The Centro Cultural Recoleta reopened at the beginning of the year with some serious changes to its programming, which featured a new focus on hip-hop culture, new spaces for art and artists, and a fresh (kind of revolutionary, actually) take on restructuring the way it approach youth programming: let young people be in charge of the programming aimed at young people.
In a program called Clave 13/17, teenagers aged 13 to 17 have the opportunity have a say in what kind of programming they want funding and resources to go toward. “At first, I became a part of the first Clave Committee […] because it was created by teenagers, for teenagers, and no one knows better how to curate a space for young people better than ourselves,” says founding committee member, 17-year old Valentino Grizutti.
When talks about restructuring the center began, Luciana Blasco, Subsecretaria de Políticas Culturales y Nuevas Audiencias from the Buenos Aires City Government, was looking to bring in a fresh perspective to the center in Recoleta. She explains best how the idea came about: “Clave 13/17 as a meeting space between adolescents came after we sent an invitation to young people from secondary schools to come to ‘el Recoleta’ to brainstorm activities. A group of young people formed the Clave Committee, and started to plan their own concerts, literary workshops, hang-outs. We started to work with them to help them organize themselves, not getting in the way ourselves.”
But what Blasco didn’t know at the time was that one brainstorming session would turn into an extensive, youth-driven initiative that has incorporated over 200 teenagers from across Buenos Aires. Grizutti describes the beginnings of the program: “the first Committee was a unique experience, because we were in some way, the ones who founded, named, created, and defined what is now Clave 13/17. We could decide what the space would become.”
Even the ideology of youth-led programming came from young people themselves, and sparks started to fly when the Center came on board. “The space Clave 13/17 has different lines of work,” explains Blasco. “[First] the Clave Committee, which includes ten boys and girls who rotate every year, [and second] Festival Clave…which, in the last year, involved approximately 200 young people and this year involved 300. Also, there are workshops for adolescents which receive more than 400 young people each year, and the youth space on Sundays, which brings in even more.”
As Blasco mentioned, the main project of the Clave Committee is an annual event called the Festival Clave. Imagine the biggest, coolest dance party meeting an art exhibition planned entirely by fifteen-year olds and then put it inside the Centro Cultural Recoleta, and you’ve got Festival Clave.
Blasco is quite happy with the festival’s growth so far: “Festival Clave is a party of adolescents, made for adolescents, in which the [CCR] is filled with energy of people creating and watching, exchanging experiences, spending the day in this building that we’re modifying to be like a small warm and secure city to spend time and connect.” Clave Committee member, 15-year-old Emma Mignogna, describes the Committee’s Sunday afternoon meetings planning for the event: “We plan the Festival Clave and its different stages. From choosing the categories, voting on different ideas for a new logo, meeting with the jury to debate who we’re selecting, to thinking of experiences for the camp.”
The 10-member Committee takes on all aspects of this three-day event at the center, and if the success of last year’s Festival is any indicator, ‘el Recoleta’ is definitely doing something right. Between the Clave Committee, Sunday hangouts, workshops, and the annual Festival Clave, there are plenty of opportunities for teenagers to participate in the center’s activities, completely for free.
Mignogna describes the impact the program has had on her: “Clave brought me the power to expand my ideas and art when I didn’t know where to do it before, and allowed me not only to get to know people who shared the same ideas as I do, but to find new interests as well.”
Blasco sums up the center’s ideology on youth participation: “Because the city is filled with young people who are putting their ideas out into the world with their own words, in their own way, through distinct forms of art and distinct scenes, we feel that there is a place in the Recoleta to invite it in, to let it happen. There are ways that youth culture is expanding and the city is being oxygenated with something new.”
This program is the beginning of what could be an exciting trend of youth-driven civic life in Argentina. With unparalleled access to the internet, communication, social media, young people are more aware and engaged in their communities than ever, so it only makes sense for governmental and non-governmental civic institutions to hand over the reins to those who are actually paying attention to what young people are doing: young people themselves.
With this framework of thinking, the Centro Cultural Recoleta is blazing a new path into the future of democratizing every day civic life and including more people (adolescents) who have traditionally been disenfranchised from participating. Blasco sums up the changes best: “Recoleta is now a place prepared to receive young people with as much energy as they have.”