Public fundraiser to save Europe’s oldest glass making school

Europe’s oldest secondary glass making school, located in the north Bohemian town of Kamenický Šenov, is facing existential problems. To make sure that the school, which first opened in 1856, survives the next school year, a group of supporters on Monday launched a public campaign to raise some 500,000 crowns to tide it over. Radio Prague spoke to the school’s director, František Janák, to find out what’s at the root of the school’s financial difficulties.

Glass making school in Kamenický Šenov, photo: www.ct24.czGlass making school in Kamenický Šenov, photo: www.ct24.cz “The reason is that recently, not only our school but many other schools have had problems with getting enough students. There are in fact too many schools, and there are not enough students who want to study there. After 1989, almost every bigger city or county was looking to have their own school for this or for that; it was a little chaotic, and the state administration did not really control the process. If you look at art schools, there are three times more of them than there were in the early 1990s.”

Isn’t there a problem with jobs for your graduates? The glass-making industry in the Czech Republic is going through some tough times…

“Well, partly, it can be also a reason, but I don’t think it’s the main one. Our alumni don’t only work with glass. In the past, even in times when the glass-making industry was doing well, not every graduate really worked in the glass industry. Our students are educated to be able to anything creative – art, design, etc. We have many alumni who are now graphic designers, painters, sculptors, architects, museum curators, even actors and writers and so on. So I think it’s one of the reasons, but not the main one.”

How much money do you need to survive next year?

“It’s difficult to say at the moment because that depends on the number of students who apply for the next school year. Our school is also able to generate some funds itself – we sell students’ works, we have international students and we get money from them. So it depends on how we’ll be able to do these things. But my estimate is that 500,000 crowns would be enough.”

If the fundraiser is successful and you manage to raise the money you need to survive the next school year, is there any guarantee that you will not be facing the same situation next year?

“This is it, because there is no guarantee, and that’s what’s really bad for us. But we’re on it; we are trying to get some sort of guarantee. I believe it’s in fact a political issue; it’s partly about money but money is not the main problem. We have to get political support, and if we do, then I think we can find a solution for the future.”