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Civic Women: Community Visions
Co-curated by Lydia Matthews and Barbara Benish, Art Dialogue at the KINO, Horaždovice, Czech Republic, July/August 2018 and July 24- August 4, 2019

Bahar Behbahani’s Damask Rose poses a provocative question: what stories and journeys lie concealed within a rose, with its vibrant color, intoxicating fragrance, and sharp thorns? As the national flower of the Czech Republic, the rose can be found in many families’ gardens and is a familiar motif found on Bohemian dinnerware, clothing, embroideries, furniture, etc., as well being a protagonist in local folklore, poetry and music. Omnipresent as it is in the region, this alluring flower is one that many different peoples from around the world identify as a signifier of their own unique botanical, historical, literary and culinary traditions. How do various cultures celebrate and make use of the rose? And how did the Damask rose make its journey from Syria to the Czech Republic centuries ago?

Bahar has invited our eleven Civic Women to offer their rose poems, songs, memoires and decorated objects (e.g., teacups, scarves, embroideries, jewelry, etc) to serve as props that KINO visitors may select when the artist photographs them against a backdrop, culminating in a composite portrait of a rose-loving community. Visitors will explore how roses are embedded within daily life, and what other global cultures may teach us about the potential within this seductive flower. How can we tap into the rose’s essence as a source of pleasure and therapeutic healing?

In mid-summer 2019, in the Bohemian village of Horaždovice, Czech Republic, the local KINO will be transformed into a hub of creative activity, community exchange and collective imagining. This site, built in the1970s during Stalinist-influenced totalitarian rule, survived the first twenty-five years of national democratic reforms after the Velvet Revolution, only to shut its doors two years ago as the town’s population dwindled and more private digital media platforms became popular. But for a short period this summer, Horaždovice's KINO will once again become animated, illuminating possible worlds imagined by local women in collaboration with international artists.

Over the course of one year, these eleven Bohemian women have shared their life histories as well as their visions for a better future with nine artists/educators from the U.S.A., India, Greece and Turkey. These local women contribute to the region's civic life in different ways, including as a farmer, politician, theatre producer, mother, artist, cultural administrator, school teacher, local historian and political activist. What they share in common, however, is that their work manifests a vision for how their community can become a more just and beautiful place.