After the meeting with the jury of the European Commission, “Kaunas 2022” is to receive a significant Melina Mercouri Prize

Together with the last conclusion of the European Commission, the team of “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture” has heard great news. After assessing the readiness and fulfilment of the commitments made back in 2017, the jury recommended that the city be awarded the Melina Mercouri Prize of 1.5 million euros. This prize is awarded to European capitals of culture if the plans listed in the project application are successfully implemented and the quality of project management is ensured, the obligations of the funders are fulfilled (the project is funded by Kaunas City Municipality, Kaunas District Municipality and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania). 

The two meetings of the teams of European Commission for monitoring and “Kaunas 2022” consistently analysed the progress of preparation for 2022, development of partnerships, contribution to the implementation of the Strategy of Culture of Kaunas City, communication plans and actions. From the very beginning of the project, the involvement of communities and society in the preparation for the programme of European Capital of Culture, the actions of cultural decentralization in the neighbourhoods of Kaunas city and Kaunas District settlements have been highly valued. At the third meeting in October 2021, the members of the jury mostly focused on the plan of continuity of “Kaunas 2022” project. This prize is dedicated to consolidating the Changes of Culture.

“The Melina Mercouri Prize is awarded to nearly all the cities that are European capitals of culture. It represents a relatively small part of the budget for this long-standing, culturally transformative project. It is important that project stakeholders who have devoted so much energy and resources to this Olympic-level event use this badge of appreciation to ensure the continuity of emerging artistic and cultural phenomena. What seems more significant to me in this report is the qualitative assessment and appreciation that, even in the context of COVID, we have been able to reach and involve so many people, mobilize partners, win international awards for integrated communication and marketing campaigns. And, most importantly, to create a top-level programme for art for 2022 that, based on local identity and uniqueness, enriches the overall European culture,” Director of “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture” said.  

Both during the meeting and in the conclusion, the development and application of co-creation methodologies and the preparation of methodological material in English were identified as significant factors by the jury. It also expressed its wish for the continuation of sharing the best practice of Kaunas and Kaunas District both through the continuation of the Forum of European Capital of Culture in Kaunas, and by promoting the methodological material and by sharing the best practice with other cities and regions. 

“European Capital of Culture is the most significant cultural project of the European Union that allows the designated cities to look at themselves from the outside and, by employing creativity, to create a new local narrative, network at national and European level. Probably the most important thing we will take with us from this experience is a change in quality and quantity. Having started on the road seven years ago with just a few of us, now together with over 70 Lithuanian and several hundred of European cultural organizations and over 500 cultural professionals, we can change our place so that it is interesting for the entire Europe and the world,” Virginija Vitkienė says.  

The third report of “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022” and the conclusion of the jury commission can be found here: 

Programme of “Kaunas 2022”: 

Exceptional achievements of Kaunas modernist architecture and design reached Bilbao Design Week


With the rapid approach of 2022 - the year of the European Capital of Culture, Kaunas is increasingly representing itself on international city platforms. The artists of Kaunas travel thousands of kilometers to show off their work. Currently, Bilbao Bizkaia Design Week takes place on November 18-25, where you can get acquainted with the creators of Kaunas and the activities of Kaunas 2022.

Bilbao Design Week is an annual event that aims to promote the creative industries sector through conferences, lectures, workshops, presentations, and meetings in various parts of the city and involves multiple cultural institutions, associations, universities and creators, and artists. This year's theme, Crossings & Transitions, examines the current period, with a particular focus on climate change, socio-economic and health crises, aging of the population, technological progress, and digital transformations that are pushing the world into new everyday perspectives, sustainability, accessibility, and creativity.

Photo by: G.Banaitis

During the Design Week, it will also be possible to get acquainted with the plans and achievements of Kaunas - the European Capital of Culture, the identity revealed through interpretations of design and architecture, and hear the presentations of Gintaras Balčytis and Gerda Liudvinavičiūtė, as well as learn their sources of creativity and inspiration. Furthermore, modern architecture and design peculiarities were on display at the Guggenheim Museum and contemporary art and leisure center Azkuna Zentroa.

Creators and culture lovers from all over Europe are interested in Kaunas' activities and topics, so Bilbao's Design Week also includes an exhibition "Designing Optimism" created by Gediminas Banaitis, which features Modernism for the Future projects and interpretations of modernism architecture revealed by Timtiejus Norvila - Morfai, Gerda Liudvinavičiūtė[Celsius273], youth project Komoda, Mantas Kuginis, director of the film "Pleads" Aideen Barry, Studio Falbanka, Kaunas Food Industry, and Trade Training Center project portraying modernist buildings in cakes, Rokas Mikšiūnas and a joint project by LRT and Lithuanian dance information center "Contemporary art and architecture. "

Photo by: G.Banaitis

Since 2015, Kaunas has been participating in the initiatives of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and sharing contemporary culture with the world. By joining the Network, cities reaffirm their commitment to sharing best practices, developing partnerships that foster creativity and the design industry, and strengthening participation in cultural life. In recent years, Kaunas has participated in many international initiatives that promote the recognition of the importance of design in the city, and participation in the activities of the UNESCO Network of Creative Cities has become more active.

Photo by: G.Banaitis

The contemporary Myth of Kaunas Trilogy – a journey to a new city identity

In 2022, Kaunas will be reborn – the myth of the contemporary capital, which the Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 team has been creating for three years, will materialise itself in an impressive programme. The main highlights of the programme are the Myth of Kaunas Trilogy events, which will take place over the three weekends: The Confusion (January 19–23), The Confluence (May 20–22) and The Contract (November 25–27).

For the opening weekend of Kaunas European Capital of Culture, more than 100 events are planned, several hundred professional and non-professional performers will be on the stage. In the impressive opening show, we will see world-famous creators and performers from Lithuania and around the world.

“The Myth of Kaunas Trilogy events, with which we will open the year of Kaunas European Capital of Culture in January, continue in May and close in November is the axis of the programme. We will involve thousands of locals into these events so that they become active participants, characters, extras in crowd scenes, choir performers, and not mere spectators,” says Virginija Vitkienė, the initiator and CEO of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022.

The creative output of the Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 project is being created by 64 organisations, which currently employ almost 300 professionals. About 15 more organisations will join the main events; a total of about 80 partners will implement the European Capital of Culture year program. According to Vitkienė, there will be no free weekend in the year.

“The Myth of Kaunas Trilogy is a journey through the three main events of the European Capital of Culture – a journey much like the three stages of a person’s life: coming to understand who we are, accepting who we are, and coexisting with ourselves – as we are,” says Rytis Zemkauskas, the author of the idea and the script writer for the Trilogy.

The myth of the city, created by all its inhabitants, is united by the metaphor of the Beast. According to Zemkauskas, the Beast is the body of the city, it is as alive as we are. The mythical Kaunas Beast will be awakened in January, we will make better acquaintance with it in May, and will agree to live happily and in harmony at the closing event of the Capital of Culture at the end of November.

The trilogy of Contemporary Kaunas Myth will be told in dozens of books and stories, it will be shaped by exhibitions and performances of Lithuanian and international artists, it will sound in concerts taking place in various places in Kaunas, and will be lit by installations from all over Europe.

Opening of the European Capital of Culture in Kaunas on January 22

Whatever are your plans for the beginning of the next year, arrange your schedule so that you are in Kaunas on January 22. Although the detailed programme of the opening show, which will take place at the Žalgiris Arena at 19.30 pm, is kept secret until the last minute, the organisers reveal that it is being created by hundreds of Kaunas, Lithuanian and international artists.

