New plans for Mylos blend art with pleasure

When the Mylos arts complex opened to the public in 1991, it pioneered a new way for presenting art events and set what soon became a successful trend, not just in Thessaloniki but in Athens as well. Its innovation was twofold: Mylos (which is still privately owned and financed) was essentially the first venue not just combining entertainment with cultural events but also in converting a disused factory (a mill built in the mid-1920s and active until the mid-1980s) to an entertainment space. Similar projects followed, and as the mood of urban planning at the time favored the transformation of neglected industrial areas into new usage, areas such as Psyrri and Gazi in Athens or the Ladadika in Thessaloniki soon came into vogue. But in a sense, this new awareness both of the urban environment and of culture began out of Mylos. By now this distinct way of combining arts with entertainment in downtrodden urban areas has become customary, so that the value of spaces like Mylos lies less in «eccentricity» but instead in how they help bring art to a broad, mostly young public. This is not easy to do. For while the live music and lively bar and nightlife scene at Mylos may draw a mixed crowd without great effort, art exhibits – which as a rule are less popular – do not. This is perhaps one of the reasons that the visual arts program of Mylos has abated in recent years, despite the established artists it had hosted in the past. Having hosted renowned music groups and performers (Philip Glass, David Byrne, Vayas Con Dios and Michael Nyman are some of the international artists that have performed there), Mylos has nevertheless been lagging behind in the field of visual arts. To change this waning situation, Mylos recently began with a new visual arts program for which it engaged the Art Box arts management company to plan and implement. During the past year Mylos has hosted exhibits such as the Balkan video festival (organized in the context of a forum on the art of Southeastern Europe by the Center of Contemporary Art), a photo exhibit on images of war from Afghanistan, on the Cypriot artist Andreas Savvas, on performance artist Sia Kyriakakos and, currently, on the young artist Nikos Papadimitriou. Central to its new program is the idea of introducing young artists to the public but also creating a lively atmosphere by showing performances. Work by the Serbian Irwin group and another performance by Kyriakakos is scheduled for the future. Another objective is to gradually create joint productions with other institutions. Forthcoming collaborations with the Center of Contemporary Art have already been scheduled and work is being done for further networking. It is hoped that the crowd that frequents Mylos’s ouzeri and nightclub and attends its music and performing arts program will gradually be drawn into the complex’s art gallery as well. Either way, the visual arts project now under way poses an interesting challenge both for the organizers and the audience, but is also interesting for pointing out how important art management and the framing of art have become for art and its reception.

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