aveiro artistic residencies

This article tells how the Aveiro Steam City project (ASC) has contributed to triggering mechanisms of contamination in the city of Aveiro (and beyond) between the theoretical and applied sciences - traditionally associated with the acronym STEM - and artistic and creative disciplines.

In particular, two projects will be described that help demonstrating this impact in terms of contamination:

- the artistic residencies, core activity foreseen in ASC, and developed in a profitable twinning between the city of Aveiro and the city of Oulu, in Finland;

- the "Aveiro Education and Social Alliance" project, funded under the Investment Adult Incentive RE-C06-i03 and Investment Youth Impulse – STEAM RE-C06-i04 of the Recovery and Resilience Plan for Portugal, which allowed the University of Aveiro to launch new study programs with a focus on young STEAM and adult upskilling and reskilling target.

The sources of this article are as follows:

- an interview with the ASC project manager, Andre Costa;

- several study visits made during the duration of the ASC project in which I was able to visit and deepen the activities of the "Fabrica de sciencia viva";

- statements made by two artists who took part in the artistic residencies in Aveiro;

- exchanges with the civil servants of the city of Oulu who collaborate with the Municipality of Aveiro.

STEAM is an educational approach that incorporates “the arts” into the STEM model, which includes science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEAM programs can include any of the visual or performing arts, such as dance, design, painting, photography and writing (www.techtarget.com).

Since the late 20th century, because of the shortage of technology workers, government agencies in many countries around the world have invested heavily in STEM education and its promotion. The emphasis on fostering STEM skills contributed to decreased emphasis on arts and humanities, with fewer funds and fewer arts-related options for students.

However, it has been demonstrated that the reintroduction of artistic subjects (visual arts and applied arts) and design in education programs produces very positive spillover effects, among others, increased problem-solving skills and increased creativity and innovation and – in general - greater satisfaction and well-being.

Furthermore, the integration of arts into STEM education and fields may also help encourage more participation by women in what have been male-dominated areas.



Aveiro can count on a vibrant cultural tech and art tech environment, that is growing every year. Starting from this context, the sensitivity of local administrators led to a vision on STEMs expanded in order to include the field of the arts, going in the direction of the most innovative public policies, considering that these intentions date back to 2018 (at the time of writing the application for the UIA program).

Therefore, through ASC it was possible to launch innovative initiatives that could support and foster the STEAM paradigm, such as:

  • Artistic residencies and MTF labs
  • Criatech festival and Prisma Festival

Artistic residencies and MTF labs

The two programs aim to cross creativity in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. The first program is implemented by teachers from ESAD and the University of Aveiro, the second one is curated by Michela Magas. Programs’ targets are people linked to the creative or technological industries, creators, artists, students and anyone who has the ambition to develop new projects in the area of the multimedia arts. These initiatives aim to provide candidates with practical and theoretical tools on the production of technological artifacts that result in innovative artistic projects.

“Criatech Artistic Residence”, in particular, aims at promoting the development of STEAM competences in a collaborative ideation context, with the participation of professionals and adult students from various creative areas. Artists involved work together in order to produce as final output an artistic artifact or a performance to show during the so called “Criatech Festival”. In its first edition, 24 people participated in the residences, however, due to Covid-19 pandemic, activities were readapted to remote participation. The second edition was launched with Patrícia J. Reis who collaborated as mentor and in October 2021 the presentation of the 2 winning projects was hosted at Criatech 2021 Festival.

Another artistic residency was ideated and developed in 2022, in collaboration with the city of Oulu, in Finland, appointed to be European Capital of Culture in 2026. The STEAM Artistic Residences 22/23 aim to promote, specifically in the Intermediate Schools, the development of artistic content using the STEAM methodology, involving artists, teachers and students in the same project. So, in this case artists will implement STEAM innovative approaches in a local school (2nd and 3rd Cycle of education) in Aveiro. Simultaneously, in a collaborative way, Oulu undergoes the same process, providing all those involved with the experience of the same creative process. This edition is addressed to all entities in the cultural and creative sector, headquartered in one of the 11 municipalities in the Region of Aveiro (Cultural and Recreational Associations, Micro and Small Enterprises and Sole Proprietorships), which develop or intend to develop artistic activity using the STEAM methodology.

The participation prize for the cultural and creative sector entity is awarded in the amount of €4,000 (four thousand euros). According to the program, Project implementation is foreseen from October 2022 to May 2023 and in June 2023 the presentation of final results and exchange with Oulu will be held.

It is important to underline that the collaboration with the Finnish city, in addition to pushing the Aveiro project towards the contamination with the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) ecosystem, has generated an intention between the mayors of the two cities to launch a new European network together, in 2023, dedicated to STEAM Education.

