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A Journey to the capitals of tomorrow: Kaunas 2022

Kaunas Design events Kaunas Design events Photo by Martynas Plepys

We asked managers of the European capitals of culture from 2022 to 2025, five same questions to understand their expectations in a clear and concise way. Each interview is preceded by a fact sheet on that European capital of culture. The format is the same for all. At the end of the series of interviews we will try to make a synthesis of objectives, trends, expectations by the ecocs. After Novi Sad 2022 and Esch-Sur-Alzette 2022 today we talk about Kaunas, European Capital of culture 2022.

Kaunas is a city in south-central Lithuania. At the confluence of the Neris and Nemunas rivers, Kaunas Castle is a medieval fortress housing historical exhibitions. To the east, the old town is home to the Kaunas Cathedral Basilica, with its ornate interior, and the Gothic spires of the Hanseatic House of Perkūnas. Laisvės Alėja, a pedestrianized street lined with trees and cafes, crosses the city from west to east. Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania, with a population of some 288,000 people.

Since 2017, “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022” is implementing the largest cultural project for Kaunas City and Kaunas District to date, also known as “Contemporary Capital” with a motto “From Temporary to Contemporary”. The main goal of the project is a change: from a town living with nostalgia to a growing, open city which believes in its future, focusing on the unique Kaunas modernist architecture, history and memory, Fluxus ideas and today’s community.

Each year, “Kaunas 2022” is hosting eight major events in Kaunas City and Kaunas District: International Day of Happiness (March), Contemporary Neighbourhoods (all the summer in Kaunas District), Youth Festival (July), ConTempo Festival (August), International European Capital of Culture Forum (September), Fluxus Festival (September), CityTelling Festival (October), Kaunas Design Event (October), drawing attention to such aspects of culture as communality, the past of the city, or the contemporary arts.

In 2022, Kaunas will invite to more than 300 cultural events, of which 52 major international ones will take place in Kaunas City and Kaunas District. Thus, cultural enthusiasts will have a chance to attend at least one important cultural event every weekend. The Trilogy of Contemporary Myth of Kaunas will bring an opportunity for the Europeans and Kaunasians to awaken the main hero of the City’s Contemporary Myth – The Beast of Kaunas (19–23 January 2022), meet with him face-to-face (20–22 May 2022), and sign a treaty of friendship with the city, the neighbour, and their own selves (25–27 November 2022).

Find more information about the programme here.

The interview is with Dovilė Butnoriūtė, ­­­­­Head of International Relations.

Why did the city decide to be the European capital of culture?

That is a bit of a longer story. Despite the rich history of the city, after Lithuania regained its independence, city went through a hard time getting out of the stagnation that had lasted for  so many years. Shrouded in stereotypes, the city was overtaken by collective amnesia, with inhabitants experiencing palpable pessimism and nostalgia for the golden interwar period. The city’s status as the European Capital of Culture has allowed its creative community to carry out a long-awaited transformation, coining the motto “From Temporary to Contemporary”.

What changes are expected for the reference community?

The organization aims at the union of cultural organizations and creators in the Kaunas region, empowering citizens to form strong communities and cultural sector networking, reveal the diversity of European cultures and our local identity in Europe. We see the change already!

What are the three keywords of your cultural program?

You described our keywords really well in this lovely introduction:

Confusion – actualizing and understanding the fragmented history and censored mentality of the city

Confluence – bringing more culture into public spaces through openness, accessibility, and cooperation

Consciousness – awakening people to act: creating strong communities and giving them tools to develop their own cultural projects

These keywords are followed by The Mythical Beast of Kaunas – a project designed to create a unifying narrative for the city – it will unfold in next year’s great mythical trilogy comprised of the CONFUSION (January 20-23), Confluence (May 20–22), and CONTRACT  (November 25–27).

What are the main citizen involvement activities?

All our beautiful programme is built on CO-CREATION ELEMENT. Pandemia forced us to be even more focused on this aspect, to involve public spaces and to look for new ways how to make our programme as much participatory as possible from celebrating Happiness to simply going Fluxus which has no rules.The strongest programmes are: „Fluxus Labas“ and „Contemporary neighborhoods‘ which aims to form more open and tightly-knitted neighbourhoods, community art projects, celebrations, volunteering, and hospitality. We hope will continue to grow after this ECOC year will be over.

What do you want to remain after the capital year?

A variety of high-quality cultural events that are diverse and accessible for all; a community that accepts its history, is open and culturally active; a strong cultural sector networking in Europe and the world; a city attracting tourists due to its contemporary culture and art.

Serafino Paternoster

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

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