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Get to know the lecturers of the first Runway | Culture professionals course

Experienced audience development professional Leonie Hodkevitch taught in Trenčín how to work with different types of audiences and how to develop it 

Leonie Hodkevitch was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and raised in Vienna, Austria. She earned her Master’s degrees in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Spanish Philology and French Philology. Leonie’s fascination and commitment to culture led to founding the platform Clearly Culture pursuing inclusion through innovative educational programs. Leonie is also a founding director of the Cultural Management Postgraduate at the University of Vienna and a long-serving member of the Jury of Experts to the European Union. She teaches Cultural management for distinguished universities across Europe and the U.S. 


In her workshop, Leonie worked with topics such as gaining, educating, and attracting audiences, engaging diverse communities and especially 'atypical' audiences. Leonie is convinced that audience development tools include cultural mediation strategies, relationship marketing and community building. Her workshop participants take this acquired knowledge into everyday practice, in which they learn how to implement tools and strategies and how to look at the same issue from a new perspective. 



How can cultural managers in Trenčín achieve more people to come here for cultural events? 

The magic wand is building relationships with your audience. Audience Development is all about creating and maintaining relationships and communities. If we want our audiences to visit regularly and bring friends, we cannot keep them at an arm’s length distance. 


What cultural events did you have the opportunity to visit during your stay in Slovakia, or in Trenčín? 

I had two evenings only on the first I arrived late. So, I did what I love most with these two evenings, taking an extensive walk through this beautiful city, and going out for dinner with new friends from the amazing team of Trencin 2026 and the municipality. The city enchanted me – the castle with its breathtaking view, the impressive synagogue, and the cafes and bars have had their own soul. The elegant magnificent past and the vivid, promising future meet in Trencin, and the atmosphere is great! 


What new knowledge and contacts do you take away from your visit to Trenčín? 

What I enjoyed a lot was that, in the 2 days of working together, the workshop participants opened up and shared their worries, challenges, hopes, and solutions. I got a bit of an impression of the ‚Trencin way of life ‘, and I deeply cherish it. I am taking it with me, the Trencin feeling! I definitely would love to come back and resume the conversation with the people I met, I’d like to keep them in my life. 


Try to tell us about your workshop, which you conducted as part of the visit to Trenčín. What moments are stuck in your memory? 

The frank and intelligent exchange of opinions was very nice! The workshop is interactive and includes exercises, role plays, presentations, and discussions. People were always super-interested in their peers' projects, and their enthusiasm and respect never changed. It must be cool to work in such a team. 


Trenčín is a city in Eastern Europe, how do you see the cultural scene here compared to other Austrian cities? What can Trenčín do to improve its cultural level? 

Well, it looks to me like the cultural level here is high already! No, I don't like comparing the level of different places in terms of good and bad, this doesn't serve the purpose. What matters is if the cultural offer is relevant for the local community including tourists and satisfies their needs.  Trencin has an exciting and diverse history that you literally can feel at every corner, and it also anticipates trends. I think the most important is to stay in touch with the local communities, work with them, and make sure, everyone is involved or represented. That's what makes a cultural landscape strong and sustainable. 



If you had to explain to a small child what audience development means, how would you describe it? 

Audience Development is if you want ice cream, but I want you to eat a pizza, find out what you like in ice cream that you might enjoy in a pizza as well. 


In which areas can we encounter audience development? Can this know-how be applied or implemented in other social areas as well? 

Talking about small children, convincing a small child to swallow a bitter medicine with a little bit of sugar, like Mary Poppins, is already audience development. Arts and culture are like bitter medicine for some people, they are not used to them, but they don't know it will be a nice and easy experience. So we have to convince them to give it a try, explain, help to understand and tear down the barriers. 


What are the most effective ways to educate your audience? 

It's the other way around. Audience Development as educating our audience. Audience Development is a process that puts the needs and interests of your audience at the centre of your organization. We do this by ending the guesswork – by finding out what our audience needs, by asking them simply. Then we can react to this in multiple ways. 


In today's fast-paced world, when everyone is competing for a person's attention, it's hard to impress. What are your tricks or tips for capturing the audience's attention? 

Tricks don't work here. What works is honest deep involvement in what the communities need. This doesn't mean that we must adjust our creative ideas and program to target groups. It means that we must have representatives of relevant target groups as participants and contributors to our work. 


Your expertise is primarily in the field of audience development. How did you get into this discipline? What other fields are you interested in? 