“The ambitious Kaunas European Capital of Culture programme is based on a unique, sincere, community-involving vision of the Contemporary Capital. The contemporary capital is a city where culture is not just a Sunday theatre but it is a way to act, learn, create innovations, build a community,” says Ana Kočegarova-Maj, Kaunas 2022 Programme Director. 

She reminds that thanks to all the creators of the programme, Kaunas will host exhibitions of the world’s most famous artists, such as Marina Abramović, Yoko Ono or William Kentridge, will invite its citizens and city guests to the festivals of a unique scale and artistic quality. 

At the opening event of Kaunas – the European Capital of Culture 2022, a synthesis of contemporary music, giant video projections and slam poetry will tell the story of the city as a living miracle, which constantly renews itself. The goal of the programme is to involve everyone in the city’s creative uprising. Kaunas invites the audience around the word to watch the opening broadcast live.

The opening event is being created by British director Chris Baldwin, who has contributed to the key events of the European Capitals of Culture in Wroclaw (Poland), Galway (Ireland) and London Olympics. The music for the event is composed by the Golden Cross of the Stage multiple awardee Antanas Jasenka. The music will be performed by the National Symphony Orchestra and Vilnius Choir, conducted by Modestas Pitrėnas, the winner of the Lithuanian National Culture and Art Prize.

A team of several producers coordinates an impressive opening show, where the Aura Dance Theatre, the authors of experiential video installations OKTA Studio and the masters of world-famous installations and performances, whose names are not yet revealed by the organisers, will provide an unforgettable experience to the city’s residents, guests and the spectators around the world. The costumes of the event are created by Aleksandra Jacovskytė, Julija Skuratova, Sandra Straukaitė.

100 events over the weekend

There are more than 100 events scheduled for The Confusion weekend, which will start on the outskirts of Kaunas on January 19, and will move towards the city centre, congesting residents for the opening. It is estimated that several hundred professional and non-professional performers will appear on stage over the weekend.

On the eve of the opening, January 21 the most important 2022 visual arts exhibitions will open. William Kentrige’s solo exhibition What We Don’t Remember at the M.K. Čiurlionis Museum will introduce the works of this world-famous South African artist of Lithuanian-Jewish heritage to Kaunas residents and the city guests. Also, on that weekend, the four-month exhibition Modernism for the Future 360/365 dedicated to the architecture of Kaunas and European modernism will open at Kaunas Central Post Office. The exhibition will feature projects from 17 artists created during the art residencies over the last year. In addition, the exhibitions of artists from the Capitals of Culture 2022, Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg) and Novi Sad (Serbia), will open.

The opening of the installation “Exit it” by the peace activist multimedia artist Yoko Ono is also scheduled for January 22. The installation will run until September 2022.

Dozens of cultural institutions of Kaunas and Kaunas district are creating a special programme for the first Myth of Kaunas Trilogy weekend. The Confusion programme includes concerts, dance performances and plays, excursions and creative workshops. According to the organisers, one will not be able to escape culture. 

The mythical beast of Kaunas will budge in his sleep and… wake up.

Kaunas birthday will be celebrated next to rivers

Kaunas is located in an exceptional place, at the confluence of two major Lithuanian rivers – the Nemunas and the Neris. In addition, in Kaunas, on the way to Raudondvaris, another confluence – of the Nemunas and the Nevėžis – is located, surrounded by a beautiful natural park. Although riverfront in a town usually serves as a natural attraction, Kaunas residents have only relatively recently discovered these beautiful spots and started to spend their free time there.

The Confluence event, which will take place on May 20–22, will fulfil the dream of Kaunas people to return to the rivers and to immerse into the flow of creativity. Saturday evening will begin with a mystery directed by a renowned Lithuanian theatre director Oskaras Koršunovas, performed while the sun sets in one of the most beautiful places in Lithuania – the Nemunas and Neris confluence. The event will end with a show on water of an unprecedented scale in Lithuania, directed by Chris Baldwin.

Kaunas birthday weekend was chosen for the Confluence, the second part in the Myth of Contemporary Kaunas Trilogy. Moreover, on the same date, the largest international kite festival “Between Earth and Sky” is taking place in Kaunas district. For three days, Kaunas residents and guests will be entertained by performances of acrobats, modern circus, musical picnics in the Kaunas district settlements located by the rivers – the action will take place on the shores, in the water and in the sky. If conditions allow, we will receive guests from other European Capitals of Culture and Alytus, which will be the Lithuanian Capital of Culture in 2022.

People say that in this weekend we will definitely see the beast of Kaunas ...

Closing event: contemporary opera in Raudondvaris Manor

The official closing of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 will take place on the last weekend of November, on 25–27. According to the organisers, the Contract part of the Trilogy is dedicated to making agreement with the city, to pledge to live together in harmony.

“When we started preparing the application for the project several years ago, we “diagnosed” Kaunas as grey, very complex, we saw it as a teenager who is not loved and does not love himself. Today, inviting people to the European Capital of Culture 2022 events, we look forward to welcoming visitors in an already changed, more hospitable, more sociable, more youthful, more stylish, more empathetic, more sustainable city, open to their own and European history and present. Kaunas is no longer afraid of the ghosts of the past and does not have complexes due to real or imaginary insignificance. We are looking forward to welcoming you in a European city of happy people”, says Vitkienė.

The central event of the Contract weekend is created by the Lithuanian National Prize winner composer Zita Bružaitė, director Gediminas Šeduikis, the playwright Daiva Čepauskaitė, the winner of the Golden Stage Cross. Together with hundreds of the most talented Lithuanian performers, the contemporary opera will consolidate the agreement of Kaunas residents with their city, will sound the promise of living long and happily. An impressive audiovisual show, which will close the year of the European Capital of Culture in Kaunas, will take place at Raudondvaris Manor on Sunday evening.

A special exhibition commemorating 2022 will also be opened in Raudondvaris, and on the closing weekend Kaunas will be adorned with modern light installations from other European cities and other European capitals. Although then Kaunas will officially pass over the title of European Capital of Culture to other cities, it will forever remain a city of contemporary culture.

Kaunas Beast, actively involved in the process of creating a contemporary urban myth, will remain in the city and watch over the contract signed by the residents of the city.

Kaunas European Capital of Culture 2022 Youth Programme: Get ready to be taken out of your comfort zone

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

The city is its people. What will Kaunas look like in twenty or fifty years? The answer to this question can be found by talking, listening and simply spending time with young people. After hearing, seeing and feeling what they care about, we can predict how future Kaunas residents will live and what they will care about. The events of the Emerging Kaunas in the year of the European Capital of Culture will allow to peek through a keyhole into the future of Kaunas. 

“Emerging Kaunas is a programme for young people by young people. The central office of the European Capital of Culture even allocated a separate TEMPO space for us, where we can feel free and be ourselves, and talk about what concerns us in the language we understand best,” says Aurelija Prašmuntaitė, the Curator of the programme.

According to her, encouraging young people to participate in culture can only be done by providing them the opportunity to take the initiative themselves. Young people in Kaunas co-create quality cultural products in cooperation with Kaunas Chamber Theatre, Pažaislis Music Festival, Gamers Dance Studio and other partners. The Emerging Kaunas programme has several creative platforms, including the Kaunas Challenge and the More Tempo initiatives, which cultural community is constantly growing.

