Since 2003, the Greek government has devalued all kinds of arts degrees. Recently, at the end of 2022, it stirred the knife in the wound by voting a presidential decree 85/2022. It no longer grants any proper degree in artistic practices and restricts theatre, music, film and fine arts schools. Therefore, art degrees have a different value than university degrees. In response to this movement, mobilizations were formed, mainly by the young art student community, leading professionals, professors and influential people to speak for the cause.
Here in Thessaloniki, the movement is growing to equal the Athenian demonstrations. Several theatres have been occupied, and marches and protests have been conducted in the image of their artistic practices. Covering the event and willing to do an interview, we were invited to enter the massive Royal Theatre of Thessaloniki occupied for a few days. After a quick check of who we were at the entrance, we went down to the impressive red hall sporting the portraits of Greek actors whose country is the cradle of their art. We were able to talk with Areti and Hara, two theatre students. One is studying in a private school, the other in public.
“Everything is bigger in Athens.”
After closing their schools, the Thessaloniki student movement wants to match that of the capital. Therefore, communication between the two cities is essential. The two communities make their demonstrations almost simultaneously and share the same slogans chanted in the streets. In addition to the relations between the two cities, social networks have greatly helped to highlight the movement.
“We are talking with Athens every single day we are moving together, we are trying to get the value we think we deserve.”
Occupying public theatres, the question of support from the owners was evident to me, and the answer was on guard.
“They want the same things as we do, we communicate with them, and we do meetings altogether with professors […] But right now, we’re closing the theatre, so they are not approving 100%
-They’re not happy, this building is the most popular one.
– But they understand that we gotta do what we gotta do.”
This wave of protest has grown to such an extent that it is the first time that students have closed such important places bringing together professional artists and teachers.
One of the first actions against Decree 85/2022 was a 48-hour general strike for artists, teachers and arts professionals that occurred a few days earlier. As a result, many plays, screenings, concerts etc., were cancelled, bringing up subsequent movements.
“That was a way to show to the government that we are all united, students, professors, professional artists.”
Social media, woah, it exploded, everyone knows what we are doing and why we are doing it. Influencers are supporting it and they communicate as they can”
The crisis that arts students are going through has allowed them to regroup, hence the scale of the movement. The two actresses met during the occupation of the theatre and the demonstrations. It has opened the door to many other vacant demands accumulating since 2003 that reveal the failures of the Greek arts education system.
Art studies in Greece constitute an abyssal issue regarding student rights, recognition and legitimacy.
“From 3 years of studies you can get a bachelor in arts of theater every where in Europe, except in Greece.
Entering a drama school is hard, you invest lots of hours of work and also money.
We have no dormitory, no food […] drama students dont have student card, we are no students basically […] We cannot ask for food, but we can ask for a student cartd and be considered as such.
We deserve it, and it’s weird because Greece should support art more than any country because theater was born here, the art of theater was born here!
It opened the pandora box in many problems that both students and professionals have.”
Due to the two actresses’ harmony, we wondered what the common points were between private and public.
“We have common teachers!”
The first answer may be evident given the situation of professionals. But being a young community, these students share the same dreams, they meet paths at demonstrations but also during auditions. Although, of course, there are differences in the CV, the difference lies in the way of approaching the subjects, but the desire to go on stage or express one’s art freely remains the common denominator to all this movement.
“But I think we all want the same things, we want to perform and create art, everything else is not important. This is what we realize right now, people with the same dreams are gathering, talking and talking about how we are going to get what we want. With Peace and smiles on our faces while singing and dancing in the streets.”
Because the movement is organized during rounds at night in the hall where we are. One coordinator contains the speech, and another takes notes. Topics are decided collectively, and they try to avoid direct dialogues and personal statements. “Of course sometimes there is dialogues, but it’s going pretty well”
For most of these students, this is their first time protesting and acting with such intensity for simple rights, going into the streets. Nevertheless, these demonstrations show a generation of artists who have chosen to protest, avoiding violence and highlighting what they do best and what they are proud of.
“-Some fights are not brutal, if we achieve something we will make it dancing, or just existing outside, that’s what we are.
It will be so nice, I hope someday we will meet all on stage […] sleeping here today, and in five years perform here together.
-And hopefully we will have a degree by then, an upgraded degree.”
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