According to a recent claim by Liepaja City Council (Latvia) the Center for Culture & Information “K@2” in Karosta, "no longer exists". Liepaja authorities says that “K@2” stopped existing already in May 2006. Why?
This is an urgent call for international support of K@2's activity, in light of an upcoming court case (June 18th 2008) where technically K@2 could cease to exist, and it's activity in Karosta deemed illegal.
The non-profit cultural organization K@2 is _still based_ in the former closed-access Tsarist and Soviet military navy base of Karosta, suburb of Liepaja on the West coast of Latvia. http://www.karosta.lv
The complex of buildings and coordinating persons have been operating
locally, nationally and internationally since its founding in December
2000, with the aim to stimulate positive changes in the society of
Karosta by means of art, culture, education, integration and
cooperation. Its objective at formation was "to create an alternative
solution for improving the current situation in Karosta district by
means of forming a body for culture, education, social and ethnic
integration and cooperation".
K@2 _still have_ a rental agreement made on a 25 year basis with the City Council of Liepaja. Ongoing renovation costs made by K@2 have been reducted from the rent. In the past years K@2 has suggested options to the Council for longer-term solutions to this rental agreement, seeking continuity in the future for K@2's ongoing cultural and educational activity.
However, there has been an unwillingness of the Council to secure K@2's right to continue their work. This is despite the fact that their activity is internationally renowned and has been seen as an exemplary local, national, and international (EU) revered model of 'arts for social change'. Indeed, it may also be considered as a significant factor in the favor of Liepaja, as a potential future Latvian European City of Culture in 2014.
Since December 2007, to try and resolve the building rental issue, K@2 have taken the City Council to court in Riga, and have won several Court cases in its favour.
However, the latest, admittedly desperate, approach by the Council to wrestle future control of the K@2 buildings and surrounding real-estate has been to make the legally-technical claim that the organization which runs them has 'not existed' since May 2006.
This is despite K@2 paying both local and national taxes, and coordinating various productions and events, including a city-sponsored Festival in Liepaja and internationally-attended conferences. K@2 has also received both national cultural funds, Soros and European Union cultural funds for the period 2007-2008. As well as in 2006 receiving the main National Culture Prize from the Latvian Culture of Ministry in the category of “Best project for the Development of the Nation”.
It appears that K@2 is caught in a familiar gentrification process, which has consequences for the future international cultural image and reputation of Liepaja city.
At a time of large-scale renovation of neighbouring military facilities for NATO training use, there has been an increased interest by the City Council in what happens to the nearby buildings, and their real-estate value on the edge of the city's special economic development zone. Previous, since the suburb and docks were released by the Russian military in 1994, there has been a chronic lack of social or infrastructural investment by the City Council. The majority of renovation work has been done by local residents and K@2 itself.
The impressive social and regenerating work of an arts cultural organization, raising the cultural capital of the region, is in danger of being appropriated for economical investments, and independent cultural activity marginalized out of existence in the area.
Liepaja City Council should be concerned about its international reputation as governers of a creative cultural city, wishing to benefit from future cultural and economic benefits given with the status of European City of Culture. It should protect, encourage and support wholeheartedly initiatives such as K@2 in the near and long-term future, not will for them to no longer exist.
I urgently invite you as a concerned cultural worker, artist, developer, activist, organizer and researcher, to support the maintenance of K@2's independent activity in the buildings which they currently rent in Liepajas Karosta, on the basis of work they have done during the period from 2000-2008.
Please fill in your words of support with the following (or a adapted) letter, and fax or send by email to:
Information office of Liepaja City Council:
TO: Mayor of Liepaja City Council
LETTER IN SUPPORT OF The Center for Culture & Information “K@2” IN
LIEPAJAS KAROSTA, LATVIA.
I wish to hereby express my support the maintenance of K@2's independent activity in the buildings which they currently rent in Liepajas Karosta, on the basis of work they have done during the period from 2000-2008.
As goveners of Liepaja City Council, I believe that you should be protecting, encouraging and wholeheartedly supporting initiatives such as K@2 in the near and long-term future, not in court challenging the existance the of an internationally-renowned independent cultural centre.
My impression of Liepaja as a culturally progressive city is partially or wholely based on the work of 'Cultural and Information Centre K@2', and the court cases surrounding their tenancy and their legal existance severely discourages my impression of Liepaja as a candidate for European City of Culture in 2014.
I hereby endorse the appeal of 'Culture and Information Centre K@2' to the Liepaja Municipality to take steps needed in order to resolve the issues surrounding the case in dispute.
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