CULTURE

Innovative open arts venue to breathe new life into Omonia

Not far from Omonia Square, Anaxagora Street, which leads off the busy Pireos thoroughfare, still carries memories of the area?s better days, when the well-oiled machine of Athenian commerce would hum day and night.

Following the Athens Olympics in 2004, Anaxagora suffered the general decline experienced by the wider area, becoming a part of the city center?s no-go zone, where few apart from drug addicts, gangs and prostitutes dared to tread. However, while this might act as a deterrent to most, the team behind the Bios cultural center further down Pireos Street, led by Vasilis Haralambidis, courageously chose Anaxagora as the location for its new experiment. The lively, multifaceted cultural center that has provided a springboard to an entire generation of new local artists has just celebrated its 10th birthday and will be setting the pace for the next decade with a new investment.

The Bios team was drawn to Anaxagora Street by a well-hidden example of Athenian modernism: the building that once housed Nikos Theofanidis?s publishing house, which produced some of the most successful titles in postwar Greece. The building?s archetypal modernist facade continues to exude the dynamism of the publishing house?s heyday, especially as the signs of its three biggest publication series — Romantzo (Romance), Pantheon and Vendetta — are still in place and are a central feature of the Bios team?s plans for the building.

The renovation of the structure began this summer with the removal of all additions made to the building after the 1960s so that it can be returned to its near-original state. There is not much historical information to go on regarding this small diamond in the rough, other than that it started out as a single-story building in the late 1930s and began operating properly during the Nazi occupation. Theofanidis added the top three floors in order to accommodate his equipment and staff.

What Bios is planning for the 3,000-square meter Anaxagora Street building now is an art incubator that will accommodate 30 studios for young professionals in creative lines of work (graphic designers, photographers, fashion designers etc). In exchange for low rental fees, the tenants will have access to certain materials and advisory and secretarial services, as well as Bios?s promotional know-how and exhibition spaces, which will include an entire floor in the Anaxagora Street building.

There will also be a recording studio, with the ground floor functioning as a concert and theater venue, and a bar that will be open to the public.

According to Gabriella Triantafyllou, a key member of the Bios team, the response to the project so far has been remarkable, with a number of the studios already booked for when the center goes into operation, slated for around Christmas.