I am a fiction writer, a cultural producer and a docent for Cultural Management and its biggest challenges – Sponsoring, Intercultural Communication, Audience Development, and Social Justice. Cultural producing, I started because writing is a lonely and secluded work and I am a social creature. Teaching Cultural Management, I started because we were making mistakes in organizing cultural projects. So, each of them is a solution and challenge to the other activity. 




Time for a quick quiz. Choose what is closer to your heart, Leonie. 


Borovička or Beer? Borovicka. You see, I am not a beer fan. 

Tradition or innovation? The best of both. Innovation with a sparkle of tradition. Tradition in architecture and cuisine, innovation in civil society and tolerance. 

Mineral springs or spa wafers? What’s the difference, aren't they quite close? Spa always sounds good. 

Traditional Slovak dish Halušky or roast duck? Halusky were wonderful. 




We now have space for reflection questions, Leonie. 


What would you like to ask the mayor of Trenčín? 

Which 3 words will Trencin 2026 enter history with? 


Ask the organizers of Trenčín 2026 something you wish to know. 

Which 3 words will Trencin 2026 enter history with? 

You have space to ask your workshop participants one question. What would you like to know from them? 

What would you like to keep and what to change in your city, and are the two compatibles? 

It's all about the people. How to engage and develop the audience was explained by Agata Etmanowicz as part of Trenčín 2026 as the European Capital of Culture 

Agata Etmanowitcz for over a decade together with Impact Foundation helps culture organisations in placing audiences at the heart of everything they do (by spreading the joy of working according to audience engagement philosophy and combining it with an audience development strategical approach).  

Agata has been a culture worker her whole life. She has been involved in the culture sector from various perspectives: from technical production and coordinating accessibility of art events to co-creating European culture policy. Supporting fellow culture professionals has always been a crucial part of her work - in workshop rooms and “in a field”, through the structures of public institutions, international organisations and NGOs. She believes in social usefulness. That applies to both: her privet and professional life. 

Together with Impact Foundation, she promotes an A2 approach which combines audience development and accessibility (as “you can’t have one without the other”!). Impact Foundation collaborated with Trenčín 2026 on the historically first Easy-to-read version of the European Capital of Culture bid book (project/plan). 




How were you involved and what did you gain from the collaboration with Trenčín 2026 as the European Capital of Culture?  

I hope that I can refer here to future collaboration not only to the past. So we met during the bidding process. We talked a lot about audiences and the importance of equal treatment of all people. I have conducted workshops for both the Trenčín 2026 team and for people from the culture sector. As a result, two things happen: first in history Easy-to-read version of the bid book for the European Capital of Culture was created and we put together the long-term action plan for Cultivating Accessibility. Easy-to-read is actually quite hard-to-write. We appreciated a lot Trenčín 2026 enthusiastic response to the idea of doing Easy-to-read in the first place and also their engagement in the process. 

When it comes to the future, as I have mentioned, there is a plan for supporting Trenčín and Trenčín’s culture sector in becoming more accessible to all people. Within this plan, there are actions around physical spaces and also cultural events organisation (from communication, through content up to gathering feedback). From mapping to training and creating guidelines and checklists to help culture professionals in preparations for as friendly and welcoming projects as possible.    


"Could you explain what Easy-to-read is? And then we could move it here so it would be more natural? 

Easy-to-read is a way of making written information easier to understand. It usually combines short, jargon-free sentences with simple, clear images to help explain the content. It is often useful for people with learning disabilities but in fact, it is beneficial to ALL people.  


What would you advise the representatives of the city focusing on audience development in the area of cultural events in the city? 

When it comes to city representatives, I would say that their role is mainly in the area of cultural policy. So I would say: think about creating mechanisms for organisational audience development, including audience development in the city’s culture policy. That translates into investment in capacity building in the area of audience development. Important is also rethinking indicators when it comes to the redistribution of financial resources. And supporting the sector with audience research. All of it should be done in a constant dialogue with the culture sector. 


What city could be an inspiration for Trenčín if we talk about working with visitors to cultural institutions in the city? 

I believe that Trenčín should be an inspiration for Trenčín. There is only one Trenčín. Each city is different. Has a different story and history. Also, each cultural institution is different. Over the years we have worked with various cities all over Europe (and not only those that were or are about to become European Capitals of Culture). They all have one thing in common: in each city, there are people who care about this city and want to change it for the better. The same goes for cultural organisations.

