The American Center in Prague has a new home: the Wratislavsky Palace in Prague's Mala Strana district. The Center is the cultural and educational arm of the US Embassy, and has had many addresses over the years. The new location, embassy staff hope, will be the Center's home for many years to come.
The message at the opening ceremony was loud and clear: come one, come all, we welcome you. US Ambassador William Graber:
"A People who are interested in America can come to the American center and we'd love to have them. Anyone can just show up, no security at all, no fees, people are welcome to come, as long as the doors are open we welcome people to this wonderful facility."
That makes a big change from recent years, when the Center was housed in the US Embassy. All visitors had to pass through a security check to get inside. Before that, it was located on Hybernska street in central Prague, an address which the Center quit for security reasons after September 11, 2001. Miroslav Dusek is the head of information and research at the American Center:
"There are two reasons for moving here. One was we wanted to open ourselves more to the Czech Public. And the second reason, we wanted to marry the two concepts, an information resource center and an outreach platform for concerts, conferences, exhibits."
Now on view: photographer Nancy Crampton's black and white portraits of famous American authors: Maya Angelou, Norman Mailer, Annie Proulx, Tennessee Williams, and many more. Later in the month, the Center will introduce a number of events with the American writer Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours.
The address is Trziste 13, also known as Wratislavsky Palace, a magisterial building in Mala Strana that also houses the embassies of Ireland and Luxembourg. It's also just next door to the American embassy. The historic setting makes a pleasant place to do research, or just soak in the ambience.
The American human rights activist, poet, and long time Prague resident Gwendolyn Albert was at the Center's launch. She said it was an important step towards connecting Czechs and Americans.
"There's been a lot about the heightened security that's sort of at odds with the idea of free access to information. And there are many many people in the United States who want the United States to be an open place and to be about openness and so I think this is great."
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