In 2022, the Emerging Kaunas programme in the European Capital of Culture year will explode with emotions, glow with impressions, it will tickle the senses and arouse curiosity.

Audra Contemporary City Festival – the central event of the youth programme

The central event of the youth programme is the Audra Contemporary City Festival, which will take place from June 29 to July 3, 2022. Contemporary art installations will emerge in various parts of the city, accompanied by concerts by different performers. Electronic, experimental, acoustic music will be performed at Kaunas Philharmonic, Mykolas Žilinskas Art Gallery, Kaunas Taxi Park, Pergalė Concert, Kaunas Confluence and other places.

The Festival team was joined by the Freimas International Association of Artists, which together with the team of the Lizdas night club creates the musical program for the Festival. The organisers assure all the lovers of quality electronic music: you can relax and wait for this unique event, which will shake Kaunas from the ground up and allow you to peek into its future.

Photo by: M. Plepys

Audra Contemporary City Festival is an event that reflects the lifestyle and values of the young people. This is a city festival that invites to discover the identity of Kaunas, of youth communities together with your personal identity. Audra summons curious people to enjoy the experience and bold discussions. There will be no participants in this festival – everyone will be its creator. The ideological leaders, guides and implementers of this festival are the participants of the Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 youth programme Emerging Kaunas.

There will be more action involving young people in the city on the same days. The Gamers City Battle 2022 street dance event will bring together participants of various street dance subcultures and nationalities from all over Europe. One of celebrities of the event is the French legend Salah, who will take his place in the judge’s chair. Hundreds of colourful and inventive dancers’ costumes, quality music, street dancers’ choreography – this is something definitely worth looking forward to.

Among the most prominent partners will be Inconvenient Films, which will invite the audience to explore the topics of psychological health and identity. Interestingly, these partners will bring the content of the audio documentaries, which will be designed with subtitle projections on Kaunas city buildings.

Also, we welcome the Diversion Cinema programme from our French partners. They will offer a unique virtual reality experience. During the festival, participants will be able to explore virtual reality not only through the possibilities of a stationary VR film, but while walking around space. We plan to bring a unique performance that combines VR and contemporary dance.

Audience is also invited to the premiere of the socio-political theatre – performances of the EYE NET 2.0 project about the experiences of young people will be shown, and creators from 7 European countries will come to Kaunas. The Lithuanian performance is directed by Rokas Lažaunykas, and the Mr. Stagey theatre troupe is participating. The Emerging Kaunas team is creating a performance with its partner Pažaislis Music Festival.

Photo by: M. Plepys

Tempo space for young people is teeming with life

The above-mentioned events are the result of the young people’s co-creation with the partners of the Emerging Kaunas programme. In 2022, we will see more of these.

The Kaunas Chamber Theatre Young Performing Arts Training Programme “Prodiusai Colab”, which aims to create conditions for young people to learn from performing arts professionals by implementing co-productions with foreign and Lithuanian artists, will stage two premieres for the 2022 programme. The sketch of “Jeanne”, the script of which is based on the archives from the court of Jeanne D'Arc and which is based on the principle of collaborative theatre, was shown already this year. At the beginning of the next year, we will see “Dance That Didn’t Exist” – a performance based on contact improvisation with the audience. Dancers’ duets, mass scenes, synchronization, change of rhythms will shatter the established opinion about dance.

“We’re creating something that’s never existed in Kaunas before, and we hope that the result of our work will help as many young people as possible to stay in both Kaunas and the Kaunas District, with which we’re also working quite a bit,” says Prašmuntaitė.

Indeed, the unique Tempo Space of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 dedicated for young people is teeming with life. The initiative More Tempo invites using the spaces to present personal initiatives, be it performances, exhibitions, installations, or other projects. Moreover, every September, young people are invited to join the Kaunas Challenge where they get the opportunity to implement their ideas for the city and the Kaunas district together with the Kaunas 2022 team. The graduates of the Kaunas Challenge programme can continue their activities in the alumni club, where they can learn from their experience and experiment with the implementation of their cultural ideas.

Tempo erdvės atidarymas

Cultural co-creation is a continuous process

The initiative inviting young people to join the Kaunas Challenge has already grown its alumni community. The projects developed by these young active people not only enrich the cultural life of the city, but also gradually change the cultural spaces of Kaunas, bringing new ideas, telling the stories from the young people’s perspective.

Among the initiatives born in this community are: PUOTA (Eng. feast), an audio-visual project that integrates the poetry created by the citizens into public spaces, MASS magazine, created by cultural youth and dedicated to such a reader, RANDAI (Eng. scars), a project that allows people to share their emotional experiences through photographs and personal texts, KOMODA (Eng. chest of drawers), which provides a platform for young fashion designers in Kaunas to organise their exhibitions, fashion shows, and performances in urban spaces, PUSĖS DAINOS FESTIVALIS (PDF) (Eng. half-song festival), an event that allows trap/rap music writers to perform their song to the public.

Photo by: M. Plepys

Through their projects, young people not only promote creative self-expression and the cultural life of Kaunas, but they also undertake education and look for the ways to spend quality leisure time. For instance, the video content created by SERIJA-F team is dedicated to financial literacy issues, ŽAIDŽIAM KAUNĄ (Eng. let’s play Kaunas) encourages to skip virtual games and join the board game community. During the project, a game about Kaunas was created, where cultural symbols relevant to the city are woven into the narrative of the game. MINDFAQ evenings invite to the play detective games.

“The content that is attractive, which addresses the challenges of access to culture for young people is created. The members of the Kaunas Challenge Alumni Club work independently in consultation with Kaunas 2022 mentors,” explains the curator of the Emerging Kaunas programme.

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

Focus on the youngest citizens

Capital of Culture Classes are another essential part of the 2022 cultural programme curated by Emerging Kaunas. Among the classes already planned are an animation weekend at the Romuva Cinema Centre, an educational theatre club, two youth theatre festivals, a children’s book festival and other events. However, the programme can still be expanded – Kaunas and Kaunas district schools and kindergartens, other educational institutions are invited to join in creating educational projects.

From April 29 to May 1, Kaunas Maironis Literature Museum will invite to the Live Letters Children’s Book festival, where the little ones will be able to meet writers and book characters, find Kaunas hidden in fairy tales, and see the Mythical Beast of Kaunas. Live Letters is a Part of Kaunas Literature Week, organised by Vytautas Magnus University, intended for the youngest readers. By the way, since we are on the subject of literature – in 2022, the book “Tales of Kaunas Nations” will be published, in original and Lithuanian languages, by Terra Publica. The colourful illustrations and QR codes that will allow unique stories to be heard will complement the texts.

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

Probably not everyone knows that in the first half of the 20th century, world-famous animation and cinema artist Vladislovas Starevičius lived and worked in Kaunas. Remembering this creator, the animation laboratory will be open at the Romuva Cinema Centre on May 21–22, where students will be able to get acquainted with the history and practice of animation. At the same time, the Animation Weekend will offer a programme of the most relevant and latest animated films for children and adults.

On June 12, the Pažaislis Music Festival will invite you to a truly extraordinary event in Raudondvaris to see the children’s opera “Kirana”. For five days, three professional performers from Malta will lead a creative workshop for children, and what the children will create – will also be shown on stage. The scenography will use the works of Kaunas Antanas Martinaitis Art School students, the children will contribute to the soundtrack, they will improvise and learn performing arts. The history of the “Kirana” opera was inspired by the myths of China, India, Babylon and Mesopotamia. In each country where the opera is staged, it is enriched with the work of local talent.

