Toni Attard, Founder and CEO of Culture Venture shares some insights into the creation of Udjenza.
Culture Venture was founded in 2018 as a one-person enterprise providing international advisory and training services for the cultural and creative sectors. As an arts producer, theatre director and occasional actor, I couldn’t hold back from adding creative projects to Culture Venture’s portfolio. The first project was in visual arts with Parallel Existences, a photography exhibition by Alex Attard and a parallel exhibition at the Notarial Archives.
Under partial COVID lockdown we produced theatre shows like Il-Pożittivi inspired by stories of people living with HIV in Malta and Is-Siġra tat-Tin co-created with artists with intellectual disabilities. We also produced our first short music documentary in Japanese. The first concert was in 2019 with Unforgettable by international Tenor Nico Darmanin and the Big Band Brothers. That same year we celebrated the work of Astor Piazzolla in the concert Diablo y Angel led by Flautist Fiorella Camilleri. We also produced interdisciplinary work with Verbi: Mill-Bieb ‘il Ġewwa, a promenade performance art event by Barumbara Collective led by award winning author Loranne Vella. In 2020 we also attempted our first international showcase to promote Maltese artists abroad with our first successful dance tour in Spain by Others Dance Theatre. A few days after launching the initiative, Europe was under lockdown, and we shelved the showcase. As severe restrictions crippled the live arts forcing us to postpone, cancel or put our arts projects on hold, we worked hard to ensure that our international advisory work not only survives but continues to grow online.
Our arts projects were mainly a labour of love with amazing artists and collaborators. However, the production cycle was erratic, and projects were often created in between gaps of international consultancy work. Overlaps made project management quite challenging and at times stressful. The pandemic was a blessing in disguise. A global health crisis, conversations with artists and long moments alone helped me realign my vision and objectives for my work in arts and culture. Whereas I wanted to continue to grow the international advisory portfolio of Culture Venture, I felt that I could never let go of my creative work. Not performing, producing or engaging with audiences for months on end made me want to produce even more. After months of internal thoughts and discussions with my close collaborators I decided not to abandon arts production altogether but develop a new brand that focuses exclusively on arts production – Udjenza.
Udejnza is a tribute to all those we missed in the past months and pays homage to our audiences who keep us motivated to create new and better work. Audiences are where the arts meet, and this encounter may also take place outside traditional arts spaces. Our commitment is to work harder with artists, creative professionals and other industries to help bring the arts back, better and stronger for diverse audiences. Our contribution may be a drop in the ocean, but we are determined to do it with enjoyment, rigour and passion.
In the coming weeks and months, Udjenza will be launching a new website and creating a presence on social media platforms. Whilst the Udjenza creative team will be announcing new exciting productions and events, Culture Venture will focus on new research, training initiatives, international cultural policy design and strategy work for the cultural and creative sectors.
The Culture Venture family is growing and will be welcoming new team members in the coming weeks. It is said that no crisis should go to waste and we’re making sure that we leave these difficult days with enough inspiration to shape our next journey.
Thank you for being part our story and I hope that you will continue to create with us.