Crowdfunding and collaboration created a cultural space in Buenos Aires
On Dec. 30, 2004, a fire broke out at the República Cromañón club in Buenos Aires (Argentina) during a concert, killing 194 people. Following the devastating fire, upcoming artists’ spaces and cultural centers were met with stiff bureaucratic resistance.
In response, a group of five young people with little knowledge of management but an extremely strong drive to leave a mark in the city founded the Matienzo Cultural Club, a thriving worker-managed cooperative for artists, actors, and musicians, in November 2008. What they’ve created might serve as a template for groups around the world that are seeking to build sustainable arts spaces.
“We did not know where we were heading or what we wanted to achieve, although we did know that we wanted collective work, an entity that would listen to the community,” says Juan Aranovich, one of the founders. On Pringles Street, in the boundary of the city’s Palermo and Villa Crespo neighborhoods, the Matienzo Cultural Club sticks out like a lighthouse.
“Money has never been a goal in Matienzo, although we had to decide on a model of sustainable business,” Aranovich says. “We wondered if what we were doing had any value at all. The financial system said it did not, because nobody would lend us a cent. We finally decided to do something which we called a ‘Fund of Cultural Investment,’ to see if there were people willing to bet on us.”
The founders decided to turn to the public for support: They presented a business plan and offered to share their profits with those who were willing to invest money in the club. They got 25 investors and reached a capital of one and a half million pesos ($200,000).
In the club’s early days, it served as an intermediate step for bands. Aranovich says that while they have focused mainly on music, theater, and art until now, they want to start addressing social justice issues. “Not to boast, it is clear that our major role is as a cultural center, but we are already thinking of the social transformation through culture,” he says, adding that they are looking into infusing feminism, indigenous people’s rights, media activism, and other issues into their work.
Photograph: © Unsplash