From theatre festivals to ecological citizenship education

Photo by: M. Plepys

In the Capital of Culture Classes programme, a lot of attention was paid to the theatre art. Kaunas National Drama Theatre will offer many events and educational programs for children and youth. Among them is an interactive performance for young people “The Tower of Babel”, the premiere of which will take place in Kaunas and Kaunas district – Čekiškė – on August 19–23; the director of the performance, Norwegian Hilde Brinchmann, uses both her own experience and that of each partner. The International Educational Theatre Festival for Children and Youth “Dive into the Theatre” on June 1–4 will invite young people to look behind the scenes, to get to know the actors. In addition, the Educational Theatre Club will offer a series of events inviting to use the possibilities of theatre art while learning the current subjects of the school programme.

In September 2022, Kaunas Chamber Drama Theatre will organise the Youth Theatre Festival “The Starting Point”, where beginning performers will present their current issues, social ideas and attitudes, emphasising theatre art as an important form of youth communication. The festival is aimed at people who are not indifferent to the most pressing issues and dilemmas of the contemporary society related to climate change, human and animal rights, politics.

The educational programme “Point of Change” for the development of ecological citizenship of students, which will take place in educational institutions of Kaunas and Kaunas region, will encourage action and create a space for new experiences. The programme is organized by “Science and Innovation for Society”, and its goal is to show that environmental protection is a conscious choice of all of us and the inevitable future of Kaunas city and district.

Although the highlighted events are numerous and various, they are just a little fraction of what a vibrant Emerging Kaunas community is bringing to the city every day. Stay tuned, more will follow.

Inspired Communities: the Strength and Success of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

How does one measure the success of a project as ambitious as the European Capital of Culture? Is it the astonished foreign guests and the participating artists praising each other? In a way. However, the real achievement and strength are the local communities that got closer and became more inspired during the process. This is why creativity as part of everyday life is included in the core formula of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022.

Five Years Together

‘We the People’, often called ‘Fluxus Labas!’, is one of the broadest of the Kaunas 2022 programmes, and over five incredibly intensive years of day-to-day activities, it has had an impact on the majority of communities in Kaunas, promoting the idea that residents themselves are capable of addressing challenges and making change.

‘The basis for our programme’s success rests on shared human and European values: the openness of people and communities toward one another, and to diversity, innovation, and creative solutions; inclusion of different people and organizations; building and maintaining interpersonal relationships; and promoting dialogue and co-creation,’ Greta Klimavičiūtė-Minkštimienė, the curator of the communities programme, believes. 

The curator stresses the rest of the unique features of the communities programme, including its experimental spirit, sense of adventure, and playfulness: ‘By embracing these principles, we symbolically follow in the footsteps of George Maciunas – the founder of the Fluxus movement and a Kaunas native – and his ability to see the world and its challenges differently – more playfully and more simply, from a more human perspective.’

Photo by: M. Plepys

More and More Happy Courtyards

The courtyard project has become the pride of Kaunas 2022. Many have copied one of the most successful pandemic-era projects created in the European Union, presented at international awards ceremonies.

Since 2019, ‘Fluxus Labas!’ has been encouraging residents to engage with their neighbours to change their surroundings, take responsibility for them, and find creative solutions to the challenges they face. During Lithuania’s first quarantine in 2020, ‘Fluxus Labas! Kiemas’ adapted to the changing situation and launched the Culture to the Courtyards project. Different performers presented shows to residents in surrounding apartment buildings, allowing audiences to enjoy culture safely in their yards, from their windows and balconies. 

In 2022, the program will invite one and all to as many as 80 courtyards in 11 elderships in Kaunas to enjoy the gift of shows by theatre, dance, contemporary circus, music, and other performers.

Photo by: M. Plepys

Laboratories Producing Happiness

The Fluxus Laboratories is a particular branch of the ‘Fluxus Labas!’ project that trains community facilitators. These people have now spread out through the city. Their goal is to bring together formal and informal communities, city residents, and organizations in different sectors and encourage them to become involved in community cultural and artistic activities and promote such activities themselves in specific neighbourhoods.

In 2022, the Fluxus Laboratories will ‘explode”’ and present unique community cultural and artistic projects in many different neighbourhoods throughout Kaunas. As early as April 23, the Šilainiai Urban Eco Festival, the only one in Lithuania, will unite residents and various organizations. The festival promises to impress with Šilainai natural and landscape design installations, lectures, and educational programmes.

On June 10–12, the community of Draugystės (Friendship) Street in the industrial part of Kaunas will present an interactive cultural and local creative game called The Art of Friendship. Visitors will be invited to enter sites that have been previously off-limits, learn more about welcoming residents and workers and their co-creations, and participate in playful and artistic activities. 

On June 11, one will have the chance to walk through Eiguliai in a way they have never had before. Collaborating with different street artists, the community has created drawings that reflect its identity and now invites you to explore them on this colourful and musical walking tour. 

On June 18, the Dainava neighbourhood community, collaborating with professional performers, artistic groups, and volunteers, will invite everyone to a midsummer mystery in Draugystės (Friendship) Park. 

The real Midsummer will be celebrated in the impressive Šančiai Festival. Initiatives promoted in Šančiai over the past four years will all come together at this three-day event. 

One will be able to visit a former gunpowder warehouse, ‘Parakas’, and celebrate what Lithuanians call Joninės by immersing into a surprising opera of imagery and watching a performance of ice and fire. Moreover, artists and residents will revive the old Šančiai barracks from their deep sleep and invite everyone to creative workshops, musical performances, and tours.

Photo by: M.Plepys

‘Just Come’, a poetry festival by the Gričiupis community, will take place in Kovo 11-osios (March 11) Park on July 23 and will also feature a ceramics collection of more than 700 works of art crafted by members of the community as they listened to poetry. 

On July 9, the festival ‘Forest of the Senses’ will take place in the Panemunė pine grove and will join professional artists, naturalists, and herbalists to create land art and sound installations.

Courtyard Gallery (Kiemo galerija), a new legend of old Kaunas, will invite people to experience colourful creations as well as the retelling of local stories in central Kaunas and its Old Town courtyards on July 16. 

On August 6, the community of Žaliakalnis will host a dancing tour, ‘Step by Step’, that will directly involve professional artists, residents, and visitors to Kaunas, calling them to learn more about the living memory and history of Žaliakalnis and its local mythical creature – Kaukas.

August will also be a perfect time to meet by the Kaunas Reservoir, colloquially called the Kaunas Lagoon. The community of Petrašiūnai will host the celebration on August 14 to emphasize the vital role the lagoon plays as part of the face of Kaunas and reveal the whole range of activities that take place around this body of water.

On August 20, it will be time to discover the Vilijampolė eldership. The artists’ collective God’s Entertainment (Austria) performance will open the ‘Under the Carpet’ installation. One of the show’s elements will be weaving a carpet by the people of Kaunas themselves. On the same day, Culturethon, a festival of sport and art, will travel from lake Lampėdis to the banks of river Neris.

A private music school located in Šilainiai, Jazz Academy, and composer Hara Alonso are of an experimental composition project titled ‘The City Composing in Kaunas’, a work of music created with the people of Kaunas. Its results will be presented on September 10 at the Ninth Fort.

