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Pikene på Broen

Kirkenes, Sør-Varangers municipality, Norway

Pikene på Broen (Girls on the Bridge) is a collective of curators and producers that aims to inspire cross-border cooperation and cultural exchange between Norway and Russia. Over its 20 year history, the organisation has undertaken a range of cultural projects that provide new perspectives on the north and generate discussion on themes relevant to the local area.    

Cross-border cooperation in arts and culture

Pikene på Broen demonstrates how, by cutting across culture and politics, art can be used as a tool to strengthen regional identity and increase the attractiveness of an area for young people and others. The initiative has also been successful in challenging the contemporary global view of the North as dominated by natural resources and heavy industry.

A platform for dialogue on issues relevant to the north

Since its establishment in 1996, Pikene på Broen has realised both large and small-scale projects at the cross roads of different art genres on both sides of the Norwegian-Russian border. The regular events, workshops and exhibitions target the local community, and engage with the national and international art community as well as with audiences who travel from Russia and the other Nordic Countries. For example, the Transborder Café, which brings together experts and involves the audience in an open discussion forum related to current political and cultural issues relevant to the North on both sides of the border (e.g. the refugee crisis, the ‘information war’, re-development of Kirkenes). The discussions draw on contributions from artists, musicians, writers, politicians and researchers.

Local action promotes international cooperation

Pinke på Broen has achieved the following outcomes:

  • Providing an avenue through which to reflect on and discuss local themes and issues from a different perspective.
  • Developing a common regional identity in the Barents region has helped shape a new identity for the town of Kirkenes after closing down of the mine.
  • Building of cultural bridges with northwest Russia.Encouraging youth creativity, critical thinking and engagement in issues relevant for their local area.

Right time to establish an organisation

Access to funding, political support and integration of the local community into artistic productions have been crucial for establishing and running the organisation. External factors, such as strengthening of the cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region since 1993 and opening of the border with Russia, have also played an important role.

Strong resourcing raises profile

Pikene på Broen has received extensive funding from local, regional and national authorities in Norway, as well as international organisations such as the Norwegian Barents Secretariat. This has made it possible to attract qualified and talented curators and artists from around the world.

Key learnings for municipalities

Pikene på Broen’s approach of using culture as a ‘soft diplomatic’ tool has been used to facilitate dialogue and local development in other border areas across the world. There is a potential to apply this approach in other rural and remote areas as means of increasing their attractiveness, particularly for young people.

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Page last updated September 2016.