After many years of collaboration, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh joined ICORN in May this year. The agreement was signed during the 2015 ICORN Network Meeting in Amsterdam. The founder of City of Asylum Pittsburgh, Henry Reese, has been a regular guest at the annual meetings, where city delegates, guest writers and observers from all over the world meet and share valuable knowledge and experiences.
It is during these meetings that representatives from Växjö and Pittsburgh first met. According to Eva Johansson of Växjö’s Culture and leisure services, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh has been a model for the city’s work with the Free Speech House, inaugurated in 2014. In a press release 23. September, she says:
"Now that Växjö is in the process of developing a new area of the city to function as a cultural center, an invitation to explore the community that City of Asylum/Pittsburgh has developed during the last ten years, is very welcome."
Växjö City of Refuge has also joined forces with our member cities Barcelona, Ljubljana, Norwich and Toscana on an EU collaboration project for the Creative Europe programme.
Växjö City of Refuge
Växjö joined ICORN in 2012 as the fifth of now 17 Swedish cities and regions in the network. They are currently hosting their second ICORN guest writer, Erol Özkoray. The membership in ICORN is part of the culture and leisure management and that works to combine the literary heritage in the region and the struggle for the right to free speech today.
Pittsburgh City of Refuge
Pittsburgh became a member of ICORN in 2015. Starting at Sampsonia Way in 2004, however, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (CoA/P) has built up an impressing community for writers, readers, and neighbors during a remarkable 10-year history as city of refuge. They provide sanctuary to endangered literary writers, and offer a broad range of literary programmes in a variety of community settings to encourage cross-cultural exchange. By doing so they also anchor economic development by transforming blighted properties into homes for these programmes and energizing public spaces through public art with text-based components.
When Cities of Asylum/Pittsburgh started out, it was not only as an emergency relief and as a temporary shelter initiative for exiled writers; it was a commitment to help the writer build a home and a new life as part of a community.