In Aleksotas, audiences will be invited to view an installation assembled from residents’ stories on September 10. The arts group Effetto Larsen (Italy) will create an emotional map of the area based on the memories of those who live here and the experiences of specific places in the neighbourhood. The final result will be an installation modelled as an emotional, interactive journey through the Aleksotas neighbourhood. On September 18, the community of Aleksotas will host the ‘Flying Through Time’ interdisciplinary festival. Different spaces throughout Aleksotas will become stages for theatrical, musical, and other types of performances.

The Šančiai Cultural Courtyard Festival will be yet another occasion to come back to this colourful neighbourhood. On September 14–15, the celebrations will take place near a traditional wooden house. They will combine two initiatives: Elder Stories, a premiere showing of a documentary art film, and a music festival.

Time for Festivals and Celebrations

‘Fluxus Labas!’ is responsible for the birth of the artsiest sports in the world. It’s climbing up Parodos Hill in every possible way except traditionally. The challenge is also the culmination of the Fluxus Festival that will take place on September 10. Each year, Parodos Hill is closed for transport for precisely 22 minutes, and the starting point of the climb is at the Geoge Maciunas Square. After finishing, the participants will take part in a Fluxus carnival. People in Kaunas begin preparing for this celebration well in advance, creating costumes and building props. 

A two-day Communities Forum at the Zapyškis Church of St. John the Baptist, Kaunas District, will take place before the Fluxus Festival to discuss results achieved in Kaunas and the Kaunas District over the past five years, talk about newly created and tested models and methods for engaging with communities, and about the changing view of community-based art, its benefits, and financing. The second day of the forum will be devoted to discussing the vitally important subject of including Kaunas’ rivers and communities in river revitalization.

Of course, many more festivities are planned for the whole of 2022. On May 20, for example, the place to be will be Laisvės Alėja and Vilniaus Street, the central axis of Kaunas connecting Soboras and Kaunas Town Hall. The Courtyard Festival will foster community-building and friendship among people living in the city of Kaunas and the surrounding region. It will present an opportunity to celebrate International Neighbours’ Day. The event will be marked by music played in the most unexpected places and different creative installations and performances.

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

May 21 is the official date of Putvinskio Street Day. Since 2017, once a year, on one Saturday in May, rain or shine or pandemic, all of V. Putvinskio Street comes together to celebrate the neighbourhood and its rich history. 

The third event of the main weekend in May is called ‘Celebrate the River’. People will be invited to take part in cultural walks along the Nemunas and Neris and then share in the celebration when these two routes meet at Kaunas Santaka Park, the confluence of the two rivers. This event will allow residents and guests to reengage with the city’s rivers and their banks, learn more about different Kaunas communities and discover the city anew, but this time from the water. Later in Summer 2022, initiative TẽKA will launch a social game aimed at connecting river banks. 

Contemporary Vibes in Kaunas District

‘Relationships between cities and their surrounding areas are interesting and complicated throughout Europe, and everywhere they’re influenced by culture. This is why listening to the needs of our region was the first task of Kaunas 2022. Another objective was adapting the programme tools of cultural capital to those needs’, Lukas Alsys, curator of the Kaunas District programme, stresses. 

He believes human relationships and coming together play an essential role in the Kaunas District, like nowhere else. This is why these district projects have created unique, one would even say passionate, partnerships. The best example is Italian contemporary circus director Roberto Magro, who is now beloved by communities in the district. He will come back to direct a travelling contemporary circus performance in Batniava eldership at the beginning of the summer, and then will work in Linksmakalnis for an ‘angelic’ show. That’s just one of many reasons to follow the artistic travels beyond city limits.

Jeans and Steampunk, Time Travel and Rock Music

The work of the Capital of Culture in the Kaunas District is taking place along several approaches. One of these is a community project called Contemporary Neighbourhoods, involving fifteen local municipal jurisdictions within the Kaunas District. The essence of the project is simple: local jurisdictions called ‘seniūnijos’ (elderships) strengthen communities and address rising challenges through culture. 

From June to September 2022, the elderships invite everyone to feel the strong pulse of community and creativity in the Kaunas District and attend the main Contemporary Neighbourhoods events. 

Ežerėlis will present a series of photography exhibitions at a newly established community gallery and an alternative reality audio guide created by artist Žygimantas Kudirka. The project launch is scheduled for June.

On June 11, The community of Kulautuva will participate in a theatrical musical performance about the history of the resort town. It will be accompanied by various works of art in different public spaces by the Nemunas River. 

The Raudondvaris community and choreographer Marius Pinigis and event director Eglė Valadkevičiūtė invite everyone on a beautiful tour – a journey through time. This event’s primary form of expression will be presented in a theatrical night-time walk on June 17. 

Between June 30 and July 3, historic locations in Karmėlava will be presented through the increasingly strong Street Rock Festival, crowned by a combined environmental artwork called Flying Cepelinai, created by artists from Lithuania and Luxembourg: Algimantas Šlapikas and Serge Ecker.

A great time to discover Babtai eldership will be July. The community decided to revive an old trolleybus from the streets of Kaunas. The trolleybus became a creative laboratory for everyone to attend. 

Also in July, Vilkija will celebrate Midsummer, and their centrepiece will be a ferry connecting both sides of the Nemunas River. The celebration will include concerts, theatrical performances, and art installations.

In August, the communities from around Garliava will organize a Steampunk Festival, inviting local communities and guests to a magical fiesta. The festival aims to introduce visitors to the Steampunk movement, and its programme will give everyone a chance to plunge into this fantastical world and liberate their imaginations and creativity.  

The same month, the neighbourhood of Ringaudai will present their eldership through the Ringaudai Almanac, created by the community and artist Paulina Ružauskaitė. The almanac will be presented along with an interactive sculpture dedicated to this community.

On September 3, the Lapės (literally foxes) town will host the now annual Lapės Sustainability Festival! Did you know that, in 2021, the community created a recreational space from old jeans?!

Linksmakalnis and the charismatic abovementioned Roberto Magro (Italy) have created a show about angels. Nobody knows yet what kind of show this will be. And they can’t possibly know since co-creation means working without a planned script! All we know is that show will be presented in September. 

At the heart of the identity of Rokai is the uninterrupted 400-year-old history of its brickyard and the clay found all around the town. In recent years, community members have been introduced to various ceramic techniques and have worked together to create the Clay Road. On September 3, the community will unveil a mythical sculpture and invite guests to a unique show.

With the help of artists Enrika Striogaitė and Remis Ščerbauskas, the harmonious Kačerginė resort town by Nemunas River plans to create a collection of stories inspired by the experiences of its residents. Attend the presentation and a classical music concert on September 4.

Located near the 11th Fort of Kaunas Fortress, Akademija will present a musical production at the military heritage site. Make sure you stop at the sustainable shop Lokali: Made in Akademija, established by the community, for souvenirs. See you on September 10? 

The Domeikava eldership has chosen to develop lively activities, roles, and orienteering games. The project Let's Play Domeikava aims to experience and learn more about this Contemporary Neighbourhood. The launch is scheduled for September 17.

A Culture Boat and A Path of Emerald

Ever searched for emeralds? In the context of Kaunas 2022, emeralds are new art objects that will appear in the most unexpected places. Some of them have been under creation from the start of the programme; others rely on objects in the Kaunas District for their existence, transforming them in a contemporary way. The emeralds will appear in 9 elderships of Kaunas District.

