O Espaço do Tempo: 20 years of residencies, struggle to recover the heritage, and relation with the community


In  September 2000, exactly 20 years ago, together with 2 friends, Bruno Heyndericx and Eva Nunes, at the invitation of Carlos Pinto de Sá, our  generous mayor at that time, we rolled up (literally) our sleeves and started Espaço do Tempo. We cooked, made beds, ran after snakes, cleaned rooms and studios, and in that first year, even painted the facade of the Convento da Saudação… Years of countless residencies followed, a constant struggle for the rehabilitation of the building and many creative adventures. Today, and after a first phase of emergency works to safeguard the monument, with funds granted at the end of 2018 by the Minister of Culture, the works at the Convento da Saudação are in full swing.

But for this to be able to happen, a vaulted ceiling had to collapse in a studio where, until a few days before, Jefta Van Dinter, one of the most renowned European choreographers, had been rehearsing, and a public manifesto was signed by 150 of the most respected intellectuals and public figures in our country, as well as some key figures in European culture…The total rehabilitation of the building, led by the City Council, and in this second phase financed mostly with European funds (let us not forget it) and after countless meetings with successive Ministers of Culture and official entities, as well as a tireless struggle of years for it to pass to the possession of the our city, will allow Espaço do Tempo to return to its original space and be able to develop an artistic project of excellence in the future, but also a community-oriented program, always aiming at the economic development of our territory and a cultural program where everyone can be part of. In fact, this adventure would not have been possible without a deep relationship with our community: there are no artistic projects without the corresponding socio-cultural project, without a fraternal and dedicated relationship with the territory, and this means becoming involved in associative life, with all the school fabric, with the economy agents and especially with the citizens. Due to the beginning of the works we had to leave Convento da Saudação in 2019, having moved twice to spaces where we did, of course, more works … And in 2020, like everyone else, a pandemic caught us.

Resilience, not stopping, keeping our program intact, there was no option. Along the way, we lost some dreams and some collaborators, people who gave us their best and helped us to build what we are. For each of them, our recognition.

In 2011, the year in which the first crisis hit us like a juggernaut sparing no sector of society, the budgets for Culture were brutally reduced, namely with a 38% cut (which we learned, like everyone else, by reading the newspapers…) Our answer at that time was to double the number of residencies, from the 36 that we had at the time, to about 70 that we still have today (apparently the country got out of the crisis in 2016, but the artists never did…). Countless creators came to Espaço do Tempo, almost just for a meal, a rehearsal studio and a smile from our team. But it was essential not to stop, to contribute to an entire generation that was emerging at the time, not be erased from the map.

And today here we go again, because in face of this crisis there can only be one answer: to seek support and alliances and not to drop those who have the right – because they have the talent – helping them to assert themselves and not stop creating. We can all become poor, but we cannot stop dreaming. And who was there to support us was a new and very important sponsor, the La Caixa Foundation, as well as a longtime partner, Montado do Freixo do Meio, an faithful companion of so many other projects and who will receive, next year, dozens of residences. In the wonderful rural surroundings of Freixo, we will open a new and magical residence space, a place of creation shared with an agro-ecological project of reference in our country. This season we will host more than 100 residences, making us feel hugely responsible and taking us back to this historic moment of the foundation of Espaço do Tempo, 20 years ago, when we started welcoming artists on a very simple scale.

These have been times of countless challenges, such as testing all the artists that come to Montemor in residence, imposing a strict security protocol, masks, as well as a physical distance in the antipodes of our DNA, but that we are obliged to comply with. Where once a meal was the meeting point and place for all fertile human and artistic contaminations, today the meal trays are left in the kitchens of each apart- ment, in a sterile and artificial ritual that we scrupulously perform. This is yet another crisis with outlines still unclear, where the bridges we once built are now replaced by strange sanitary walls. But we move on in the face of the circumstances of history. Another 20 years of creative adventures await us. This will only be possible if this place of creation is also a place of trust.

Rui Horta