As part of the work within the project Visegrad Urban Creativity Clusters Network, our team has recently had its first meeting, with the focus on Education in Creative Economy, in the city of Zlin (the Czech Republic). We would like to share the experience we got there.
Zlin. What is the city like?
The growth of the modern city is closely connected to the famous Bata Shoes company and its social scheme. Founded in the 1920s, Zlin used an industrial American city as a model for its development.
There’s no shoe factory in the city and the focus of the city life has changed as well, now it aims at the development of creative entrepreneurship. The centre of this movement is Tomas Bata University which has over 10,000 students. The University became the basis for the establishment of Zlin Creative Cluster which specializes in industrial design and management in creative economy.
What is the creative component of the University?
The University initiated cooperation of different directions of creative economy and the establishment of UPPER coworking centre. The main idea is to provide the platform for communication for young people, even though they have no experience in creative industries. UPPER is a consulting centre for outside companies. It also has Communication Agency that manages 10 different projects today, one of the most important is Zlin Design Week. It should also be mentioned that students actively participate in all projects as it is part of their university assignment.
The two faculties that play an important role in the Cluster’s activities are
Faculty of Multimedia Communication which specializes in creative fields of design, graphics, animation, industrial and textile design and marketing.
Faculty of Management and Economics. While visiting the Faculty we talked about the concept of cluster in creative industries. This type of cluster differs a lot from an industrial one as it is aimed at uniting people and not at manufacturing process. The main idea of the Creative Cluster development is to support creative work in strengthening competitive advantages of the region by involving people who are ready to become part of the system. It is crucial to realize how these people can benefit from such activities, what they should be taught and how they are motivated. One of the tools is a specially tailored program Design Management aimed at providing knowledge about industrial and digital design management. The idea is to collaborate with the Faculty’s graduates, engage them in giving master classes and conducting workshops as well as assessing students’ project works. To put it shortly, the idea is to combine academic and hands-on experience.
Another result of our visit to Tomas Bata University is the agreement about cooperation between our universities, including student exchange. We discussed the possibility to develop joint programs and semester training for our students in the Czech Republic.
What is Zlin Design Week?
Zlin Design Week is one of the student’s projects successfully implemented in Zlin and it has already taken place three times. During this week, the city changes: there are exhibition pavilions, city tours, conferences, informal events, PECHA KUCHA NIGHT, and competitions. One of the most interesting competitions is Best in Design; it is the same format as Design Talent but has a different name. Young designers compete for the title, € 4,000 reward and the possibility to have an internship at leading companies. Anyone can participate in the competition regardless of the country, which gives students the chance to show their talents in Europe.
What role does the City Council play in the development of the Cluster?
While in Zlin, we also visited the City Council and made an attempt to define its role in the establishment and development of the Cluster. We found out that the situation is very similar to the one in Rivne. On the one hand, the City wants to be involved in the process but, on the other hand, it is looking for its place and role in it. The representatives of the City Council explained that they actively participated in the activities of the Cluster but it would take time to make this involvement meaningful and significant and position the Council as the member of the Cluster.
What is FILMOVÝ UZEL ZLÍN?
Last but not least, our team visited FILMOVÝ UZEL ZLÍN that is located 5 km from the city. It used to be the place where the advertisements for Bata Shoes company were filmed. Today it is an educational and entertainment centre with the focus on film industry which includes an animation studio for children and we were lucky to watch schoolchildren making cartoons. By the way, the children spend time at the studio as part of their afterschool activities.
What did we learn in Zlin?
During our stay in Zlin, we addressed the following question: “What and how to teach in creative economy?” We talked a lot about Zlin Creative Cluster and education in creative economy, about Zlin Design Week as a student project, about Best in Design competition and the coworking centre, about FILMOVÝ UZEL ZLÍN where children are taught to make cartoons.
We realized that the establishment of clusters in Zlin and Rivne faces similar challenges:
Who should initiate the process?
Where to search for funding?
How to get people involved?
How to work cooperatively with the City Council?
How to develop and extend projects?
Besides facing challenges, we found a lot of solutions in Zlin and we will continue our work in the historical palace and garden complex of Villa Decius in Cracow, May 23-25. The focus of the meeting is on city as the environment for creative development.