A unique river engineering and landscape design project in Europe, Nemuno7, will serve as a public cultural space and will be officially opened in May. Located in Zapyškis, the dredger dates back to 1965! Instead of dismantling the unused object, a more sustainable solution was devised: to create a new, more relevant role and transform it into a cultural space, inviting the public to explore the subject of water from the perspective of art, history, and science. The Nemuno7 dredger will also have space for artistic residencies.

A tool to discover Vandžiogala, scheduled to launch in Autumn 2022, is a unique diary by Mindaugas Lukošaitis. Using material gathered around the small town of Vandžiogala, the artist added his own drawn stories to the area’s authentic landscape, presenting audiences a very personal code by which they can “read” what he has seen. This project was initiated by Kaunas 2022 programme Memory Office for its CityTelling Festival.

Also organised by the Memory Office, the Lithuanian Klezmer Orchestra’s tour of towns in the Kaunas District will rekindle local communities' memory and culture. Did you know that, before the Second World War, the towns of the Kaunas District were home to significant Jewish communities? The orchestra’s bus will stop in Čekiškė, Vandžiogala, Vilkija, Babtai, Kačerginė, Kulautuva, and Zapyškis. Performances will be accompanied by tours exploring the not so distant past of these towns.

For the European Capital of Culture programme, the 17th Kite Festival in Zapyškis will feature creative workshops, kite and paper aeroplane competitions, a postal postcard service, and soap bubbles. Artists and kite masters will create large and impressive banner kites, and everyone will have a chance to help make the community kite. 

Yet another legendary festival, this time launched by the Kulautuva community, will present a rich musical programme in 2022. Akacijų alėja, an event for sung poetry, will present a series of concerts in four towns along the Nemunas River. Then, the main festival event will take place in Kulautuva. Instead of the usual one-day event, the festival will span through June and July.

Time to revisit the Kaunas Reservoir… and discover its Atlantida-like history. Everyone who comes to the Footsteps at the Bottom of the Lagoon festival on August 27 will get the chance to feel as if they’ve become part of the now flooded villages that once existed here. This event will have a bit of everything: songs, stories, and folklore from flooded villages, contemporary music, and innovative technological solutions. 

On the same day and nearby, yet another exciting event to attend will be the Girionys Land Art Festival. The identity of the town lies in its beautiful nature and the expanse of the Kaunas Lagoon. Objects found in nature and ideas shared by residents will all be part of the co-creation process of land art objects.

Skanaus: European cuisines 2022, a food and culture festival, is scheduled for September 7–11 in Garliava. It will include presentations of cultures and the latest gastronomic trends from abroad, cooking lessons by restaurant chefs, culinary film production, family entertainment, concerts by Lithuanian and foreign musical performers, and talks shows, lectures, and all sorts of competitions.

Tadas Ivanauskas, the Lithuanian Zoo and Zoological Museum founder, lived in a villa called Obelynė in Akademija town. In July and August, a series of open-air events will be held to represent the cultural heritage of the Obelynė estate and its recently opened museum, park, and gardens. The main event is planned for September 17.

In August, the residents of Kaunas District and their guests will be invited to attend Mikado, a philosophical exploration of the connection between humans, their tools, and the virtual world. Produced by Šeiko Dance Company, it is choreographed by Vittoria de Ferrari Sapetto (Brazil – Italy – Belgium) and Andrea Valfre (Italy) and will be performed by an international team.

Universal Design Helps Shaping a Sustainable, Accessible, Functional and Aesthetical Contemporary Capital

Photo by: M.Plepys

Happiness is an emotion one can project. Now that’s an ambitious statement, right? This is precisely why ‘Designing Happiness’ is one of the key pillars supporting the project of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022.

In 2015, Kaunas became the first city in the region to become the UNESCO City of Design. The title inspires to continue shaping a comfortable contemporary city and educating its residents with the help of quality international examples, news and ideas. Starting with audience development and not forgetting the importance of nature, design as a tool is vital for the success of all programmes of Kaunas 2022. It’s now time to look at ‘Designing Happiness’ itself.

International Day of Happiness 

First celebrated in Kaunas three years ago, the Day of Happiness is one of the great success stories of the Kaunas 2022 project. This day became an enormous educational project that taught the people of our city the benefit of attentiveness to others, attention to nuance, and sensitivity to detail. It’s evident the festival will remain in Kaunas even after the conclusion of the European Capital of Culture programme.

The Day of Happiness joins thousands of people in various companies, cultural organisations, housing associations, and school and kindergarten communities. The program explores a new theme every year, and in 2022 Kaunas celebrate the happiness of being part of a community.

The official date of the festivity is March 20; before it, an international congress ‘On Happiness. Presuppositions 2022’ will take place in Kaunas. With the help of science and art, this congress will seek to examine and test the presuppositions of happiness.

Photo by: M.Plepys

Unlocking Happiness for all 

In 2020, an online culture accessibility guide, ‘Kaunas for all’, was published. It is the first publication of its kind dedicated to cultural organisations, objects managers, and event organisers to make cultural objects and events more accessible for all social groups, namely those with special needs.

​​The guide is free to use for all cultural organisations, event programmers, and curators in Lithuania and other countries; it aims to rethink one’s surroundings and open oneself to new audiences. The guide is accompanied by a signage system suitable for all cultural institutions and helps them broaden their audiences.

Photo by: M.Plepys

2022 as a Year of Culmination

One of the most intriguing ideas under the umbrella of ‘Designing Happiness’ is Nemuno7, a river engineering and landscape design project that is unique in Europe and will serve as a public cultural space.

Nemuno7 will be officially opened on May 22. Located on the bank of river Nemunas near Zapyškis, a town in Kaunas District, the object created on a Czechoslovak construction dredger first put in use in 1965 combines technological history, historical heritage, and contemporary architecture. It is expected to become a new cultural attraction in Kaunas for locals and tourists. It will also have space for artistic residencies. Also, continuing on the subject of sustainability, the site will be home to pioneer plants that grow in open habitats and quickly adapt to extreme cultivation conditions.

Photo by: T.Pabedinskas

The third Landscape Design Festival Magenta that explores the possibilities of urban nature will reach its peak in 2022. Audiences will be able to view installations, objects, and other works of art created by international teams of artists, architects, and landscape designers from Lithuania, Poland, Chile, Spain, Germany, Serbia, Mexico, the Netherlands, and other countries. These will all be works specially created for an urban context.

The festival’s events will span a broad spectrum, including education programmes, public discussions for city residents; public discussions about business, city government, industry, and society; tours; interdisciplinary projects; events; tactical urbanism; and the creation of public spaces and landscape design sites.

An International Meeting Spot

For 2022, global design organisations, including ICoD (International Council of Design), BEDA (Bureau of European Design Associations), EIDD (Design for All Europe) and UNESCO, have chosen Kaunas, as the European Capital of Culture, as the site to organise their most important annual events. This will be a unique opportunity to present Kaunas on the international stage and feel that a city is about co-creating.

Time to book those tickets – for October, at least. This will be the month when the Assembly of International Design Networks, the Lithuanian national Good Design prize Awards, and the International Kaunas Festival of Design will occur. The latter will be an exclusive series of interdisciplinary events – exhibitions, workshops, meetings, conferences, and installations in the city’s public spaces – that will invite the city’s residents and visitors to learn more about the roots of Kaunas’ authentic design, the creators of contemporary Lithuanian design, design innovations, and progressive practices used by designers abroad. 

