Cultural space brings together dance classes and the concept of an anti-restaurant in a mansion in Cidade Baixa
Paulo Guimarães, 57 years old, is the entrepreneur and artist behind MEME Estação Cultural, a place for development and artistic training that has been operating for 13 years at number 176, Rua Lopo Gonçalves, in Cidade Baixa, in Porto Alegre.
Graduated in Physical Education, Paulo recalls that he started professional dancing late in life, but that he always loved to dance. “Art has been in me since I was a child. I remember that when he was home alone, he would turn on the radio and dance for several hours. I’ve been an athlete my whole life and I’ve done Physical Education against the wishes of the whole family, who wanted me to study law”, he says.
The educator explains that it was when he was already 30 years old that his career as a national and international dancer was consolidated, which is unusual in the field. “People looked at me a little crossly, because most dancers are usually between 20 and 25 years old, but I had the physical capacity and will to be there, so I continued until I was 39. After that, I understood that I wasn’t going to be a dancer my whole life and I was invited to develop a cultural project here in Porto Alegre”, he recalls.
The project ended up not working out very well, but Paulo says that the result was positive and gave the initial impetus for the creation of MEME at the end of 2004. “It was during this period that I started teaching with a friend, Dani, and it was she who which gave us the idea of opening the space. I didn’t have any patience for the administrative, accounting area, so she took care of that and I took care of the cultural stuff. We rented a small room and stayed in it for five years,” he says.
Six months after the opening, Dani had to leave the project for medical reasons and Paulo continued alone. “I did everything, cleaning, teaching, I almost had a fit. I had a few therapy sessions and my mind cleared. That’s when the real project began. I lowered the ball and understood that, alone, I wouldn’t be able to, so I started thinking about where I would have to invest and how to undertake it”, explains the artist.
MEME Cultural Station works based on three foundations: sustainability, the collaborative network and the creative economy. “Sustainability is a way for the business to survive beyond public notices for investment in cultural projects, which everyone knows how bad it is in our country, so we generate our own resources”, he says. The collaborative network is something like an artistic coworking, a space that embraces several independent projects. “I was adding partners and professionals, providing support and knowledge to enhance their business, many did not even know how to name what they did”, comments the entrepreneur.
The creative economy represents the partnership between those who work in the house. With less than 10 students, the professional pays 50% of the monthly income to maintain the space, from 10, 40%, and after 20 students, 30%. “It’s very difficult to think of art as a business, I myself had a lot of problems with that, but I had to learn to be an entrepreneur. I hired consultants and studied the economy of culture a lot, a class that moves 3% of the national GDP, with more than five million workers. The main point is knowing how to value your product”, he maintains.
With 30 professionals currently working at the house and about 1,000 students, business is booming, with various forms of body expression, such as ballet and jazz, music classes and also physical exercises, such as physiotherapy and pilates. Paulo teaches stretching, body expression and dance and theater. Those interested – both in understanding how to work in space, and in taking classes – can get in touch and find out more information on the project’s Instagram (@memeestacao).
The house has two floors and also works as an anti-restaurant, a business model that approaches slow and comfort food. “I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but I didn’t want it to be something like a traditional cafe and bistro. I wanted it to be something more personal, more intimate and that it was all done by me. So here it’s always by appointment, we prepare everything with the greatest care, and it’s always very nice and relaxed. It’s much better in terms of cost-effectiveness, there’s no waste and it’s working really well, we have a busy schedule”, he guarantees.