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CULTURE MINISTRY CHOOSE A NEW TENANT FOR THE BUDMERICE MANSION

Literary Fund loses a home

SLOVAK writers will no longer be able to call the mansion in Budmerice their short-term home because the Culture Ministry has found a new tenant who is willing to pay more than twice the rent that the Literary Fund, the current tenant, has been paying. The minister stated that the mansion will continue to serve as a venue for literary events and a temporary home for visiting writers even with the change in the tenant. But the Literary Fund is sceptical that this will be the case.

SLOVAK writers will no longer be able to call the mansion in Budmerice their short-term home because the Culture Ministry has found a new tenant who is willing to pay more than twice the rent that the Literary Fund, the current tenant, has been paying. The minister stated that the mansion will continue to serve as a venue for literary events and a temporary home for visiting writers even with the change in the tenant. But the Literary Fund is sceptical that this will be the case.

The Culture Ministry decided to end the Literary Fund’s lease for the Budmerice mansion and sign an agreement based on the market rental price for the property, which was determined to be a minimum of €86,744 per year. The new tenant will be the Dilema civic association which submitted a rental bid of €87,712 and won the tender over its sole competitor, the Literary Fund. Culture Minister Daniel Krajcer stressed that the ministry is requiring the new tenant to continue to use the mansion for the purpose it has served for more than 50 years: as a venue for literary events and creative stays for writers.

After choosing the new tenant, Krajcer held a meeting with representatives of the Literary Fund and Dilema and proposed that they strike a deal.

“What the Literary Fund would pay for rent [of the mansion] it can instead use on stays for artists,” Krajcer told journalists. “It’s the artists that matter, not the Literary Fund.”

Literary Fund objects

But representatives of the Literary Fund have been challenging the potential loss of its tenancy for months. The rent it had been paying was €33,000 a year and that was the offer it made in the Culture Ministry’s tender.

In addition to that rent, the Literary Fund also has been funding the operations of the House of Slovak Writers which was based in the mansion.

Ladislav Serdahély, the president of the Literary Fund, told a press conference that by asking for the market rental price for the Budmerice mansion the ministry was violating its primary purpose: to create conditions for artistic work.

“We are asking whether about €16,000 per year is really such a big burden for the ministry that it must request market rent,” Serdahély stated, as quoted by the SITA newswire, adding that there are a number of such facilities for artists in Europe that are financed from public resources.

The Literary Fund was founded in 1954 to support Slovak writers. In the last five years, 2006-2011, it has received over 17,000 grant applications which it has funded with more than €2.440 million. Additionally, the fund has granted 1,254 scholarships to artists that amounted to over €708,000. In the same five-year period, Budmerice hosted 566 creative stays at the mansion and the average occupancy at the mansion in the past three years was 61 percent, the Literary Fund told the TASR newswire.

Writer Gustáv Murín, the head of the SC PEN organisation, who has actively opposed the way the lease was terminated, maintains that the ministry was not losing money but rather making money from the Literary Fund as the Budmerice tenant, stating that in addition to the €33,000 it paid in annual rent, the Literary Fund invested €210,000 annually into maintenance of the building.

“This liquidation process, although the opposite was formerly claimed by the Culture Ministry, has already caused the expulsion of the artists from Budmerice,” Murín told The Slovak Spectator.

Murín claims that the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, in which Krajcer has a leadership position, intends to destroy the Literary Fund.

“And Budmerice is only a testing stone on how to do it step by step,” Murín added.

The new tenant

The lease agreement between the Culture Ministry and the Literary Fund expired at the end of May and the fund has been asked to vacate the mansion by the end of June. The ministry plans to sign the new lease in August.

“The signing of the rental contract will be preceded by several negotiations; the contract can be signed for a maximum of five years,” Eva Chudinova, the ministry’s spokesperson, told The Slovak Spectator. She also said the ministry will retain the authority to determine whether use of the mansion continues to meet the primary condition defined in the tender: serving as a venue for artistic events and stays.

Some Slovak media have expressed questions and concerns about the viability of the Dilema civic association, noting that the association has not been very active since it was founded in 1998. The head of the association is Milan Resutík, a writer and translator, who served as Slovakia’s ambassador to Bucharest from 1993 to 1996.

The Literary Fund said the degree of potential cooperation between the departing and arriving tenant, which Minister Krajcer is seeking to foster, will depend primarily on the price that Dilema sets for stays at the mansion.

Serdahély stated that even if the Literary Fund and Dilema do not reach an agreement for use of the Budmerice mansion, the Literary Fund can still support creative stays for Slovak writers as it has two other lodging facilities, with smaller capacities, in Piešťany and Vysoké Tatry.

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