Photo by: M.Plepys

For the first time, Kaunas will host the unique design innovation programme 5X5®, created by Designregio Kortrijk vzw of Flanders, Belgium. This will be an exceptional opportunity for Kaunas-based companies doing business in different sectors to collaborate for one year with designers based on a patented 12-step programme in the development of new projects and the refining of already existing endeavours, services, or processes. An exhibition held during the Kaunas Design Festival will present the results of a joint Flemish and Lithuanian 5X5® design innovation programme.

The programme is not the only example of a cultural collaboration between Kortrijk and Kaunas, both members of the UNESCO Cities of Design Network. To enhance the friendship, Kortrijk will be sending an enormous letter K, also known as K-Totem, to Kaunas. Decorated with constantly changing visual designs in Kaunas, the K-Totem will be installed in the Lithuanian Constituent Seimas square in the Old Town. The multifunctional sculpture already appreciated by the Belgian crowd will become a space for self-expression by local graphic designers and illustrators. In fact, Flemish artists will decorate the Kaunasian K-Totem, while Lithuanian creators will travel to do that in Kortrijk. 

Revisiting History

The traditional Kaunas International Bone China Symposium will present a unique programme for 2022. In October, the modernist Kaunas Post Office will host an exhibition of unique individual and serial ceramic pieces and original designs assembled from the legendary Jiesia ceramics factory in Kaunas.

An exhibition in the shop windows of Laisvės alėja, the main pedestrian boulevard in Kaunas, will help establish an even more intimate relationship with Lithuanian design heritage. Called precisely that, ‘Lithuanian Design: from Temporary to Contemporary’, it will explore different fields of design, including furniture, graphic design, lighting fixtures, and textiles, as well as key historical periods. All year round, from January 22 to October 20!

Photo by: M.Plepys

Moreover, an interactive exhibition ‘Kaunas Assorti: Graphic Design (Hi)Stories and Their Actualisation’, an interactive exhibition’ will land in Kaunas Picture Gallery. It will present the history of Lithuanian graphic design in the latter half of the 20th century. Posters, sketches, containers, and brand designs will speak, in their own unique way, about a particular time, identity, and sustainability, echoing issues relevant to the present day.

Next year, Kaunas and Kaunas district will become one big European stage and turn the city into a place where you will not escape culture. More than 40 festivals, 60 exhibitions, 250 performing arts events (of which more than 50 are premieres), and over 250 concerts are planned to take place in 2022. It is going to be the year-long non-stop biggest co-creative festival of all. Come co-create and celebrate with us!

International Assembly of Design Networks will invite to get to know Kaunas better

Photo by: M. Plepys

In the Australian city of Geelong, at the annual and virtual meeting of the UNESCO Design Cities Network members, the participants unanimously decided to entrust the 2022 yearly congress to Kaunas. The meeting, which creates an exchange, provides excellent opportunities to present Kaunas more widely and meet specialists who will consult Kaunas on social, environmental, cultural, and urban design issues, which will occur precisely after a year.

The Network of Creative Cities seeks to develop transnational partnerships between cities that have chosen creativity as their strategic development factor in creating sustainable and innovative cities. The network brings together the private and public sectors, professionals, communities, and institutions to share experiences, resources, and knowledge with other network members and foster the growth and emergence of local creative industries.

The event in Geelong provided an opportunity for communities from all 40 design cities to participate and learn about the many projects in the network of creative cities. This year's theme was REIMAGINE, RENEW, REGENERATE, inviting design experts to share and talk about projects that have raised cultural, creative, social, and sustainable initiatives and looked at new challenges or opportunities.

During the meeting, Kaunas submitted a proposal to organize next year's annual network meeting in Kaunas. "Although the format of conferences and the organization of international meetings are in many cases beneficial for a small group of people, this annual Congress of Design Cities can become especially important and successful for Kaunas and its guests. We have been in the UNESCO Network of Design Cities since 2015, but the city neither showed initiative nor participated in other projects for a long time. As a result, we are in a network where we are not known, where we are rarely noticed, and where we have not yet shown our potential. Therefore, this annual congress is an excellent opportunity to raise our heads and display our talents and professionalism to the network members, get acquainted with the design sector, and show Lithuania's attractiveness and creativity through Kaunas city and district. Also, Kaunas benefits by gaining experience from highly active cities in the field of design, learning from successful projects implemented in the world, and establishing economic, cultural, and social contacts with potential partners or customers from abroad." said Gediminas Banaitis-Skrandis, project curator of Kaunas 2022.

Photo by: M. Plepys

The meeting of the UNESCO Design Cities Network will take place at the same time as the International Assembly of Design Networks "Kaunas - European Capital of Culture 2022", which will also be attended by such global design networks as ICoD (International Council of Design), BEDA (Bureau of European Design Associations ), EIDD (Design for All Europe), will present a comprehensive program and provide an opportunity to learn about the specificities of a multicultural city. "The International Assembly of Design Networks is a unique occasion where the largest organizations in the design sector meet simultaneously in a joint event. This is an opportunity that no member of the invited organizations would want to miss because it will be the first such design Olympics," added G. Banaitis-Skrandis. 

During next year's meeting, participants will be involved in Kaunas Design Festival, Lithuanian design exhibition "From Temporary to Contemporary," Landscape Design Festival "MAGENTA," and other projects developed with other partner cities. This is a considerable achievement for Kaunas and its future, which will open wider opportunities, become the beginning of international project ideas and reveal the city through innovative and creative activities.

Genius generates beauty: the experiences of the European Capitals of Culture at Expo 2020 Dubai

The “European Capitals of Culture Day at the Universal Exhibition 2020 Dubai” is an initiative that Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation is organising on the 30th October 2021 in the Italy Pavilion at the Expo of Dubai, in partnership with the Commissioner General of Italy and under the patronage of the European Commission. The event is of highly symbolic value considering the fact that it will see the European Capitals of Culture reunite for the first time at the biggest international event post pandemic. Taking its cue from the concept that inspired the Italy Pavilion itself, the initiative is designed to present the European Capitals of Culture that, with their enormous and varied potential of cultural experiences and practices, transform cities, generating beauty and inclusiveness.

The day’s events will start at 11:00 am (9:00 am CET), in the Anfiteatro space, with an International Forum on “The European Capitals of Culture and the New European Bauhaus: how to build beautiful, sustainable, inclusive places”. The conference aims to bring to the fore the contribution of the Capitals to the New European Bauhaus, an innovative initiative launched by the European Commission aimed at fostering cooperation between thinkers and doers in imagining and creating places that are “beautiful for our eyes, minds and souls”. The examples that will be presented will show how the Capitals are redesigning our living spaces by bridging the worlds of culture and science, getting citizens involved, leaving no one behind and promoting accessibility. The conference, moderated by the RAI journalist Barbara Carfagna, will be opened by Paolo Glisenti, Commissioner General of the Italy Pavilion, followed by Benedetto Della Vedova, Deputy Foreign Minister, Barbara Gessler, Head of the “Creative Europe and ECoC programme” Unit - European Commission. Rossella Tarantino, Development and Relations Manager of Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation, will introduce the key topics of the Forum, followed by the keynote speaker Carlo Ratti, director of Senseable City Lab at MIT, who is also one of the designers of the Italy Pavilion. The European Capitals of Culture projects will be presented by Thierry Kruchten, Head of Tourism, Mobility and Sustainable Development - Esch 2022, Sara Vuletić, Programme Director - Novi Sad 2022, Dovilė Butnoriūtė, Head of International Relations- Kaunas 2022, Kaja Širok, Head of the EPICenter programme of a joint cross-border European Capital of Culture - Nova Gorica 2025, Rita Orlando, Project Manager at Open Design School of the Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation. Concluding remarks will be drawn by the Mayor of Matera, Domenico Bennardi.

