The International Art Colony of Cered is one of the most remarkable art scenes in Nógrád County at the turn of the century. The art scene of the county, which was virtually “non-existent” before, is recognized in Hungary and internationally as well. This is due to the fact that since the second half of the 20th century there have always been groups of artists who were willing to do and did as much as they could for cultural development. But it is the International Art Colony of Cered that has been able to sustain and even raise the cultural standards at both the national and international level.
The fine arts history of Nógrád County goes back only to the 19th century. The first acclaimed artist of the county was Lajos Kubányi (1855–1912), who received a lot of commissions from the 1880s onwards until his death. The Nógrád County Museum founded by Iván Nagy housed a history collection, while the fine arts collection to be exhibited in Losonc remained but an idea for long years. The first fine arts exhibition in the county opened in October 1905 in Balassagyarmat. It was followed by exhibitions in Losonc (1907) and Szécsény (1910). This was the year when Gyula Benczúr bought a country estate in the village of Dolány, where he lived and painted until he died in 1920. He is buried here, and the village has been renamed Benczúrfalva in his honour. Oszkár Glatz (1872–1958), recipient of the most prestigious cultural award in Hungary, the Kossuth prize, moved to Buják, spending every summer
holiday in the village for the next forty years.
The development of Salgótarján came in the middle of the 19th century when coalmining started in the area. By 1900 Salgótarján had the second biggest population in the county. In addition to the large number of engineers who lived in the city, some professional artists also appeared here. The majority of them were fine artist who also had a teacher’s degree and had travelled abroad. In 1945 Károly Bóna Kovács founded the first art circle under the auspices of the Miners’ Union in Baglyasalja. The Club opened its first art colony in Buják in 1955, then in Cserhátszentiván in 1956. The elder István Szabó (1903–1992), sculptor organized a colony to Benczúrfalva in the late 1950s. His son has been working in the Benczúrfalva studio since the 1970s. Kálmán Csohány (1925–1980) graphic artist, recipient of the Munkácsy prize, Vice President of the Association of Hungarian Fine and Applied Artists, wrote about the the art scene of Nógrád County back in 1978: “The fine arts life of the country is getting busier and busier, now there is no longer any distinction between the cultural needs of the country and the capital, and neither is there any difference between the quality of art at these places. Country towns now open galleries and organize exhibitions on a regular basis. Art colonies are now organized in every part of the country, and some international art colonies have also been set up. And we can proudly say that Nógrád County and Salgótarján are leading the way.”
This expanding and increasingly more conscious fine art scene produced the idea of setting up an international art colony, which was finally set up on the initiative of the Nógrád County Group of the North Hungary Regional Unit of the Hungarian Fine Arts Alliance, under the auspices of the Nógrád County Council. The Salgótraján Art Colony (Intersymposium) was originally held in Salgótarján, then it was transferred to Mátraalmás to welcome guest artists. The emphasis of the art colony gradually shifted towards drawing, and the whole art colony centred on this genre. With the democratic transition the art colony of Mátraalmás closed down.
Five years after the winding up of the art colony of Mátraalmás, in 1996, the International Art Colony of Cered was launched. This art community residing close to the Slovakian border, some 150 km from Budapest, in one of the valleys of the Medves Mountain, by the Tarna creek is a group of artists who have their own set of values, share the same intellectual approach and want to work and create art together.
The art colony has been managed by the same people over the years. This continuity might be the reason why the colony has been a success now for 15 years. Art colony manager Cecília Kun, art manager Csaba Fürjesi and professional manager László Sánta are all active artists. The aim of the art colony is to become a key player with a special image in Hungary as well as in the international arena. Furthermore, if we consider that the art colony is a thematic one and it started out as a grassroots project after the political transition, and has stayed non-governmental ever since, we can say that it is unparalleled not only in the North Hungarian and Upper Hungary region, but on the national level as well.
This special, Palóc village and its residents have accepted and supported the art colony, and are proud of the work that is done there. The mayor of Cered, Árpád Czene said when celebrating the first anniversary of the art colony that the colony being an integral part of the village would greatly contribute to the touristic value of this village and its 1300 inhabitants. Cered, this a “godforsaken” village becomes for one week in August the centre of Nógrád County, the centre of Hungary, and for the international guest artists the „centre of the universe”.  Artists receive an invitation to attend the art colony. They belong to various age groups; the artist invited range from graduates to well-known artists. The participants are professional artists, and many of them teach at colleges and universities.
Artists involved in the Cered symposia include Kossuth prize recipient painter Péter Földi, Munkácsy prize recipient sculptor Zoltán Csemniczky and painter Zoltán Réti. The art colony has been working closely together with professional groups and organizations in Hungary and abroad. We have a very close working partnership with the Association of Hungarian Fine Artists of Slovakia. But we also have good relations with art groups from Belgium, Austria, Germany and other countries in Europe as well as Egypt.
The art colony does not follow any art movement, is not biased towards any genre or style, to the contrary. It tries to cover the whole spectrum – a synthesis of the arts – and at each symposium features more and more art forms and styles: painting, drawing, computer graphics, sculpture, installation, textile arts, pottery, design and performance. The universality of arts character of the symposia is further enhanced by the fact that representatives of other art forms like drama, music, photography and cinematography, dance, puppetry and literature also participate in them. Performing arts programmes are held at the Log Theatre located on the premises of the colony.
The natural outdoor theatre has a seating capacity of 120 people. The four buildings of the art colony occupy an area of 3500 m2 of private  land. In addition to the boarding facilities, the studios and the gallery are also located in the buildings. The infrastructure (accommodations, dining rooms, communication, etc.) supporting creative work has developed over the years, and it is up to European standards.
In 2006 at the 10th anniversary of the art colony the Ars Longa Arts Association was given the Pro Arte award by the municipality of Salgótraján.
Artists contribute to the colony’s collection with their works of art produced in the colony. Over the years this collection has become very extensive, serving future generations.
The modern arts festival held in August has become one of the emblematic events of the region.


Shah Gabriella art historian, director of the Dornyai Béla Museum

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