NEU NOW History

NEU NOW – a festival, a creative meeting space promoted artistic excellence and created an international springboard for emerging artists. Every year from 2009 until 2017, the best among graduating artists from across Europe were nominated by institutions, shortlisted by international juries and selected and curated by the co-artistic directors. Both the specific characteristics and the interdisciplinary potential of arts disciplines were showcased through the dynamic presentation of exhibitions, performances, workshops, and artist talks which converged to offer new perspectives. It started as an itinerant festival presented in cities across Europe before settling into a regular venue in Amsterdam.

The pilot edition of the festival was developed as part of the Vilnius European Capital of Culture 2009 celebrations. The NEU NOW concept was viewed as promising, and although the economic crisis created challenges, Carla Delfos, ELIA Executive Director at the time, was motivated to continue to explore different possibilities to further develop this format.

Its curators and co-artistic directors from the very beginning, Paula Crabtree and Anthony Dean, were there not only to steer and guide the conceptualisation of the festival but also to act as mentors to the NEU NOW artists. This dynamic duo dedicated their time and creative efforts to the festival for nine years, and thanks to their motivation and commitment, NEU NOW grew into an international platform that offered ELIA member institutions exceptional value and a chance to showcase their students and boost their careers internationally. 

As the curators and co-artistic directors of the festival since its inception, we have sought to further refine these intentions by continually encouraging a dynamic dialogue between the art forms (design/architecture, film/animation, music/sound, theatre/dance, and visual arts) and presenting as diverse a range of works as possible – work that is well-crafted, intellectually rigorous, artistically astute, and critically reflective of societal concerns.

In their opening speech at the 2010 NEU NOW edition in Nantes, Crabtree and Dean summed up the ethos and the energy brought to the festival.

The process of change, from being an arts student to establishing a professional career as an artist, is an exciting as well as challenging stage of artistic development – both for the individual artist as well as for the viewer – in a regional or national context. Of course, it is even more challenging to undertake this dynamic transformation on an international ‘stage’, but we think that this group of NEW artists are NOW ready to face this challenge!

The selection procedure and main motivation of the artistic directors were to offer the selected students as well as their audiences something different and unexpected. ‘We don’t select works simply for their curiosity value, its experimental nature, or as a means of exemplifying innovative pedagogies’, said Crabtree and Dean in Tallinn (2011). Rather, the artistic director duo was interested in the point of departure, where the emerging artist leaves behind the concern of the academy and moves beyond its walls to make their first steps in the real world.  This, along with the goal to be truly multidisciplinary, is what set NEU NOW apart from other festivals. The works NEU NOW promoted were innovative, socially engaged, and forward-thinking.

Armed with this unique vision for NEU NOW, Paula Crabtree, Anthony Dean, and former ELIA Director Carla Delfos, with the support of the ELIA team, continued to develop, curate, and cultivate the festival. For the ensuing five years after Lithuania, the festival was itinerant, moving from one European city to another each year – visiting Nantes (France), Tallinn (Estonia), Porto (Portugal), Amsterdam (Netherlands), and Glasgow (United Kingdom) – until commencing a three-year residency in 2015 in Amsterdam, housed in the wonderful film, theatre, exhibition, and outdoor spaces of the Westergasfabriek.

After ten successful years, NEU NOW will come to a close, and the visionary work of the two co-directors will be honoured during the ELIA General Assembly in 2018. Throughout the years, the selected NEU NOW artists have used their experiences at the festival to kick-start their careers. As envisioned, NEU NOW was a springboard for these young artists. From winning international prizes like the Student BAFTA and Academy Awards to participating in renowned festivals and founding creative hubs for fellow artists, NEU NOW artists developed varied and inspiring careers within the arts. 

Credits: untitled by Clarissa Sacchelli