On Tuesday, October 23rd, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) announced a two-part challenge grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) in support of the Watch 2020 program.
The announcement, made at WMF’s 2018 Hadrian Gala, was accompanied by news that the Ford Foundation will meet the first half of the challenge, providing a springboard for further engagement. In 2016, the SNF was honored with the 2016 Hadrian Award in recognition of its activities in the field of cultural preservation worldwide.
WMF works to achieve social change through heritage conservation, engaging local communities in the stewardship of culturally significant sites. Each year, the World Monuments Watch brings to the fore a slate of monuments, nominated by anyone interested in doing so, which are in need of timely attention. WMF then seeks to collaborate with local partners in designing a conservation program tailored to the site’s needs.
The SNF’s challenge grant of $600,000 over two years unfolds in two $300,000 stages, the first of which has been met by a grant from the Ford Foundation.
Representatives of the SNF attended this year’s gala, including Group Chief Operating Officer, Vasili Tsamis, who gave remarks. In them, Mr. Tsamis highlighted the timeliness of the WMF’s efforts.
“Today, more than ever, it is essential to reach out to each other, to respect, to appreciate, to celebrate and to preserve our world's cultural achievements. It is essential to share our knowledge and build bridges that unite history, cultures, religions and people. Let's stop and hold our breath for a few seconds. Let's respectfully listen to the silent dialogue these monuments have been carrying on for centuries, in harmony and with mutual respect for each other. Let’s hear from these monuments, who, by disrespecting the passing of time, always remained magnificently current in an absolutely unique and truly spectacular way. It is critically important to understand their makers—different people, cultures, and ideas. Our founder, the late Stavros Niarchos, a true global citizen before globalism became our life's defining element, taught us that it was our shared responsibility to ensure that cultural sites are preserved—and their stories shared—for the benefit of future generations. That’s why we’re proud to partner with World Monuments Fund on the 2020 Watch program, to support conservation efforts that empower community stakeholders around their heritage sites—helping to ensure a sustainable future.”
The work of WMF dovetails with SNF’s belief that physical spaces, as a focal point for community engagement, can serve as a touchstone for the preservation and celebration of our world’s achievements. This belief was a driving force behind SNF’s largest single grant to date, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, completed in 2017, and that belief is just as relevant to the preservation of millennia-old monuments.
The work of increasing attention to culturally significant sites can take many forms. At the same time that the physical nature of monuments roots them firmly in single locality, technology allows elements of significant cultural sites to be experienced around the world. The “Age Old Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul” exhibit open now at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, supported by SNF, demonstrates what this can look like. The exhibit aims to immerse visitors in major centers of world cultural heritage and ancient civilizations, from Mosul, to Aleppo, to Palmyra, and in the process contribute to durable ties between East and West. In this way, monuments can work not only to build bridges with and between community stakeholders, but can also build bridges around the globe.