The artists involved in this latest edition reported that a curriculum that brings together the different disciplines with a common practical objective has been very stimulating for them and led them to apply to the public call, as well as the integration with the activities run by the “Fabrica de sciencia viva” and its dynamics/activities that could become part of some regular education programs.

The most positive result achieved with the residency, according to the artists who attended the program, was the final performance combined with the “so positive feedback saw in students and parents; these processes have a very strong emotional burden, leaving positive marks deep in each of those who participate and especially in the children / young people who have integrated the program. This is undoubtedly the best in the end, to see this help in building positive memories in the course of these lives under construction”. 

Criatech festival and Prisma Festival

Criatech festival is the annual event that promotes artistic creation and unites digital arts and technology in a public and heritage space. The Criatech festival, in these years, was able to meet the general and specialized public, presenting works by authors from renowned national and international figures. This year the 4th Edition recently took place from Oct 10th to 15th, during the Aveiro Tech Week; Criatech 2022 explored different performances under the topic “Echoes of the Future”.

Prisma festival / ART LIGHT TECH, established in 2019 and organized by Teatro Aveirense and the Aveiro City Council, invites artists, designers, light artists and lighting professionals as well as students and institutions to submit their proposals in order to combine several works of contemporary art, including projections, installations and shows of sound and light, to be presented in various spaces in the city. The festival is intended to bring an important contribution to the growth of CCIs in Aveiro and its last edition took place on 14 – 15 October 2022, during the Aveiro Tech Week.

Key figures

The University of Aveiro, in 2021, responded to a call promoted by the Portuguese government, funded by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, with the aim of seeing an increase in the number of students enrolled in the courses of STEAM degree.

The project Aveiro Education and Social Alliance https://wwwcdn.dges.gov.pt/sites/default/files/16_assinado_16_uaveiro_final.pdf  was actually funded and started in 2022, with a budget that guarantees activities until 2026 but with a long-term vision - undoubtedly.

The project includes start-up actions for three-year (bachelor) and specialist courses (executives) relating to the STEAM field; these actions will contribute to the following national goals:

- At least 25 higher education programs in STEAM by the second quarter of 2025;

- At least 10000 additional annual graduates in higher education courses / cycles of study exclusively in STEAM areas, compared to 2020.

The achievement of these objectives will be monitored through the following indicators:

- Number of STEAM degree programs (bachelors and professional masters);

- Number of STEAM degree programs (bachelors and professional masters) and non-degree offerings;

- Number of additional higher education STEAM graduates (bachelors and professional masters) by year.

The Aveiro Education and Social Alliance project is worth over 12 million euros and is placed under the direct coordination of the Rector of the University.

All the actors involved consider this enormous opportunity as a direct legacy of ASC; thanks to these funds it will be possible to significantly strengthen the university training offer, designed in such a way as to include the artistic, musical and design disciplines within a program of more technical studies related to digital technologies.

The collaboration with the Aveiro Municipality’s team was strong right from the start, also in terms of writing the proposal and now in various project phases. For example, there is the intention to develop some actions with the municipality that are not covered by government funding, such as a training program for teachers in primary and secondary schools, in order to be more aware of the STEAM approach in their teaching methodologies. In addition, the Labor observatory has contributed by offering data related to a "diagnosis" of the regional labor force, useful to influence the design of the academic offer. Also, thanks to the collaboration with Inovaria, ASC partner, it was possible to use data about the needs of local companies to shape the portfolio of learning opportunities.



This article describes how the hybridization between the artistic disciplines and the subject’s traditionally considered STEM has been made concrete, through some examples of activities developed through ASC.

The project, that has now formally ended, was inspired from its conception by this vision: a city made up of citizens who are empowered to access the opportunities offered by new technologies.

These opportunities have been translated into practice by: availability of technology, network infrastructure, connection and digital applications for overall citizens; calls for local companies and SMEs in order to broaden their business horizons; vocational training courses for adults looking for work or reskilling; courses included in the educational portfolio for students, starting from primary schools up to the last degree of university education; communication, artistic and digital literacy events to promote the city of Aveiro in increasingly international contexts.

The theme of creativity has been a common “fil rouge” in all these activities which, moreover, have led to the flowering of new collateral opportunities very significant for project partners and for the local community, such as the "Aveiro education and social alliance" project. The background developed by the University of Aveiro, thanks to ASC, represented a distinctive element within the application, which had a particularly positive outcome, placing the "Aveiro education and social alliance" project among the top three with the highest score assessed by the national jury.

Key figures

About this resource

Lucia Scopelliti
Aveiro, Portugal Small sized cities (50k > 250k)
About UIA
Urban Innovative Actions

The Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is a European Union initiative that provided funding to urban areas across Europe to test new and unproven solutions to urban challenges. The initiative had a total ERDF budget of €372 million for 2014-2020.

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