Between art and nature – CAMbrella Meeting in Italy, March 23-25, 2011

Almost halfway through the project, the CAMbrella members met for a second full meeting. Since the Kick-off Meeting in January 2010, the group had coordinated its work largely via e-mail and phone contacts and in teleconferences or meetings of individual working groups. Thus, it was high time for all participants to meet again in person and discuss their progress, but also to put faces to the names of new CAMbrella members and get to know each other a little better.

CAMbrella member Paolo Roberti di Sarsina, who hosted this so far largest project meeting, had provided for a very special venue: CAMbrella was invited to meet at Ca’ la Ghironda Modern Art Museum outside of Bologna. Prof. Francesco Martani, a dedicated humanist and philanthropist, dentist, as well as artist and patron of arts, kindly reserved the premises of his Art Foundation for the CAMbrella group during these days. Prof. Martani very much approved of the idea of CAMbrella and, in his welcome address, encouraged the group to enjoy the surroundings and draw inspiration “fra arte e natura”. True to this motto, the participants used not only the impressive exhibition rooms, but also the large park to meet for their working sessions, and spent the short breaks strolling around the sculpture garden.

The first day of the meeting was dedicated to an overview of CAMbrella: Coordinator Wolfgang Weidenhammer, Monika Schagerl and Administrative Project Officer Meike Dlaboha reviewed the activities during the past 15 months and outlined the tasks for the remaining project time. They informed the group of changes in personnel, summarised the reports and deliverables prepared thus far, and reported on the meetings, workshops and conference activities that had taken place in various countries across Europe. The results of the first internal evaluation were presented by Jesper Madsen, Work Package 8 (Dissemination and communication): the CAMbrella members had rated their communication and cooperation within the project. The answers showed that communication and cooperation are considered to be good. Some suggestions for improvement, which had also emerged as a result of the survey, fed into the subsequent debate on inter-Work Package cooperation.

In mid-2011, the CAMbrella Coordinator is to submit the periodic report, a document setting out all project activities for the European Commission. The Management Board thus needs to collect information on working results, as well as financial and administrative issues, from all beneficiaries. To ensure a smooth procedure, the timeline and proceedings relating to the preparation of the report were outlined to the group. With respect to the second half of CAMbrella, the group discussed how to best arrange their work packages' meetings and workshops within the remaining project time, taking into account the deadlines for the individual deliverables. With respect to the future beyond CAMbrella, Wolfgang Weidenhammer encouraged a debate on further CAM research projects. Based on documents outlining the general framework conditions, the group gathered first ideas on how to capitalise on the results of CAMbrella in the future.

In the evening, all CAMbrella members gathered again for the trip to Bologna. Guided by Paolo Roberti di Sarsina, the group took a walking tour around the centre of town, marvelling at the beautiful buildings and drawing on the wealth of information provided by their host, who, after displaying in-depth knowledge of history and architecture, also showed a fine taste for eating style: the busy day ended in a small trattoria, where typical Bolognese food of excellent quality was served in large quantities.

On the second day, the group met for a mutual update: all Work Packages presented their current status of work for the other group members’ information. Chaired by Helle Johannessen and Torkel Falkenberg this morning session offered all groups an opportunity to outline working procedures, challenges, preliminary results and upcoming steps. At the end of the update session, it was clear that the time for the full meeting had been well chosen. After the initial consolidation and planning phase, the Work Packages needed a period of concentrated work to draw their first conclusions and had now reached a point at which consultation and coordination with the other working groups was essential and productive. The discussions that evolved during the plenary session were continued in many individual conversations throughout the meeting. A further session, chaired by Scientific Technical Manager Benno Brinkhaus, then addressed the procedures of communication rather than the content. To enable more in-depth discussions, the group split up to deal with individual aspects of communication in smaller teams. The teams returned from their workshops with suggestions on how to improve the flow of information within and between Work Packages, and from the Management Board and the Communication Work Package in particular.

After this session, the group welcomed the delegates of the CAMbrella Advisory Board, who had in the meantime arrived to join the afternoon session and attend the Scientific Steering Committee Meeting the next morning. On behalf of the 12 Board members, Seamus Connolly (EFCAM), Peter Zimmermann (IVAA) and Nand de Herdt (ECHAMP) met with the members of Work Package 8 to discuss their involvement in the project and ideas for further cooperation. Starting out from the information gathered from all Board members by way of a questionnaire, the participants of the session were soon engaged in a lively discussion on how the Advisory Board could provide further input to CAMbrella – here, too, the personal meeting proved highly beneficial.

The last day in Bologna saw the annual meeting of the Scientific Steering Committee. Together with the Advisory Board delegates, the Committee worked through an extensive agenda, covering issues relating to the midterm report, internal communication, deliverables and publications, public relations, plans for further project meetings and the final conference, as well as future research projects. Based on the detailed information gathered during the full meeting, the Committee was well prepared to fulfil the important task of guiding CAMbrella on behalf of the whole group and found amicable solutions to any challenges encountered along the way.

After shared lunch on the sunny terrace, the members gathered in “Sala Contemporanea” once again. In a short closing session, the Coordinator summarised the main points of the meeting and thanked Prof. Martani and Paolo Roberti di Sarsina for their hospitality. Then, after three intense days of exchange and lots of lessons learned, the CAMbrella members finally said goodbye and prepared for the journey home. They packed their suitcases to return to their home countries, all across Europe – but in a common spirit perfectly appropriate for the members of pan-European network.

Text: Monika Schagerl