Today we cover one of the most interesting scenes springing from Porto, Portugal, the CULTURE initiative, by the Brhands Foundation. A wonderful project which envisions a future where thinkers & makers, arts & crafts, and designers all live in harmony, pushing the boundaries of what is imaginable, creating the future of the past.
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In the small city of Gondomar, right next to Porto and the ever-enchanting Douro, there’s a new artistic and design-focused scene springing silently. Out in CovetTown, CoveGroup’s new project of creating a small “city” of all things design and arts & crafts, a little piece of heaven for thinkers and makers, is hell-bent on making this dream happen with the CULTURE Initiative. Therein, Covet seeks to foster, promote, and elevate the future of traditional Portuguese applied arts and trades so that these can have more than a future, but a voice that is heard throughout each and every office, workshop, and street of not only Portugal but the world.
This new project, the CULTURE Initiative, has already garnered the support of various government entities, universities, as well as professional centers, artists, designers, and, perhaps most importantly, artisans with an infinite knowledge passed down from previous generations. The CULTURE initiative isn’t just trying to garner praise and fame for these sometimes forgotten Portuguese art forms, it goes beyond that. It goes beyond even re-establishing their voice in a progressively more metallic & technological world. The CULTURE initiative seeks to keep an almost millennia-old culture from being forgotten by those who inhabit it. Sometimes we forget just what we are and where we came from despite it being right in front of us all along. Of course, spreading it throughout the four corners of the planet is always a bonus, because sharing is another means of which to keep culture & society alive, and just like Joaquim Paulo, a designer that integrates the Brhands team, says about the CULTURE Initiative:
“CULTURE[‘S] (…) main mission is to be able to put artists, artisans, and designers all in one place, to create a synergy where there’s an exchange of knowledge and know-how, and being able to project it onto pieces and elevate craftsmanship through design for the whole world”
The CULTURE initiative is also a means of which to take a break from the hectic growth and international fame all the group’s brands have endured. According to Joaquim, the in-house brands were beginning to lose their touch with their initial goal and focus, that of bringing arts & crafts to the 21st century, and with the CULTURE Initiative they were able to “understand that these values from these craftsmen are a bit forgotten and we want to give them life again through their knowledge and being able to train people, (…) and making these people the face of this project instead of the designers or brands which, usually, are the ones who have more visibility. We want to create this living space where they have all the tools and all the raw material available to be able to do what they feel like doing”.
And the feedback they have gotten from the young designers participating in the CULTURE Initiative has been positive, although not with a few caveats, as most of what is taught here to the more younger (and modern) designers is another school entirely: “this isn’t something you learn in college, this isn’t taught in class, you must be on the field, you must be close to these extremely valuable people, these cultural agents that can teach us how to do”.
And that is precisely one of the main focuses of the CULTURE Initiative: teaching. The future inception of artistic residencies is another focal point of the initiative, providing not only artists from all walks of life but also designers and artisans, with the all the conditions to explore new realms of possibilities, to further enhance their techniques, think outside the box, and, above all, create. It isn’t outright obvious, but it’s right there in the name of the project, for CULTURE is CREATING.
In this first gathering of the CULTURE Initiative, for curiosities sake, the following entities were present:
- AARN – Association of Artisans from the North Region of Portugal
- Allen’s Portugal
- AORP – Portuguese Association of Jewellery and Watches
- APIMA – Portuguese Association of Furniture Industry
- “Portugal à Mão” Association – Centre for the Study and Promotion of Portuguese Arts and Trades
- CEARTE – Centre for the Professional Training in Craftsmanship
- CENFIM – Centre for the Professional Training in the Metallurgical and Metal-mechanic Industry
- CINDOR – Centre for the Professional Training in the Jewellery and Watches Industry
- Designer Raul Pinho
- Designer Toni Grilo
- Diário de Notícias
- FEUP – Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto
- FPAO – Portuguese Arts and Trades Federation
- Gondomar’s Institute of Employment and Professional Training
- Polytechnic Institute of Tomar
- Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave
- ISMAI – University Institute of Maia
- Oficinas Santa Bárbara
- Art Promoter Nuno Ribeiro
- University of Aveiro
- Vista Alegre