I believe that the most important is listening to people and creating a safe environment for both exchanges and for change: where people can bring together all their skills, and knowledge, let loose and awaken the imagination. And make things happen. For themselves, for their audiences, and for the visitors. Taylor-made.  


What knowledge have the participants of your workshops in Trenčín acquired? 

We should ask them about it. I can only say what I was aiming at and hoping for. First of all, to share the way we, Impact Foundation see audience development and audience engagement. That it is a combination of attitude and strategic planning. That it is always a process that engages the entire organisation. That it is not a set of tricks, it is not a project. It takes time and effort. I also shared our concept combining audience development and accessibility, which we call “a²”. It is very much embodied in everything we do. So I was doing my best to show where it came from and how it can work in practice. I have also shown many practical examples coming from our practice. And of course, I was very sorry that I didn’t have more time with this group. They are a great bunch! 




How did you start working with audience development?  

It was about 15 years ago, working a lot internationally, simultaneously with my friend and Impact’s Foundation partner - Agnieszka Wlazeł, we came across this term, this method called “audience development”. Our first thought was “Oh, there is a name for what we do!”. It was still the time when we were mainly organizing artistic projects. Among other things, we were doing a big festival supporting and promoting an independent art scene in Warsaw. I’m not going to go into too many details here but the key was that audience was always at the centre of everything we did. Part of the program of the festival was created with the audience - using many different tools for doing so. We were also researching our audiences: to get to know them better, to better understand their needs and as a result to better connect with our audiences.  So when we heard that the “English-speaking part of the world” has something called “audience development” the immediate response was: let’s dive into it, let’s see what it is all about. So we did… And never stopped since. 

What are the best examples of audience engagement that you can think of? 

Again, it is hard to say as, there are no universally good or bad examples, something “best” for one organization can be not that good for the other. And we look at long-term processes. Each is different, each is very much connected to the specific situation of that specific organization in its specific environment.  

What are the most common obstacles that prevent the development of audience engagement? 

All of what I am going to say here is in one way or another a generalization but it is based on many, many organizations we have worked with over more than a decade. On top of my list, there would be a misconception of what audience engagement is. Not seeing it as a process but rather a set of quick fixes. Random, fragmented actions instead of long-term planning. The lack of engagement of the whole organization. Not knowing ourselves as an organization and not knowing our audiences well enough.       

How would you interest children, parents, and grandparents who visit a cultural event? Let's use an exhibition of contemporary fine art as an example. 

Oh, if you only give a specific organization and a very concrete exhibition I would be happy to produce ideas. But, just let me underline: that’s not exactly either audience development or audience engagement. That sounds to me more like an exercise in planning a good promo campaign. To create an audience engagement plan I would need to know the organization. Everything there is to know about the organization. And most of all: to know audiences. Both existing and potential. Are those children, parents, and grandparents already audiences of contemporary visual arts? Are they the existing or potential audience of this specific institution? And there are so many questions that would follow.  


How do you think the cities in Eastern Europe are doing when we focus on working with the audience? 

Not sure how to answer this question, as cities such rather do not work with the audience. If you ask me about cultural organisations/institutions in Central-East or Eastern Europe (both within and outside the European Union), I would say that it is not in any way different from anywhere else on our continent. There are super bright and dedicated people who build around them amazing organizations doing great when it comes to long-term planning and audience engagement. And some are not doing that well…  


And when it comes to the cities, it is similar: some cities have culture strategies in place, that are aware of the weaknesses and strengths of their culture sector, open to a dialogue with the culture sector, and responsive to its needs, influence and support culture sector in efforts to be relevant and engaging for their audiences. And those cities that are not… In the end, it is all about the people who are in charge and it is always a choice: what kind of organization or what kind of city you wish to be…   



Time for a quick quiz. Choose what is closer to your heart, Agata. 

In all cases, I would probably go for both. But If I have to choose just one… 

Borovička or Beer? Borovička 

Tradition or innovation? Innovation 

Mineral springs or spa wafers? Mineral springs  

Traditional Slovak dish Halušky or roast duck? Today it would be Halušky! 



We now have space for reflection questions, Agata. 


What would you like to ask the mayor of Trenčín? 

Only one question? And am I going to get the answer? :)  

If it is only one, then maybe: When you close your eyes and think about Trenčín after 2026, what do you think the legacy of this project will be?  


Ask the organizers of Trenčín 2026 something you wish to know. 

If you had one wish you could ask one thing, anything that would help you in implementing this enormous process of ECoC, what would that be? 

