Strengthening rural creativity: a conversation with KreativLandTransfer

Interview to Katrin Kappenberger, project manager of KreativLandTransfer, a project dedicated to the long-term strengthening of the CCIs in rural areas.

In the vibrant landscape of cultural and creative industries, rural regions often stand as overlooked canvases. In 2020, the Saxon Association for Cultural and Creative Industries spearheaded a groundbreaking initiative aimed at infusing creative energy into Germany’s rural heartlands, peer-to-peer learning relationships.

To gain deeper insights into the origins, methodologies, and aspirations of a project very much aligned with Materahub’s mission, we had the privilege of interviewing Katrin Kappenberger, a pivotal figure driving the KreativLandTransfer project forward.

So let’s start from the beginning, why was KreativLandTransfer established? And what was the need beyond its inception?

In 2020, the Saxon Association for Cultural and Creative Industries unveiled the KreativLandTransfer initiative, with a mission to bolster the cultural and creative landscape in rural Germany. Benefiting from funding provided by the Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media and the Saxon State Ministry for Regional Development between 2020 and 2023, the project centered its efforts on empowering local creatives.

Through a nationwide mentoring program, seasoned professionals collaborated with emerging talents, fostering a symbiotic exchange of knowledge and skills. Our engagement with 18 partners across Germany encompassed comprehensive support—both financial and structural—contributing to their stabilization process.

The success of this pilot program underscored the necessity of our presence and the potential impact we could have in these often overlooked yet promising regions.

We firmly believe that promoting fresh perspectives and cultivating new value chains offer viable solutions to the various challenges confronting these areas, including demographic shifts, talent drain to urban centers, and limited cultural offerings.

Concretely, KreativLandTransfer would like to serve as a catalyst for cross-sectoral collaborations between cultural and creative industries and small to medium-sized enterprises throughout rural Europe in the future. By fostering tandems, pairing a representative from the cultural and creative sectors with an SME, KreativLandTransfer plans on igniting creative processes, culminating in the development of innovative products, services, and ideas aimed at revitalizing rural communities.  In order to implement these ideas, the Saxon Association for cultural and creative industries would like to work with partner organisations from Portugal (Universidade de Évora), Croatia (Urbani Separe) and Enter Koprivnica) and Italy (Materahub).

Pilot Phase KreativLandTransfer - Credits: Franziska Kurz

As you mentioned KreativLandTransfer was initially funded by the German Federal Rural Development Programme, which is not a programme dedicated specifically to the Cultural and Creative Sector. Can you tell us a bit more on this decision and how you navigated the differences between this program and your project’s objectives?

The Federal Rural Development Scheme (BULE) is a German federal programme operating to guarantee equal living conditions throughout Germany. The programme supports projects that contribute to rural development, focusing on areas beyond primary production such as agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. BULE serves as a platform for testing outstanding ideas and forward-looking solutions for current and future challenges in rural regions, with a commitment to systematic evaluation and dissemination of findings. By providing support to stakeholders throughout rural areas, BULE fosters the creation of pioneering initiatives that serve as incubators for societal progress. Moreover, BULE plays a crucial role in implementing the recommendations of the “Equal Living Conditions” commission, adapting to regional developments and empowering local stakeholders to devise tailored solutions.

Indeed, you’re correct in noting that the Federal Rural Development Scheme may not have been explicitly designed for the Cultural and Creative Industries. However, it embodies the notion of innovation that aligns closely with the specific objectives of our sector. This alignment allowed us to leverage the program’s flexibility between 2020 and 2023, enabling us to adopt a slightly unconventional approach in implementing our pilot project. Similarly, the Saxon Association for Cultural and Creative Industries operates at the intersection of various ministries in Saxony, including the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Transport, the Ministry of Science, Culture and Tourism, and the Regional Ministry.

Recognizing that each ministry may have differing perspectives, our association plays a pivotal role in making the cultural and creative industries accessible and understandable across all political arenas.

Through this mediating function, we strive to bridge the gaps between administrative areas, ensuring comprehensive support for the cultural and creative sectors.

Project Presentation Brussels - Credits: KLT 2024

Moving from the local to the European level, how are you working to expand your efforts beyond Saxony and onto the European stage?

Since its establishment in 2015, the Saxon Association for Cultural and Creative Industries has spearheaded numerous projects aimed at fortifying the cultural and creative sectors within Saxony. However, it has also consistently sought opportunities to engage at national and international levels, facilitating the exchange of expertise and knowledge.

At the European level, the association has been involved in significant projects, notably as a partner organization in two EU initiatives: the Interreg project ‘InduCCI’ from 2019 to 2022, and the Horizon project ‘CORAL’ since 2021. InduCCI focused on promoting the cultural and creative industries in non-metropolitan industrial areas across Central Europe, fostering economic and societal transformation.

Meanwhile, CORAL seeks to decode the dynamics of collaborative workspaces in rural and peripheral areas, integrating them into local and regional policies to unlock new potentials for socio-economic development.

Furthermore, the association plays a pivotal role in shaping the European Capital of Culture Chemnitz 2025 through its flagship project, ‘Makers, Business & Arts.’ This initiative fosters collaboration between individuals from the cultural and creative industries, emerging and established companies, students, and professional partners, injecting new energy and creative strength into the collaborative process.

Furthermore, the association is actively engaged in the European Creative Business Network and maintains close ties with the Representation of the Free State of Saxony to the European Union in Brussels. Through these multifaceted efforts, the association is working diligently to extend its impact and influence beyond Saxony onto the European stage.

Project Presentation Brussels - Credits: LV Bxl