My Cumulus PLUS+ Story by Dr Gordana Vrencoska
Representing the European University – R. of Macedonia
Participated in the Cumulus conference To get there: designing together
April 11-13, 2018 in Paris, France Hosted by CESAAP
“Paris is always a good idea, they say”. Paris has always been the epitome, the very idea of art, design and fashion to me, ever since I was a child. And if your visit is all about art, design, and fashion, Paris will do its magic to harmoniously reveal their past, presence, and future. When I came across the call for Cumulus conference Paris 2018 – ‘To get there: designing together’, the event’s theme and location sounded like a match made in heaven, but it was already late for paper submissions. Luckily for me, I soon noticed the call for Cumulus+ grants and I knew that this would be a second chance to take part in the event. I vividly remember the DRS/Cumulus 2nd International Conference for Design Education Researchers in Oslo 2013, in which I participated with a paper (through the membership in DRS). It was a profound and all-embracing experience – with the key notes, paper sessions, cultural visits, receptions and dinners, networking and the remarkable celebration of the National day of Norway. Cumulus conferences are so well organized. I felt it was about time to take part in another one, this time in Paris.
None of the design faculties/universities from my country Macedonia, nor the other countries from the Western Balkan region, including Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, are currently members of the Cumulus network. Although our rich cultural heritage and amazing arts & crafts traditions spans across centuries of prehistoric, antique, medieval and modern influences, this region has always been a battlefield for religious, political and cultural rivalry. Industrial capacities and modern education developed mostly in the second half of the 20th century, so most of the design programmes are in relatively early stages of development. Our Faculty of Art and Design was established only in 2006, as the first study programme of design in the country. Yet, despite the challenges, we do not want to isolate from the world design scene so we are determined to grow our networks and expand our collaboration with art & design universities and associations from other countries and regions. That’s why Cumulus conferences are the perfect opportunity to exchange knowledge and meet fellow design educators from all over the globe. This was the emphasis of my short address to the delegates at the opening part of the conference at École Boulle, when the Cumulus President Prof. Luisa Collina asked the Cumulus+ grantees to join her on stage.
CÉSAAP, the four Parisian Schools of Art and Design, École Boulle, Duperré, École Estienne and Ensaama were teamed up to host the conference. The “spirit of collaboration” was truly palpable. Going from one school to another, and from venue to antoher, felt almost as an organically formed art performance – it was a multidimensional journey of discovery, encounters and connection. The Parisian design students were brilliant in their creative design/fashion/media presentations, the guidance through their workshops and the exchange of ideas. They were an essential element in these shared environments and experiences, bringing vigor and sense of purpose to the conference. The Sorbonne and its Grand Apmhitheatre, hosting the delegates for the conference opening and the inauguration cocktail, entangled us in the very mixture of grandeur, history and educational excellence. At Sorbonne, we were greeted by Gilles Pécout, Recteur de la région académique Île-de-France, Recteur de l’académie de Paris and Chancelier des universities de Paris.
It was impossible to follow the entire program of round tables, parallel paper sessions and cultural visits – there was so much on offer. Many important topics were discussed: transmission of knowledge, interdisciplinarity, collective approach in design, social innovation, global design systems, crafts in the digital era, sustainability, etc. One of the key debates at the conference, which was quintessentially French, was the round table ‘A View into the Creative Eco-system of French Luxury’ with the CEO of Fendi, Serge Brunschwig , the CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, Nicolas Bos and the Head of visual merchandising at Chanel, Agnès Liely. It was a valuable, first-hand learning about these top companies’ design processes in making fashion & jewelry (the model of collaboration between designers-engineers-artisans), the “orchestration”, the brand “storytelling”, sustainability and how they involve design students in their activities. The cultural visits were not just a cherry on the top but the real flavor of the Parisian experience. I managed to visit CÉSAAP’s master degree programme’s exhibition at Les Ateliers de Paris; Martin Margiella’s exhibition; “Futurs en transmission” at Arts et Métiers Museum; and Sheila Hicks at Centre Pompidou.
The Farewell Gala at the magnificent Hȏtel de Ville, the Paris City Hall, reminded us that every significant achievement should be celebrated in style, as French people do. The conference was success not only for the impeccable organization, the location and the program, but also for the people who came from different parts of the world and put their energy and ideas into creating a real sense of “togetherness”. French hosts have proven that design really matters in society and made us all designers and educators feel respected and important. And for a perfect ending of the evening, going to a boat party by the Seine was a filmsy stroll down the bridges, surrounded by the stunning panorama with Notre-Dame de Paris as wonderful backdrop. It was our last chance to meet more new friends and plot new collaborative adventures. At least, until we get there, designing together, again.
By: Associate Professor Gordana Vrencoska, PhD
Vice Dean, Faculty of Art and Design
European University – R. of Macedonia
Gordana Vrencoska is an interdisciplinary artist, designer and educator. She obtained her PhD from St. Cyril and Methodius University – Skopje and holds an MA degree in Design Studies from Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design, London. Vrencoska is one of the founding members of the Faculty of Art & Design at the European University in Skopje, R. of Macedonia and serves as its Vice Dean for academic afairs since 2011. She teaches Design Methodology, Methodology of Research, Visual Communication, Design Concept and Fashion Design Basics, among others. She was appointed artistic director for applied arts at the XIV Bienial of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean, Skopje 2009; Head of project, mentor and curator for British Council’s “Fashion and Cultural Heritage” project and “Wedding Stories” fashion exhibition; Coordinator and mentor for Erasmus+ “Practicing Design Project”. She has had 13 solo shows and has participated in numerous group exhibitions in Macedonia, Poland, UK, Italy, Germany, Croatia, Austria, US, China and other countries. Vrencoska was a UK Chevening scholar in 2005 and won the Twinings hat design competition in the same year. She has been named as a recipient of the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation NY grant for the year 2014/2015. In 2017 she received the National award for best corporate social responsibility practices for leading the student project “The nature is calling us”.
About Cumulus PLUS+ programme
The aim is to create the opportunity for friendship between people and generate partnership and exchange of knowledge between the different institutions. Cumulus mobilizes candidates with a travel grant to come over to the conferences under the Cumulus umbrella. The target group are academics and staff working in colleges and universities in art, design and media in higher education from different parts of the world and countries less familiar to Cumulusians.