VaClaF: Vareš Classic Festival

[Photo Credits: VaClaF]

From a Modest Beginning at St. Michael’s Church to an Acclaimed Cultural Event

The inaugural classical music concert, Children of Vareš play for Vareš, was held in 2009 within the walls of St. Michael’s Church in Vareš [Varesch]—an ancient mining enclave nestled beneath Mount Zvijezda [Star], in the heart of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This auspicious beginning paved the way for the establishment of the now traditional annual Miholjski Concert.

In 2013, the Vareš Classical Music Festival (VaClaF) was founded by the eminent violinist and conductor Andrea Nikolić, who took on the dual role of General Director and Artistic Director alongside co-founder Petar Jelić. Since its inception, VaClaF has experienced remarkable growth and has developed into a festival of international renown, significantly strengthening the cultural reputation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has forged partnerships with acclaimed cultural institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, the Netherlands, France, Germany, China and other countries, building a proud global community.

VaClaF transcends boundaries by uniting artists and people from diverse backgrounds through the universal language of music, whilst expanding its artistic purview to incorporate contemporary and inventive interpretations in theater, literature, and visual arts. Its aim is to make exceptional artistic performances accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

Set against the picturesque backdrop of Vareš’s cherished sites—such as the historic Old Church, the oldest in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the newly constructed St. Mihovil Church, the Mill, Radnički dom (Worker’s Home) – Center for Culture and Education, and various outdoor and unique sites in Borovica, Vijaka, and ancient Blacksmith Workshops in OćevijaVaClaF has evolved into a multifaceted artistic movement with socially engaging concepts. Committed to inclusivity, the festival offers art free of charge.
To date, VaClaF has introduced over 50 original concepts and programs within the Vareš Region and beyond, hosting hundreds of artists of all generations from Bosnia and Herzegovina and abroad, making a profound impact on the local art scenes.

VaClaF 2023: Back to the Roots

Expanding Horizons with Festival—Academy—Residencies—On Tour

Introduced in year 2023, Festival—Academy—Residencies—On Tour model underscores the festival’s commitment to local cultural development, the education of emerging talents, and the preservation and exploration of cultural heritage. It also involves showcasing a curated selection of the best of programs both in Bosnia and Herzegovina and internationally. In alignment with the edition’s theme, Back to the Roots, this methodology profoundly reflects the festival’s foundational principles.

In 2023, VaClaF was enriched by a new collaboration with the Austrian composer, pianist, and curator Belma Bešlić-Gál, who took on the role of Composer in Residence. Her initiative, Zvjezdane Staze, is an independent, non-profit, predominantly privately supported venture established in 2019. It is set against the picturesque backdrop of central Bosnia and Herzegovina’s mountainous terrain in the charming village of Mijakovići—a recent addition to the list of the country’s most beautiful villages and a gem within the Vareš Municipality.

In 2024, Zvjezdane staze Artist in Residence Programme together with VaClaF: Vareš Classic Festival [Udruga prijatelja glazbe Emil Milo Cipra Vareš], in collaboration with Kammermusikverein WISE, and sp ce – Austrian Non-Profit Organization for Art and Transdisciplinarity, has reached a major milestone by being awarded a grant from the EU-funded mobility programme Culture Moves Europe as part of the Second Call for Residency Hosts 2023/2024. This is the first time that an artistic residency project from Bosnia and Herzegovina has received funding under the Culture Moves Europe program, which is implemented by the Goethe-Institut, highlighting the potential of this project in the cultural sector.

Set to launch in July 2024, this innovative artistic residency will gather international professionals alongside emerging artists at the historic site of Bobovac, the former royal seat of the Bosnian medieval kings from the Kotromanić dynasty. In this storied setting, they will engage in collaborative creation of new artworks, which will subsequently be showcased within the stimulating environment of the VaClaF festival program.