If you have not looked at Swedish contemporary art before, this contemporary art centre is almost a mandatory visit in Göteborg. Paintings created by local and international artists, sculptures, videomontages or even exhibitions such as the Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art are shown in the Röda Sten.
Art centres play a significant role in the cultural and artistic life and education of Göteborg citizens, especially in the case of the youth. Among all these organizations, there is a really special one which outstands from the rest due to its placement, peculiar building and atypical projects and works of art it exhibits: Röda Sten.
Located in a quiet area with a view of the Göteborg harbour, Röda Sten is one of the region’s largest exhibition centres for contemporary art and culture built in a former boiler house at the western edge of the Klippan cultural reserve. It is home for different cultural expressions, ranging from edgy Swedish photography to New York sound installations.
“People’s dedication and involvement have since 1992 run Röda Sten, which today has obtained a natural position on the Swedish cultural map. Interesting meetings occur between artists and the centre members –paying annual membership fees, you can enjoy members’ advantages such as free expositions-, both of which form the basis of the lively activities,” says Mia Christersdotter, managing director of the centre.
Besides the five exhibition rooms, Röda Sten has exciting creative workshops with activities for children from four years old up to adults. It is named Art Educational Programme. You can also find lectures or small concerts there. These cultural offerings are what have made Röda Sten a meeting place for people of all ages and from diverse parts of the world. Its international orientation has generated a great deal of interest far away from Göteborg and, with its motto “We work with contemporary visual art. For us the material is not important, we support good ideas whatever it is the material”, it attracts 25,000 annual visitors per exhibition.
This culture house, which is a non profit organization, receives money from the municipality, government and members’ admissions among others. Even working as an independent centre, it has been receiving annual economic support (1 million SEK/110,000 €) from the city council for more than ten years.
A hot spot for graffiti
Over the last ten years, graffiti in Göteborg has been a usual theme in the newspapers. Even though it is forbidden, graffiti culture in the city is very strong. Murals are all around the city, but if the police catch someone painting the consequences are serious. That’s why a lot of graffiti artists go to Röda Sten to paint, although it is not even legal there.
“Graffiti has been part of the history of this place. We want that everybody can express what they want to express through art, and graffiti is not an exception. We let people come here and paint at the back side of the building; however, in the last two months police have arrested people painting here –something that had never happened before- because it’s a municipal building,” says Christersdotter. This behaviour has put Röda Sten in the centre of many political discussions, and it has even been accused of encouraging an illegal practice. At this time, Röda Sten is working with the city council in a project for defending graffiti within certain limitations.
Wide range of projects
Röda Sten focuses its work not only on the field of exhibition but also in the field of education. Apart from the regular activities, the art centre organizes different courses and temporary expositions.
Among the usual activities, there are two that are necessary to highlight: the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art and the Art Educational Programme. Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, which was born with the aim of exploring the artistic potential of the city of Göteborg through workshops, seminars and guided tours, has been hosted by Röda Sten every two years since 2006. At the Art Educational Programme, children (from four years old), youth and adults work together. This initiative tries to relate its themes to the current exhibition at the building. “Children come to our place and they feel free to develop their artistic skills with our help. Visitors of all ages connect to the exhibitions through their own creativity,”says Christersdotter.