Since arriving in Luxembourg 10 years ago, Ainhoa Achutegui has helped put the Grand Duchy in the European spotlight. Current president of Planning Familial and named Cultural Woman of the year by Jeudi in 2014, here’s a glimpse of the woman behind the title.
The Neumünster Abbey is without a doubt one of the most important cultural landmarks of Luxembourg, boasting a rich and colourful history. The cultural center opened its doors in 2004 and is home to a diverse range of artistic performances of all natures and origins. Behind this lies the vision of a woman who is shaping a great future for culture in the Grand Duchy. Her name is Ainhoa Achutegui.
Venezuelan with Basque origins, Ainhoa grew up in Austria, where she studied Philosophy and Theatre and then specialized, first in Project Management and later in Cultural Management (a program she followed with the prestigious Marcel Hicter Foundation. In Vienna, she met her husband, a Luxembourgish architect of Portuguese origins with whom she moved to the Grand Duchy in 2006.
Her professional career began as a producer in the film and theatre industry, but her real passion was contemporary dance. Her first big opportunity in that field soon arrived: Ainhoa became the youngest Artistic Director in Europe for the dance and theatre section of the renowned WUK (Werkstätten-und-Kulturhaus) in Vienna. She was only 26 years old.
Grand Designs on the Grand Duchy
“I wouldn’t leave Luxembourg”
Ainhoa became a household name in Luxembourg from her over eight-year directorship at the CAPe in Ettelbrück, her first position in Luxembourg after she moved from Vienna. This is where she got her first taste of the cultural scene here; a scene she considers received a first big boost after 1995, when Luxembourg was first named European Cultural Capital (and then again in 2007), then in 2004 when the Abbey was created and also in 2005 with the inauguration of the Philharmonie.
To be able to speak several languages, to have an international background like the one I have and even being Venezuelan definitely helped me here, professionally speaking, because it gave me a sense of ‘specialness’ that led me nowhere while working in Vienna. Everyday I have to interact with people from all over the world that speak different languages, and that’s what makes the cultural scene in Luxembourg richer than anywhere else.
Fluent in Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese and Luxembourgish, Ainhoa not only enjoys the fact that she works in a multicultural environment, but also that she can be in charge:
I like to be a part of the decision-making process, to be able to create and even to get political. The offer at CAPe was more traditional in a sense, so my experience in Neumünster has been an opportunity to do more.
She is, in fact, the head behind the “political projects” that the Abbey puts into place (“political in a noble sense”, she explains). These include the ¡No pasarán! Festival this spring, which is based around the subject of the Spanish Civil War, or the upcoming Hate Festival, tackling the very recent hate discourse phenomena. Although Ainhoa was very happy at the CAPe, she admits she could have never been able to program any activities like these there, given the very different audience and style at the Ettelbrück center.
In Ainhoa’s opinion, Luxembourg’s cultural movement still lacks more ‘underground’ proposals, more diverse artistic responses to subjects that are not necessarily politically correct. She wants to challenge the traditional, “perfect” cultural expressions and give a voice to art that is less “beautiful”, more radical and more irreverent.
Behind the scenes
Ainhoa wakes up at 6:30am everyday and is back home only when her responsibilities are covered (although she makes sure never to miss lunch!). Passionate about her work and revelling in the everyday details, she’s one of those people who smile more often than not. When asked what she’s most proud of, she names her 8-year-old son, who is very creative and is an extraordinary artist. But she also states the fact that:
As a woman I never said ‘I can’t’. I managed to have a career and a family at the same time. And of course my husband has been key in this, he has been very supportive all the way.
She finds it difficult to understand those who complain on a daily basis or those who live by the ‘I can’t’ anthem. It’s definitely not hers.
What do you like most about Luxembourg?
That it is very green, and you can prove that by the fact that every wood or park is always full of people.
Favorite places in the Grand Duchy?
The Parc Merveilleux de Bettembourg is great to go with children, the lakes by Esch-sur-Sûre and the Grund in Luxembourg City.
A city to enjoy outside Luxembourg?
Quinoa and grains.
Favorite restaurant in Luxembourg City?
What can you never leave the house without?
My cellphone and its charger! I’m a WhatsApp fanatic. And I can’t leave without colors for my son.
Do you practice any sports?
Running and wall climbing (an activity I do with my husband).
Juan Luis Guerra.
What music would you take to a deserted island?
Something that I could dance to and Björk.
Who do you admire?
The American novelist Siri Hustvedt and French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir.
Featured photo ©Neimënster