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Nice 2028, connecting the unexpected

Nice Nice Photo by Pierre Blaché/Pixabay

On March 3 in Paris, the panel evaluating the European Capitals of Culture for 2028 will choose some of the 9 cities that applied to be on the short list. After Rouen, Montpellier, Clermont – Ferrand, Reims, Bastia – Corsica, Bourges, Saint Denis, Amiens, today we discover Nice.

Nice, capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department on the French Riviera, sits on the pebbly shores of the Baie des Anges. Founded by the Greeks and later a retreat for 19th-century European elite, the city has also long attracted artists. Former resident Henri Matisse is honored with a career-spanning collection of paintings at Musée Matisse. Musée Marc Chagall features some of its namesake's major religious works.

The interview is with the Nice 2028 team

Why did your city decide to apply for the European capital of culture?
In May 2021, Christian Estrosi, Mayor of Nice and President of the Nice Côte d'Azur Metropolis, announced Nice's candidacy for the title of European Capital of Culture in 2028 to develop a long-term project in which culture plays a major role in the vitality, cohesion and transformation of our territories.

More than 50 cities have been nominated since the beginning of the programme. The preparation of a bid for the title of European Capital of Culture is often an opportunity for the designated cities to set up urban renewal programmes, to highlight or change their image and to strengthen their international influence. The NICE2028 bid proposes to highlight the essential role of culture in adapting the territory to climate change and raising awareness of ecology by connecting Nice and its perimeter to the European ecosystem of artists, creators and innovation players in order to imagine the cultural initiatives of tomorrow.

Above all, we see the prospect of becoming European Capital of Culture as a dynamic that will enable us to transcend the challenges facing the region. We wanted to build our candidacy beyond the conventional images, by mobilising artistic innovation and digital technology to write a new narrative for our territories together. In addition to the positive spin-offs in terms of image, but also on a social, cultural, tourist and economic level, this bid represents a formidable catalyst for the sustainable transformation of our region, where creativity and innovation serve the common good.

What do you think are the keywords of your application?
Our eminently artistic and cultural history is our first strong point. Indeed, many artists have always been inspired by Nice and have inspired Nice: Matisse, Chagall... The artistic movement known as the Ecole de Nice developed at the end of the 1950s with artists who became international such as Arman, Yves Klein, Ben and Bernar Venet, at the crossroads of several major movements such as New Realism, Fluxus, Supports/Surfaces, etc.

Another of our strong points is the red thread of our application, which aims to respond to the promise of connecting the unexpected. This is a concept that is both original and rich, perfectly inscribed in the history of art, and even constitutive of the act of creation of certain artists and certain works in all disciplines. By connecting the unexpected, NICE2028 aims to be a catalyst for inventing the creation and cultural consumption of the 21st century that is innovative and creative, sober and decarbonised, inclusive and supportive, notably by relying on digital technology.

Nice's ambition is to build on the investments already made and those already planned to concentrate resources on projects, on action on the ground and on short, medium and long-term uses. We wanted to give creativity and innovation every opportunity to explore the field of possibilities.

Finally, this is not the bid of one city but of an entire region. With its focus on Europe, this cross-border bid goes beyond the borders of the city of Nice to include the 51 municipalities of the metropolitan area, as well as the 15 municipalities of the Communauté d'Agglomération de la Riviera Française (CARF), and the Italian cities of Cuneo, Ventimiglia, Dolceacqua, San Remo and Imperia. It is an area of European confluence. Moreover, Nice is a deeply and intensely European city! We work closely with Europe on many projects and were even awarded the "European City" label during the Autumn University of the European Movement.

The bid thus covers a catchment area of 832,000 inhabitants over 2,500 km2. This culturally and historically coherent area is also intended to be open and flexible so that it can welcome and involve those who wish to join it, but it is also intended to be broader so that it can cooperate with all those who feel concerned by our theme and wish to become involved.

