The Romanian Cultural Institute (ICR) is one of Romania’s most active institutions in the cultural field. Founded shortly after the Revolution of 1989, ICR became a symbol of the democracy of Romanian culture, both in Romania and abroad. Today, after 24 years since being launched, the institution has 18 cultural centres in various countries, from the Republic of Moldova and Israel to the USA and UK, and each of them has a permanent activity including both events destined to Romanians missing their home country and to foreigners interested to interact with the Romanian cultural environment. ICR Vice-President Liviu Jicman presented us all of these activities, as well as future ones.
You are the Vice-President of ICR since 2013. What is your point of view about the state of culture in Romania?
As a culture consumer, as a person close to the cultural phenomena in Romania after the Revolution, I admiratively witnessed our artists’ performances. As I worked in cultural institutions, I was granted the confirmation of their works’ value and I could get an insight into the difficulties they are struggling with. From my position as ICR Vice-President and given the mission of our institute, I am concerned by the poor financing of culture. It is a contrast between the small budgets granted in Romania to institutions working in this field and our artists’ competitiveness on a global scale. The Romanian cultural personalities deserve the chance to be acknowledged abroad, and Romania will also reap the general benefits. And it is necessary that they would be introduced to wide audiences in Romania, too, not just to high classes, because our society needs culture to gain access to modernity. Investing in culture is in everybody’s best interest. Therefore, the culture in Romania is doing well, but it needs more encouragement and support.
This month, ICR coordinated the sixth session of the Europe – China Cultural Dialogue, in partnership with EUNIC, and will soon inaugurate ICR Beijing. What would the consolidation of relationships between our country and China mean to Romania, culturally?
The nearing inauguration of an ICR office in Beijing means a cultural consolidation of our country’s relations to China. As for the fact that we hosted in Bucharest the sixth edition of the Europe – China Cultural Dialogue, I would love to outline that the mission to organize the most important event of the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) represented a confirmation of the trust and prestige we are enjoying among our European partners. The managements of the Goethe Institute, the British Council, the French Institute, the Cervantes Institute and all the other institutes that are members of EUNIC considered that, after Copenhagen and Luxemburg, the event may take place in Bucharest, under the coordination of ICR.
At the time being, ICR has offices in Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Chisinau, Istanbul, Lisbon, London, Madrid, New York, Paris, Prague, Rome, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Warsaw, Venice and Vienna. Where do you have the most events and where do you enjoy the best feedback from behalf of the audience?
There are essential differences among the countries where our offices are located. This is why there would be no point to make a comparison. The notoriety of the Romanian culture is permanently growing, and you can see that based on the success of the book fairs we attend, of the tours by theatre shows and of classical music concerts on prestigious stages. The success of the Romanian cinema all over Europe is well-known. Our offices abroad build their own strategies depending on the Romanian cultural market and on the limits of their budget. The activity of Romanian cultural institutes abroad, from Chisinau to New York, contributes to a unique objective: presenting quality events in front of an international audience.
’It is important to benefit of a cultural pillar on each continent’
What are the countries you intend to strengthen your cultural relations with in the future and what other offices do you intend to open?
ICR develops cultural projects in spaces where we have no offices, too. An important support in extending our activity geographically is granted by ICR’s affiliation to the EUNIC network. Due to EUNIC clusters in regions where we have no Romanian Cultural Institute, we partially cover the necessity of cultural representation by common events organized with our European partners. After we open ICR Beijing, the ICR network will totalize 18 institutes from a total of 20 announced by Government decree No. 492/2004. The decision regarding the development of the ICR network strategically belongs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Yet, they are seeking our advice, too. Formally, a change in the stipulations of Government decree 492 / 2004 may be made by the Government. I can tell you, though, that, the way I see things, there should be two directions in the development of ICR, when the required resources would be found: on one hand, I think that it is important to benefit of a global coverage, of a cultural pillar on each continent. As an EU member, I think that it is necessary to intensify the cooperation at regional level, as this is the engine of development inside the European community. In order to consolidate Romania’s position as a factor of initiative, to create premises or to facilitate future projects of cultural cooperation, it is necessary to develop ICR in Central and Eastern Europe. I think that better representation of ICR in this region may be a powerful catalyst, so that the cultural operators in Romania would be at the centre of initiative, and not just occasional partners. I am thinking about some of the states that have recently joined EU, such as Croatia or Slovakia, by example, where we have no offices.
How are relations of ICR and the Ministry of Culture and what is your budget?
Institutionally, ICR is in a relation of coordination both with the Ministry of Culture and that of Foreign Affairs. We have a fine communication with the Ministry of Culture and we are mutually supporting each other. My previous professional experience at the Ministry of Culture helped me understand better the specific issues and challenges, as well as those faced by both institutions. As for the budget, this year, just like last year, ICR benefited of the same budget as in 2012. Based on that, we forwarded an argumented proposal to the Ministry of Public Finances. We are looking forward to the answer and we hope that budget resources would allow an increase that is absolutely necessary, now that the institutes’ network has increased and ICR is involved in very important projects for next year. ’
What are ICR’s programs for foreigners in Romania?
Besides Romanian classes for foreigners in Bucharest, we annually organize a summer school in Brasov, were we teach Romanian language, culture and civilization. Our activity inside the EUNIC Bucharest cluster consists in organizing projects that target foreigners in Bucharest, not just the Romanian audience: The Festival of European Film, the European Salon of Comic Books, the Night of Institutes, the Night of Literature and others. We made huge financial efforts to remain the partners of some of the greatest international festivals in Romania: TIFF, the National Theatre Festival, the International Theatre Festival in Sibiu and the Shakespeare Festival. Also, we thought that it would be important for us to be partners of Romania’s first contemporary art fair: Art Safari.
Which are your main purposes for the present and for the near future?
The permanent objective is that Romanian artists could find support at ICR for their international appearances. Hoping that the budget for 2015 will be closer to the planned sum, I wish that the programs in the agenda of our events would gain the best visibility: the Festival of European Film in Bucharest and in other cities of Romania, our projects in the Venice Art Biennale and our other programs of contemporary art. Besides, I wish that the role of ICR in the EUNIC network would remain just as important and that we could support as many cultural projects as possible at international level, by means of the clusters we belong to.