The Centre of Visual Arts and Research (CVAR) in Nicosia has been given the highest European award for public outreach in the field of cultural heritage, an EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Award.
The Centre has, in addition to the Europa Nostra prize, also been awarded the Grand Prix in the category of ‘Education, Training and Awareness Raising’.
The awards were handed over late last week during an event on the Centre’s terrace, in the heart of Nicosia’s old city.
Handing the Grand Prix to Costas and Rita Severis, President and Executive Director of the Costas and Rita Severis Foundation respectively, Europa Nostra Vice President Androulla Vassiliou said this was the first time a Cypriot applicant had won a Europa Nostra award in this particular category and the first time that one was awarded one of the six prestigious Grand Prix.
Addressing the event, Minister of Education and Culture Costa Kadis said the work of CVAR contributes in a unique manner to the preservation and dissemination of cultural heritage. He added that it appeals to all communities in Cyprus, highlighting their historical relationships and supporting the prospects of peaceful co-existence.
“The development of the Centre makes all the people of our island very proud and endows the younger generations of Cypriots with a precious institution of knowledge and self-awareness” the Minister said.
“Culture is vital in helping us raise awareness of our shared history and values and in fostering tolerance, mutual understanding and social inclusion” especially now that Europe and Cyprus are facing many societal challenges.
The Minister congratulated Costas and Rita Severis on their project as well as the people of Cyprus who have embraced and supported the initiative.
Speaking during the event, Vassiliou said she felt proud about this award “due to my deep belief and desire for peaceful cooperation between the two communities of Cyprus and my ambition for the eventual reunification of our country”.
The former European Commissioner said that this year, Europa Nostra had received 202 applications from 39 countries. Out of these, 29 winners from 18 countries where chosen and subsequently six winners were selected for the Grand Prix, which carries with it a prize of €10,000.
“This is indeed a great honour for Cyprus but especially for the persons behind the project, Costas and Rita Severis” Vassiliou said, noting that CVAR offers education through culture.
Europa Nostra is at home in Cyprus, said the organisation’s Secretary-General Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović.
“Your awarded project has such a strong symbolic value for Cyprus and for Europe as a whole” Mihailović added and made particular reference to the location of the Centre, next to the Nicosia buffer zone.
“What you have done and what you have in fact managed here in a relatively short period of time is to give back hope, by providing such an inspiring setting for the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities” she underlined.
The Europa Nostra Secretary-General added: “we find ourselves literally by the Green Line”, a cruel reality which divides the historic centre and inhabitants of Nicosia in two parts. “Here we can feel and touch the wall. Not only the tangible one, but also the intangible ones that still remain in the minds of too many inhabitants and some of their politicians of this beautiful, ancient island,” Mihailović noted.
She went on to say that Cyprus has made a great contribution to the family of Europa Nostra. Mihailović said that 2018 would probably not have been designated as the European Year of Cultural Heritage if Vassiliou had not laid the vital ground work during her mandate as European Commissioner.
The Year’s slogan ‘Our heritage: Where the past meets the future’ is also fitting for Cyprus, an island where the past meets the future, Mihailović noted.
She also conveyed one of her “boldest dreams”, to organise during the European Year for Cultural Heritage a major bridge-building event in Nicosia inside the buffer zone and send the message to Europe and the world “that the buffer zone of Nicosia ought to become again a creative zone” where the past meets the future.
Mihailović congratulated Costas and Rita Severis on dedicating a big part of their life “to help the new generations of Cypriots not only to become aware of their rich and shared heritage, but also to fall in love with this heritage”.
Receiving the prize, Costas Severis said he was proud that CVAR has been deemed worthy to be included in Europe’s highest cultural awards for 2017, the Europa Nostra EU awards and in addition to be singled out as one of the Grand Prix recipients.
He added that three years ago, the Centre opened its doors and started its work for peace and reconciliation “underlining our common cultural heritage, emphasizing what unites and not what divides Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and all other communities in Cyprus”.
Ayla Gurel, a Member of the Board of Directors of Costas and Rita Severis Foundation, said that the Centre hosts over 1,500 works of art by artists traveling to Cyprus in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, as well as other memorabilia and costumes. “This is in fact the largest collection of paintings of Cyprus by foreign artists”, Gurel said, adding that CVAR artefacts “tell the story of a common cultural heritage, shared by all Cypriots”.
The Centre was made possible with the funding of USAID, EEA and Norway Grants, UNDP ACT and the government of Cyprus. Kathleen Doherty, US Ambassador in Cyprus, said her country has great respect for cultural heritage and helps to protect it all around the world. Referring to CVAR, she said they contributed 2 mln dollars through USAID. Representing the Norwegian Embassy in Athens, Kristina Sortina said that her country is very proud to have contributed to the creation of this centre through the EEA Grants.
The Thursday, September 14 event closed with pupils and volunteers presenting in the catwalk original underwear the members of the various communities wore in Cyprus from the 19th century to date, with Rita Severis explaining the historic evolution of the Cypriot underwear.