If the opportunity arises…

Jana Travnickova opened the first contemporary art gallery in Pilsen last year. 

Jana Travnickova adjusts a bag, which is a piece in the newest exhibition in her art gallery.

Jana Travnickova adjusts a bag, which is a piece in the newest exhibition in her art gallery.

She comes out of the gallery. Long hair that jumps at her back, smiling eyes and a modest smile. Jana Travnickova, currently studying intermedia art in Pilsen, opened the gallery in November 2014. But it’s not just a gallery. Vestředu is the first gallery in Pilsen that exhibits the work of young artists, graduates and also students. Travnickova is ambitious. If she hadn’t had the idea to open the gallery, Pilsen probably wouldn’t have this platform for young artists. 

It’s an interesting fact, but not totally surprising either, because the city will be the European Capital of Culture in 2015. This prestigious title is given to two cities in Europe every year, which then receive funds to support new cultural projects. This program is titled Pilsen 2015. 

Last year, Travnickova realized that there is no venue, platform or whatsoever for art academy students, graduates or fresh artists to show their work. She got the chance to open their own contemporary art gallery with two other students. They went to the offices of the municipal corporation and found a space in the city centre. They were lucky that Pilsen is the capital of culture in 2015. Because of that, Pilsen 2015 is supporting the rent. ‘’I would have opened the gallery also if Pilsen wasn’t the capital of culture. It makes it easier that they are because they are supporting our rent, but we’ve also got a grant from Vodafone. They are sponsoring us.’’

Travnickova is almost 29 years old. She was born in Kojetín, in the region Moravia and studied digital media in Libarec, a city in the north of the Czech Republic. Before coming to Pilsen, she worked for a few years in Prague. Pilsen seemed like a nice place to study. ‘’First, I wanted to study intermedia art in Prague, but I wouldn’t get a student fee there and here in Pilsen I do have it. However, and this is the most important reason: I came for the teacher, Milena Dopitova. She teaches at the studio and is a well known conceptual artist in the Czech Republic.’’ 

Art students prep the gallery for their upcoming exhibition.

Art students prep the gallery for their upcoming exhibition.

‘’I think this is the most important thing among many students — they want to learn from a famous artist. Our university in Pilsen doesn’t have many professors with names. In Prague, they do have famous artists as teachers. That’s the reason why that city attracts so many art students. No one wants to stay and create something here. We need to change that. It starts with school,’’ she explains.

‘’Nowadays a lot of young people are going to Prague during weekends, but also after their study. Prague is only an one hour drive from Pilsen away and there is still more to explore, to do, and it seems that there are more opportunities. I’m not from Pilsen, but I’ve worked in Prague before. Even now that I have this gallery, I think after I’m graduated, I would not stay in Pilsen. My dream is to go to New York.’’ She says it like it’s never going to happen. 

Jana comes from a family that doesn’t understand art. ‘’They think that the work of Picasso can be done by everyone. They only see a picture, but don’t see the meaning of it.’’ 

Jana is checking the exhibition before the opening

Jana is checking the exhibition before the opening

In her first year, she made shapes looking like figures having sex. The shapes made movements, suggesting some erotic behaviour. Jana herself was proud at her work, but till today she is scared to show her work to her parents, because they probably won’t understand it. ‘’In the Czech Republic, this is a common thing. It’s because of the old totalitarian regime. The elderly people aren’t used to provoking art, nor do they understand it, nor do they accept it,’’ says Jana.

Tomorrow will be the opening of gallery’s next exhibition. Students from the fashion department are busy preparing the exhibition. Shoes and bags, each in a specific design will be shown to public. The students from the fashion department are hanging the last posters at the window and having a final look at their work before they leave. Jana is there to guide it all. She stands in the room with an uncertain, but at the same time confident smile. She can be proud of what she has accomplished so far, with and without the understanding of others. Where she will be after graduation? ‘’Well, that’s a question.’’ But now it’s time for beer.

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