You have space to ask your workshop participants one question. What would you like to know from them? 

Can I be of any help in your efforts to better connect with your audiences? If yes, you know where I am! 


Explained by Natalie Giorgadze: How to navigate as a cultural organization in a complex political, social and cultural environment

Natalie is a community manager and communications specialist with solid experience in the not-for-profit sector. Attracted by the power of words, she passionately searches for new, creative and effective ways of telling stories, stories that inspire and motivate her to act. Before joining Culture Action Europe, Natalie worked as a communications officer for Women in Development Europe and as a freelance writer and project developer at Indigo, a cross-media project. Her previous NGO experience includes working for human rights and environmental networks. Natalie is trained as a journalist and holds a graduate degree in Cultures and Development studies. 



What are the strengths of the Trenčín 2026 project and what are its weaknesses? 

Already the tagline of the Trenčín 2026 project “cultivating curiosity” sets the starting point for an inspiring and magical year ahead. Culture and the arts are there to sustain and develop our curiosity to learn more, to experiment and to transgress borders that might seem uncrossable from the first perspective. The playfulness of the proposed vision of Trencin 2026 - clustering its programming and activities around concepts of common ground, playground, and new ground - creates expectations of the year to be inclusive (for all communities), to create spaces for dialogue and exchange, as well as a safe space for experimentation and failure. It would be extremely important and challenging for the city to keep up with these expectations.  

How can managers in the cultural sector use the media to their advantage? 

Cultivating curiosity and relations with the media are important investments for artists and cultural workers, albeit not always very easy. Cultural managers should acquire skills in working with the world of the media, which often requires “playing the game” of the industry. 

How can cultural managers in Trenčín improve the working conditions of local artists? 

It often happens that the main weakness of the European Capital of Culture is unequal and inadequate engagement with the diversity of the cultural sector within the cities. Trencin must map all cultural actors within the city and the region, especially ones working at the fringes, ones that are smaller and less visible, to meaningfully engage with and create opportunities. And never forget to ask the question: has the artist been paid? 

What do you see as the benefits of the participation of cultural organizations in international networks, and what would you recommend to the city of Trenčín in its strategy? 

Being part of international cultural networks creates new learning and capacity-building opportunities, opens ways for cross-border collaborations and opens up unexplored spaces, be it debates, research or peer-to-peer exchange and knowledge. Beyond opening the networking possibilities it also internationalises cultural agents, cities or regions to connect with peers across Europe and beyond.  



What advice do you give to cultural managers who need to navigate the environment of EU cultural policies? 

Become a member of Culture Action Europe, the major European cultural network and the first port of call for informed opinion and debate about arts and cultural policy in the EU. The network is there to facilitate navigating the environment of the EU cultural policies, which sometimes might be difficult to find the way in. 


What tools do you use in your profession that make your work easier? This can be an inspiration for other people working in the cultural sector. 

Investing in collaboration, and trust in collective intelligence, always make work more interesting and multifaceted.  

How do you think it is best to set your Sustainable Development Goals agenda? 

We at Culture Action Europe are following the SHIFT guidelines to implement green transition within the network. You can find the guidelines here, which can be very helpful.  


What should we not forget if we are in high managerial positions in the cultural sector? Do you have personal or professional tips from your experience that we could share with the world? 

Be open, be curious and learn from others - no matter the position - we all have the knowledge and experience to share! 



Time for a quick quiz. Choose what is closer to your heart, Natalie. 


Borovička or Beer? Borovička in winter and beer in summer :)  

Tradition or innovation? Innovation supported by tradition. 

Mineral springs or spa wafers? Mineral waters in summer and spa wafers in winter. 

Traditional Slovak dish Halušky or roast duck? I will have to come back to Slovakia to taste Halušky 



We now have space for reflection questions, Natalie. 

What would you like to ask the mayor of Trenčín? 

When thinking about human rights, do you consider cultural rights, cultural democracy and access and participation in the cultural life of your citizens? If so, what are your strategies?  


Ask the organizers of Trenčín 2026 something you wish to know. 

How are you planning to create more internalisation opportunities for the local cultural agents? 

You have space to ask your workshop participants one question. What would you like to know from them? 

What was one main takeaway from the workshop that you would like to implement in your work? 


Cultural management & brand building. As part of the Trenčín 2026 project, Roman Zámečník clarified how these two worlds are related 

Roman is a co-founder and strategist from the YYY agency, where he participated in the creation of brands such as CZC.CZ, Direct Pojišťovna, Modrá pyramida, Vivantis, KetoDiet and Hedepy online therapy. He is also associated with Hedepy as a founder of this platform and is currently working on its expansion to 8 European countries. 

