these types of run-down and forgotten spaces. I feel strongly that abandoned buildings are metaphors for an abandoned society and that as we begin to reawaken these spaces with art, culture and creative initiatives, we begin to reawaken the community as a whole. The first time I walked into Espacio Odeón, I was amazed that such an iconic building had been so forgotten and how important it would be to reopen its doors and revive it through art and culture.
A: What projects do you have planned for the future?
TR: One of the main projects we have is in the construction of the building itself. We want to create a formal entrance where visitors can access information not only about the exhibition but the history of the building as well. We want to create a resource centre, where students and other visitors can access information on contemporary art practices in Colombia. This will be accompanied by a WIFI zone as well. This year, we have been running a film programme where we project a movie twice a month on the facade of Espacio Odeón, an event that is free to the public and part of our community outreach work. We hope to continue with this project and expand it. It’s beautiful.