Introduction to the 10 years of STEP Beyond Travel Grants eBook

"(…) the travel grant has been monumentally important to my professional development. It gave me the ability to interact, collaborate and learn from artists working across many different disciplines and from different cultures and backgrounds. This has, without a doubt, affected the way I view art and the potential for my own career as an artist. I have maintained strong bonds with both the host organisation and the other artists on the residency. I am currently working on collaborative project proposals with other artists whom I met through this opportunity. This ECF grant will continue to affect both myself and other artists for years to come, enabling us to see things from different perspectives, work in different environments and shape the art we make both now and in the future."

—STEP Beyond grantee, travelling from the UK to Morocco in 2012

Over the past ten years, the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) has supported more than 1,800 trips across 59 countries through our STEP Beyond Travel Grants programme. Mobility is important to us, as it contributes to our goal of supporting cultural exchange and creative expression across wider Europe. In fact, ECF’s commitment to supporting and stimulating the mobility of artists and cultural change-makers dates back to a time long before STEP Beyond came into existence. The origins of our organisation, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2014, lie in the idea of culture connecting Europe and providing a solid basis for its future — which is also why the Foundation played a pivotal role in setting up the well-known Erasmus Programme in 1987.

For decades we have been advocating for mobility to take a prominent place on the EU political agenda, as we believe that travel is essential for challenging stereotypes and gaining understanding of the value of European diversity. Simply meeting other people face-to-face, sharing knowledge and finding others whose talents complement yours can truly kick-start a project and set a chain of transformative ideas in motion. As one of our grantees Daniel Han put it “it’s all about planting a seed from which something can grow.” We believe that giving those seeds the opportunity to disperse and take root plays an important role in building societies that are more democratic, open and inclusive.

The tenth anniversary of ECF’s Step Beyond Travel Grants programme in 2013 represented a milestone. It was a moment to look back at our results so far but also, more importantly, to start looking ahead at the years to come and the changes we hope to catalyse. This publication takes a look at the past, present and future, and gives a voice to the people involved in the programme as well.

The first part of the publication is a short film that focuses on three grantees, and the impact that the grant has had on their work. The second part reflects on ECF’s promotion of mobility and celebrates the many inspirational developments, initiatives and change-makers that we have met during ten years of STEP Beyond Travel Grants. Finally, the third part of the publication looks ahead, at an evolutionary path that STEP Beyond Travel Grants could take. It focuses on one of the major challenges of our times, sustainability. What role can arts and culture play in the transition that we need to make to a more sustainable society? And how could the STEP Beyond Travel Grants programme contribute to this development?

We warmly invite you to join us in stepping beyond the borders of today’s society and considering the challenges, opportunities and dilemmas for our mobility grants programme and where it may lead us ten years from now.

Special thanks goes to the Open Society Foundations, our partner for STEP Beyond travels for the Southern Caucasus and Turkey, for co-funding this publication.

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