The dates changing rapidly on the calendar will bring Kaunas even closer to becoming the European Capital of Culture. Even though the title year is 2022, the dates of all major events have been announced, while the tasks for the next year are counted as the steps leading to them. 

“2019 is the year for preparation, while 2020–2021 will bring us closer to what organisations of the cultural sector anticipate the most: project funding for the planning of the events in 2022,” says Ms. Virginija Vitkienė, CEO of Kaunas 2022.

Positive assessment

The team of Kaunas 2022 has just returned from Brussels, where she submitted the report of works carried out to the European Commission. According to Virginija Vitkienė, nothing is left to its own course, when the city is awarded the title: its performance is assessed by the European Commission and the panel delegated by the European Commission and Parliament.

If the city does not achieve the goals it has set and does not execute the programme properly, the title might be revoked.

“We have done more than it was required. The goal at this stage is to establish the organisation itself, recruit necessary people, start drawing contracts with the main financiers, develop a network of partnerships and start developing certain programmes. Other works aside, we have also launched all eight programmes and implemented a number of international events, including the European Capital of Culture Forum and Modernism for the Future Forum organised together with UNESCO division in Lithuania.

An international youth summer camp “100 First Times” organised in the summer of 2018 welcomed 60 young people from various countries around the world. We are visible in Europe at this stage as well,” says Ms. Vitkienė.

After the visit to the European Commission, team members claim that not only have the evaluations been positive, Kaunasians have pitched ideas to project evaluators as well.

Evaluation of 6 criteria and the report is carried out, assessing the management, functioning, access of different segments of society, communication and Europeanness of the programme. At the first stage, artistic programme is evaluated the last: it gradually becomes important, when the title year of the European Capital of Culture approaches.

The praise was directed at “Tempo Academy of Culture” and trainings carried out by Kaunas 2022. We were told that the way we plan the programme in order to initially develop competences of the cultural sector, communities and youth as well as to invite them to participate in culture and create, is a very welcome phenomenon in other European Capitals of Culture.

It is very likely that in the new calls for the European Capital of Culture title, they [the European Commission] will pay more attention to it and competence development will not only be an option, but one of the evaluation criteria as well.

We are convinced that competence development, training and creative workshops are the greatest legacy to remain after the project.

I speak about improving competences of people from the cultural sector to act on the international level, be open to new audiences, communities, integration of the disabled, and increased accessibility of culture,” says Ms. Vitkienė.

Events to continue next year

The team of Kaunas 2022 strives to focus on deep-running cultural processes, rather than the superficial ones, thus, not all the processes are visible to Kaunasians and residents of Kaunas District. However, this year will be full of various events, including the International Day of Happiness that started in 2018, and also the climbing to Parodos Hill in FLUXUS style and the Festival of Communities.

“We will invite cultural organisations and small enterprises to contribute to the celebration of the Day of Happiness and to make their facilities more accessible for the disabled and parents with strollers.

Sharing happiness makes us happy as well. Therefore, every year, we will focus on a different aspect of sharing happiness with others during the Day of Happiness. We want to develop this celebration into a major, international event that will take place in 2022 and we want it to stay in Kaunas.

We know for a fact that according to the vision and strategy of Kaunas, it strives to be a city of happy and learning people. We believe that culture, and especially the participatory culture, improves one’s emotional, psychological well-being, health and happiness,” says V. Vitkienė.

The European Forum of Culture is dedicated to the professionals of various fields. It will take place every year up until 2022, and specialists from the areas of culture, business, education, social affairs and political sectors from all across Europe will be able to share their experiences.

Stories will become a festival 

One of the new festivals in the programme of Kaunas 2022 will be organised by its programme Memory Office. It will be called the Festival of Stories. According to V. Vitkienė, it will also be a continuous project.

“We will include local and foreign artists as well as local organisations. The events of the Festival of Stories will happen throughout the entire week, mostly in public spaces, and will also feature concerts, performances and exhibitions. It is a festival about people and their stories for all of us to experience the multicultural spirit of Kaunas and its surroundings from 100 years ago and now.

This initiative will develop into a major cultural memory project planned for 2022: an audiovisual work of art to be introduced in Žalgiris Arena. We expect participation of a few hundreds of artists and music performers from Europe and even more from Lithuania,” says Ms. Vitkienė.

Another news for 2019, a project called “Šiuolaikinės seniūnijos” (Contemporary Elderships), designed for the towns of rural elderships.

After the open call, 5-7 locations will be selected for the works of art to be created: from the contemporary circus, visual and theatre projects.

Dates of major events are already known

The dates of the major events in 2022 are already known, so is the part of the script, but organisers will not reveal its contents yet.

The major opening event of the European Capital of Culture will take place on 20–22 of January 2022. A part of it will take place in the open air, while the other one will happen in Žalgiris Arena.

Another two major events will take place on 20–22 of May and at the end of November. “Through them, we will tell the new legend of Kaunas which we are currently creating together. The legend will have its own narrative and main characters, and it will be told together with Kaunasians themselves participating in the process. I can just mention that people will be invited to participate in mass events not only as spectators.

Throughout 2022, approximately 50 international events will take place in Kaunas. 12 of them will be organised by our office with foreign and Lithuanian partners, others will be organised by cultural organisations in Kaunas and Kaunas district. We will start meetings and consultations  with the cultural operators regarding the major events already in 2019.

Our aim is for several governmental and non-governmental organisations to cooperate managing the projects, and by also including business and education partners and educational institutions. We want for them to evolve into large-scale international events that will incorporate the festivals that happen already, and without which it would be impossible to imagine the programme of 2022, but also new initiatives as well,” she adds.

Vitkienė also claims that she is “happy about the great support from the main institutions of Kaunas city and its district: museums, theatres art and music festivals.

Most of their employees participate in meetings, discussions, trainings and seminars taking place for the second year. They also organise meetings in their own institutions as well. This way, we are slowly approaching the creation of joint projects for 2022. It is important for us that all the skills, competences, reputation and increased need for culture in the society remain as the property and asset of the cultural institutions. I consider Kaunas 2022 as a “disappearing intermediary”, the goal of which will be achieved, if the outburst of inclusive culture in Kaunas region is to be continuous and long-lasting,” says Ms. Vitkienė.

After the title year of the European Capital of Culture, Kaunas 2022 will aim to reorganise itself into the centre of cultural competences, providing help to various cultural institutions, individual creators and future European Capitals of Culture.