His workshop discussed the theory of what a brand is, why participants should be interested in the brand itself, how to fund or co-fund the brand and how the process of building a successful brand takes place. The participants then tried everything on their brands in an accelerated workshop mode. 


Roman, tell us what makes Trenčín 2026 unique in your opinion? 

From the talks and discussions with organizers, for me, it is mainly the huge understanding of the local community thanks to deep research and interviews and the design of the whole project is really based on that. I believe it will help to create a unique experience not just for locals, but also for visitors. 


How can a brand help in the whole process of applying for the title of the Europen City of Culture? 

The brand has an impact on almost everything we do with our organization, companies or even cities. In the first phase, it can give us the power to attract the right people for the project. They need to believe that there is a chance to win the title and that the city is worthy of it and for that some brand needs to be already established. In the second phase, it can of course also help you to win, especially if your brand is properly built worldwide. 

What have the participants gained from your workshop and how will they use it in their professional life? 

Honestly, it would be better to ask them, but I have tried to show them exactly the things we talked about in the previous question. That the brand has an impact on almost any part of our effort and can significantly help us achieve our goals. And of course, I have also tried to give them tools, on how to leverage this and do it properly. 

On the other hand, what did you learn from the workshop participants?  

I learned that Trenčín and its surroundings are filled with amazing people doing great things, and thinking the right way. I also saw various projects, some of which are yet to happen, and all of them were exciting. 

Cultivating curiosity is the vision of Trenčín 2026. How do you cultivate your curiosity in today's fast world? 

It is needless to say, I have to, it is a very nice motive. For me, it is about saying yes to various things, just because why not, and exposing myself to different environments. I like going to Trenčín to meet people from cultures, even when my expertise lies mainly in the business field. 

What would you recommend to Trenčín 2026 regarding brand building to achieve their vision? 

I do not know the current detailed plans, so it is hard giving any advice. But this opportunity for the city, from my point of view, is mainly about PR and about visibility. Because if people will not see it, it will not have an impact. To gain visibility in PR, I would recommend thinking about some “magic” trick/thing, about something that will really gain attention. Prepare something extraordinary, something people will want to talk about in connection with the city of culture. Make a goal for yourself to appear in Japanese news or something like that. But who knows, maybe it is really bad advice, it is for the team to evaluate. 


Why should branding have a place in cultural management? 

It is not possible to avoid branding for anyone and anything. Even we, as people, have our own brand even when we are not working on it. It just happens. Even when you do not care, the brand will happen. It is up to us if we will benefit from that, or if it will cause harm to us. I would rather have the first mentioned so naturally, I believe for any organization, the brand is an amazing asset we should pay attention to. 


What is your view of cultural institutions in Slovakia and why do you think it is beneficial for them to think about their brand? 

Unfortunately, I do not many of them, excluding the ones I have met at the workshop. And that is actually also an answer to why they should care about branding. 


If you had to give budding cultural managers one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Borrow know-how from business fields. 

What strong brands in the cultural sector would you cite as exemplary examples that we can be inspired by in the field of good brand building? 

From the Czech scene, I would think about KVIFF, Prague spring, Rudolphinum gallery or Colors of Ostrava. These all I believe have managed to do an amazing job in terms of reputation, awareness and consistency in their branding. 


How can the personal attitude of employees to their brand building and to the place where they work, be reflected? 

The brand is happening not just in communication, but in the whole experience of the audience. If I would visit Tate and found unwelcoming stuff and what I know, maybe dirty toilets, I would not think much about the gallery. In the end, everybody in the team has a huge impact on the final picture. 


Do you have any secrets for keeping up to date with what is happening in the field of cultural management? Do you have any favourite platforms or sources of information? 

Sorry no.


Time for a quick quiz. Choose what is closer to your heart, Roman. 

Borovička or Beer? beer 

Tradition or innovation? innovation 

Mineral springs or spa wafers? spa 

Traditional Slovak dish Halušky or roast duck? halušky 


We now have space for reflection questions, Roman. 

What would you like to ask the mayor of Trenčín?  

How we can get more people into politics? Especially young ones? 

Ask the organizers of Trenčín 2026 something you wish to know.  

What is the thing they are most excited about? 


You have space to ask your workshop participants one question. What would you like to know from them? 

Did they already apply some things we talked about? 

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