There aren’t many buildings of historical value left on the main square of Chotěboř. But at no. 194, we find Kohoutův dům, which is the only building that has retained its appearance after the fire of 1832.
As a result, it stands out as the square’s most interesting building. Colorful posters invite passerby to take part in various activities, such as workshops for children and adults, lectures, film screenings on human rights and ecology, readings, English lessons, exhibitions, and concerts, enlivening the shabby windows of the cultural heritage site.
At the end of February, parents and children met at Kohoutův dům to take part in a carnival parade, which cut merrily through the square, accompanied by singing and music. Similarly, throughout March, there took place yoga and meditation, accompanied by courses about healthy living and fasting led by Lucie Pelouchová, a gardener from the nearby ecological farm Zastráň. Other regular spring courses will allow visitors to learn how to create music simply with the aid of a small computer and sensors.
Although the community of people who regularly gather here isn’t big, it is slowly growing. Chotěboř, which lies in the middle of the Czech Republic in the Vysočina Region close to the Iron Mountains, is a typical Czech town whose cultural offerings are similarly traditional (a museum with a gallery in the castle, a cinema, a cultural center, a “sokolovna” community center, and a library).
Chotěboř's broader administrative district, including adjacent villages, has bout 20,000 inhabitants. The open community space Zastávka194 is the initiative of the Zastávka194 group “Dobrá společnost,” or “Good Company.” This initiative has, in turn, stimulated activities atypical for a small Czech town. The group has existed since 2013, evolving out of a group of friends from Chotěboř and the surrounding area who felt the need to revive local culture and mobilize social events. One of the group's main areas of interest is the topic of the city's, as well as its surrounding area's, public spaces, supporting civil society, and the development of alternative forms of education.
An example of Dobrá společnost's activities includes “Dobropiknik,” a charity event that donates its proceeds to local non-profit organizations occurring between August to September. Other regular events held by the group include “Lokál,” where interesting individuals present their projects with short presentations, reading workshops, neighborly exchanges of crops and food, as well as “Václav Havel Day.” For some time, the group has been trying to build a community park with a natural playground close the city center while attempting to generally cultivate the town's urban public space.
Members of the group are planning to gradually rebuild Kohoutův dům for the needs of cultural and community activities organized by Dobrá společnost and other collaborating associations and individuals. The building now provides space for the Waldorf kid’s club "Šalamounek," the activities of the Chotěboř associations for the development of free education (whose activities include the establishment of private educational Waldorf inspired schools in nature and schools), and is also used as a shared office. Concentrating on alternative education and activities for children comes naturally to the group’s members who all have young children themselves. As a result, children old enough to attend school make up the first students of the new school.
Many group members also work in an artistic or pedagolocial field, which explains their interest in alternative education and the desire to further revive the culture of the town. In the future, Kohoutův dům or, “Kohouťák,” will also house a bike sharing system which the group is trying to establish in Chotěboř. Similarly, Dobrá společnost is also working on making the building a center for the distribution of local products, a community cafe with a reading room for kids and adults, as well as a gallery. Petra Polívková, one of the group’s founding members, and the graphic designer and typographer behind the group's upbeat posters, has put the space’s intention concisely, saying it should be “a peaceful corner to get away for awhile and a cheerful space for living.”
by Lenka Dolanová