Through this application, we want to take up the challenge of combating climate change and its consequences by betting on creativity and innovation. The projects selected will have to play with the territory's unique heritage and landscape and highlight its natural wealth while preserving resources. The sun, the sea, the mountains, the forest, the flowers, the colours, the flavours, the perfumes, the winds, the storms, the snow too, but also the days and nights, the contrasts between the shore and the peaks are all sources of inspiration for the creators, indissolubly linked to the DNA of Nice. The cultural events will then take the gamble of going outside the walls to highlight Nice and its landscape while respecting the rhythm of the seasons. An example given by the City of Nice with the project for a performance space in the Cimiez arenas which will welcome the public from summer 2023.

Inventing the living community that works for greater harmony between humanity and nature through creativity and innovation is the vision that our bid will implement by connecting the unexpected.

How are you involving citizens in this competition?
Nice is conducting its bid at different levels to involve citizens: at the local, regional, European and international levels, but also with the world of culture, the economy, innovation, education and the environment. From 2022 onwards, a number of meetings aimed at involving the various stakeholders in the region have been organised to shape and co-construct our bid project.

Events have already been organised at the bid's HQ, at the Artistique, to present and discuss the bid with the entire population (schoolchildren, municipal staff, cultural and community groups, etc.). This venue, which has a 140-seat theatre, will become the epicentre of the bid.

We call on all the inhabitants concerned by our territory's bid for the European Capital of Culture to come and meet our team at the Artistique in order to exchange ideas and move forward together by bringing out numerous projects.

In order to bring people together online, a website has been created www.nice-2028.eu in French, English and Italian and an "ambassador" kit is available for download to enable the general public to show their support for the bid. CEC2028 is also present on the social networks Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

The city is working with young people. Nice and Turin, both partners, have developed two hackathons on a heritage theme within the same framework as part of the European Interreg Alcotra programme. NICE2028 has launched its youth engagement programme by actively collaborating with students in the area on digital engagement missions.

Finally, the team is currently launching a call for projects / call for expressions of interest / call for ideas for each pillar of the bid (vitality, pathways and citizenship) in order to bring out initiatives, actions and solutions throughout the region that reflect the commitments of the bid and its concept.

What are the next steps on your journey?
The pre-selection file was submitted to the Ministry of Culture on 21 December. There are 38 questions, only four of which relate to cultural and artistic content. The others are divided between broad statements of intent and the production of management charts. We will defend this dossier before the Ministry's commission at the end of February. But in reality, it is between February and December 2023 that the main thing is at stake. And that's when we will mobilise faster, higher and stronger! To do this, we are working together with all the teams in the region to create excitement around the bid for the following phases.

What are your thoughts on the European Capital of Culture competition?
It's a great boost. It gives us the opportunity to change the image of Nice from a mass tourism label to a much more selective holiday destination, where a certain art of living reigns, where the richness of an entire territory will be honoured, but also and above all, show the way to a society that is more supportive, more creative, more cooperative, more respectful and more resilient.

The NICE2028 bid will be an opportunity to better connect culture and the economy and to show the strong identity of our territory and its capacity to adapt to environmental imperatives (with the development of green spaces, paths and soft mobility, in particular) as well as to modernity, including in the field of the arts and cultural and creative industries.

Being European Capital of Culture, while giving a spotlight to our actions and our heritage, would be a tremendous boost to initiate, imagine and accompany the implementation of a common narrative linking humanity and nature more than ever.

A large public, both inhabitants and visitors, will be able to develop, (re)discover cultural and artistic practices, participate and get involved in making the territory elected European Capital of Culture shine internationally. This is a rare opportunity to acquire a lever for the long-term transformation of a territory, capable of deploying a dynamic of commitment and involvement to co-write and co-construct this transforming vision by relying on the power of culture.

Serafino Paternoster

Ecocnews Founder, Journalist, repentant jazz guitarist, music critic and film lover.

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