Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash
Lviv Now spoke with the director of America House Lviv Volodymyr Beglov, a former Chairman Of The Board at the Educational Center for Human Rights in Lviv, which works to make Lviv a «city of equality,» about the organization’s values, projects, and goals.
Why is America House opening in Lviv?
Volodymyr Beglov says that after operating successfully for several years in Kyiv, America House has become a prominent cultural and educational center, where various events take place: from art exhibitions to startup organizations such as Camp Innovation.
Recently, the team of IREX (the nonprofit DC-headquartered American Council for International Research and Exchanges) decided to scale, so the America House did so accordingly, and opened its office in Odesa few months ago. This was the organization’s first pilot regional project.
America House Kyiv. Photo from americahousekyiv.org
«We expect that in May, America House will be officially open in Lviv, as it is the «metropolis» of the western region. I am extremely happy about this, because it will be the newest resource center for Lviv youth. We plan to make this environment interesting for the active cultural environment, as well as for technical workers and students. From IT professionals and engineers to cultural managers and activists, everyone will be able to find their place at America House Lviv.»
Who is funding this project?
The America House is launching the organization with the support of the IREX, funded by the US government, as it is an all-American project, the respondent notes.
«US military or political support is crucial for Ukraine, especially at this stage of our history. However, the sphere of culture and education is extremely important too. At the same time, this is not a ‘propaganda’ project, no one is forcing us to fall in love with America, we are simply giving Lviv youth even more opportunities in partnership».
How would you describe the values of America House?
According to Volodymyr Beglov, the organisation will build its work on dignity, inclusiveness, and equality, which are its fundamental values. No less crucial for the team is to promote the full creative self-realization of young people.
«We conducted a small survey among Lviv youth to find out what their association with the United States is. And we concluded that, in fact, democracy and freedom are the things that come to their minds first. These are our values. We can also talk about dignity and inclusiveness.»
The organisation’s director sees inclusion not only as accessibility for people with disabilities or for people with limited mobility. He considers the philosophical significance of inclusiveness in the society where diverse people, despite their differences, have equal opportunities for self-realization.
America House Kyiv. Photo from americahousekyiv.org
Have you already formed a team?
Volodymyr Beglov says that the team is still in the stage of formation. Olha Reiter, a well-known cultural figure and president of the WizArt short film festival, recently joined him, and they hope that the team will grow to five people soon. Currently, the America House Lviv is looking for a communication coordinator, software assistant, and technical support.
«We should emphasise that the team is only part of the American House. All our organizations in Ukraine, Europe, and the world are very active in developing a volunteer network that enables the self-realisation of young people.
In all previous projects, we have developed Skovoroda’s principle of innate volunteering. Hryhoriy Skovoroda, an 18th-century Kyiv-born Cossack philosopher, had the principle of innate work – «love what you do, do what you love», the same with volunteering.»
Accordingly, the organisation does not use a young person simply as a resource, extra hands, or laptop, but allows her to make mistakes, succeed and express her skills and knowledge.
What is your main target audience?
The director says that young people are the core of America House’s target audience. However, these are not just students, but people from 18 to about 35 years old. Obviously, this will directly affect the organisation’s program and the way it searches for the language of communication.
«The 18-year-old generation of Ticktockers speaks a completely different language than my generation of 35-year-olds. However, I hope that we will be able to bring the best youth of our city to the American House.»
How do you see the projects in which young people will realize themselves?
In general, it must be a space-transformer, Volodymyr Beglov believes. At some point, a coworking space can turn into a lecture hall, or may be used as a movie theater. Also, this space will be inclusive, i.e. people with different nosologies of disability will have access to all opportunities.
«It is important to emphasize that the slogan of America House is «a space full of opportunities.» Accordingly, we will have coworking with high-quality equipment, a maker space, where, say, you can create something on a 3D printer. There will be a media zone, which is what inspires me the most at the moment.»
There will be a studio with a large green screen, where participants will be able to record their video blogs for free, or create other video content. In addition, America House is going to provide a radio studio where recording podcasts will be available. The latter is especially familiar to Volodymyr Beglov.
«I had experience working for Radio Skovoroda, where we recorded podcasts, and I also thought of continuing them in the newly created America House Lviv. I’m sure that there will be many young people who want to try themselves in this, and I also hope that we will be able to repeat the experience of Kyiv and Odessa to hold exhibitions: art, photo exhibitions, and various experimental projects.»
America House Odessa. Photo from instagram americahouse_odesa
The American Houses have a kind of pattern it works on, so there will be the same opportunities in Lviv as in Kyiv or Odesa. The organisation’s director compares it to children from a large family – when everyone grows up and becomes different people, but has something in common and each of them is going to eat a turkey at the holiday table on Thanksgiving.
«America House is already actively involved in all-Ukrainian activities. At the Congress of Culture 2021, organized in Lviv by the Institute of Cultural Strategy, America House Lviv had a special project «Guardians of the Galaxy «. We invited, in our opinion, the most interesting guests of the congress. So we already have 12 published conversations in podcast format and in video interview format.»
Also, this year, America House plans to join Jazz Bez – the oldest jazz festival in Lviv and Ukraine, founded by recently deceased Markian (Marek) Ivashchyshyn, one of the leaders of Revolution on Granite and Student Brotherhood. This year, American House Lviv is pleased to invite American jazz singer Ingrid Arthur, who will sing in Lviv and Ternopil. At one time she was the first to perform the famous hit «It’s Raining Men.»
America House Odessa. Photo from the Instagram of the organization Christina Quinn. Chargé d’Affaires of the United States, visiting America House Odessa
Why is this important for Ukraine and Lviv?
After opening in Lviv, America House aims to bring diversity to the circle of international organizations already operating in the city. In line with such neighbours as the Alliance Française, the Goethe-Institut, and the British Council, the organisation wants to take its own leading place.
«For many years, Ukraine has demonstrated its desire to return to the European family. There is much in common between European and American values. Many philosophers call them universal. There are many players and communities in Ukraine that seek to level and undermine them. Therefore, I would call such educational and cultural centers a strengthening of the aspirations of young Ukrainians» – Volodymyr Beglov says.
Translated by Vitalii Holich
You can read a Ukrainian language version of this story here.