“Urban/rural: designing through culture new connections between overcrowded and sparsely populated areas” will be the focus of the second International Forum, scheduled for 4:00 pm (2:00 pm CET) in the Anfiteatro space. This conference will centre on several urgent issues raised by the pandemic, such as the need to imagine a more sustainable world based on a more balanced connection between these geographic areas, the role that culture can have in regenerating rural areas, overcoming stereotypes and building contemporary narratives about the resilient communities inhabiting these areas, and the “temporary citizenship” of artists and 21st century nomadic communities as a new way of repopulating these places.The Forum, opened by Rossella Tarantino and moderated by Beatriz Garcia, Associate Director of the Centre for Cultural Value at the Universityof Leeds, will host the following speakers: Chryssa Martini, Director of Premises & Infrastructure, Location Planning of the Artistic Programme - Eleusi 2022, Friderika Mike, Director of Programme Development - Veszprem Balaton 2023, Mika Vierimaa, Head of Administration- Oulu 2026, Giovanni Oliva, Director General of the Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation. The Mayor of Pietrapertosa, Maria Cavuoti, and the Mayor of Tricarico, Vincenzo Carbone, two of the Lucanian communities that still retain traces of Arab culture, will also be in attendance.

Both forums will be streamed on Italy Expo’s and Matera 2019’s Facebook pages, as well as on the pages of the European Capitals of Culture involved.

The Accademia space will be host to an event (with both a morning and afternoon session) called “The ECoC game”, a moving workshop on cultural geography developed by the Open Design School, a Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation initiative offering best practices at an international level in the field of new design practices, which has also become a partner of the New European Bauhaus. By playing live in an immersive and engaging way, Expo visitors will be able to embark on an imaginary journey into present and past European Capitals of Culture, in order to discover the highlights, curiosities and characters connected to the history of this project, which is fundamental to the lives of dozens of cities across the entire European continent.

The day’s events will end in the Anfiteatro space at 6:30 pm with the performance of “Dubai Session”, presented by Open Sound, an original project by Multietnica, co-produced by the Foundation for the official programme of Matera European Capital of Culture 2019. The format creates new repertories and stages original collective performances based on the fusion of contemporary electronic music and traditional sounds, transforming a musical archive into a promise for the future. The  performance designed for Expo 2020 will be a moment of acoustic dialogue which will offer a live return to the result of the artistic co-creation and cultural hybridisation with Arab culture, generated by the encounter between Gaetano Dragotta, known as go-Dratta (the producer), the Arab musician Imad Kawala (caval) and the traditional percussionists from Basilicata - Agostino Cortese (percussion and cupa cupa friction drum) and Alberico Larato (zampogna bagpipe and lyre). The event will open with the spoken DJ set “Road to Open Sound” by Alioscia Bisceglia, where he, in the dual role of performer and project ambassador, will narrate, using music and words, the genesis and journey of Open Sound from 2019 to today.


The Beast of Kaunas: A Myth for Every Day in 2022 and Beyond

Photo by: M. Plepys

Kaunas Castle, 1st Fort of Kaunas Fortress, railway station and the bookshelves of little Kaunasians are just a few of many unexpected locations in which the Mythical Beast of Kaunas has already appeared since its official debut in 2019. 

The main hero of the Contemporary Myth of Kaunas is also the mascot of ‘Kaunas – European Capital of Culture’ and the carrier of the project’s core ideas and values. It also happens to be quite a cute character drawn by illustrator Darius Petreikis. Rytis Zemkauskas, the curator of the Kaunas 2022 programme dedicated to the Mythical Beast of Kaunas, collected and put together all of the stories about the character travelling in the Sunny and Underworld Kaunas. Dozens of people chipped in with myths and legends about Kaunas they had heard – some of the contributors participated in creative writing workshops. At the same time, the rest of them just kept on walking, discovering and getting surprised, just like the co-created mythical character, a true European.

Photo by: M. Plepys

‘First and foremost, this programme is aimed at revealing the magical power of storytelling. Storytelling is an ancient tool that can shape a community, a city, a state. Myths and legends have always helped me to come together and be patriotic. Those coming from Ancient Greece inspired the contemporary European Union. The programme of the Mythical Beast of Kaunas has to offer a novel way of creating myths and legends right here and right now, using them as cultural tools. These are tools carrying values and encouraging empathy, community spirit, respect for each other, and tolerance. Every citizen is welcome to co-create them,’ Rytis Zemkauskas says. 

The Mythical Beast of Kaunas was first seen in the Vilnius Book Fair in 2019 – this is where its fairytale book, created by Zemkauskas and Petreikis, was presented. The book is available in Lithuanian and English.

Photo by: M. Plepys

To Chill and Travel 

An exciting encounter with the Beast awaits at the Kaunas Castle. With the help of talented composer Paulius Kilbauskas, the mythical creature found its bedroom below one of the oldest towers in Kaunas. His melodic snoring keeps surprising the visitors of the department of Kaunas City Museum and passers-by. Look for loopholes in the walls to ensure the best sound quality!

Yet another talented personality to collaborate with the Beast is Linas Kutavičius. Located in the Kaunas district, the 19th-century 1st fort of Kaunas fortress was brightened with light textures reminding the skin of a mysterious reptile. The new art installation by the light artist is a friendly gesture towards bats, animals that make up a significant population at the fort, and an invitation for people to (re)discover this historical object.

Did we mention that the Beast of Kaunas loves to travel? He made his appearance on a trolleybus as part of a mobile street art gallery some time ago; currently, portraits of his and his friends could be seen on a train wagon in the Kaunas Railway Station. Those approaching the wagon could also hear the tales of the Beast read by Rytis Zemkauskas.

Photo by: M. Plepys

The Main act of Kaunas 2022

Since 1985, when the European Capital of Culture programme was launched, nobody has yet proposed a vision like this – to create a new myth for the city to help it change its path. The Mythical Beast of Kaunas – a project designed to create a unifying narrative for the city – will unfold in next year’s great mythical trilogy comprised of The Confusion (January 19–23), Confluence (May 20–22), and The Contract (November 25–27). The three main events are co-created by artists from Lithuania and abroad; they incorporate the ideas of historical personalities from Kaunas into the new work – as well as hints about the Beast. Will it finally have a physical body? One has to wait until 2022 and see… 

Films and Games

The most kaunastic hero of all has already added a cinematic experience to its CV. Aideen Barry, an Irish artist, is working on a stop-motion animation film called ‘Pleats’ with a large team of artists, architecture professionals and modernism enthusiasts in Kaunas. The film, part of the Kaunas 2022 ‘Modernism for the Future’ program, will travel to international film festivals in 2022 – we can’t wait to see the Beast of Kaunas among the actors!

While ‘Pleats’ is still in post-production, one can already touch the Mythical Beast and go down its paths while learning the exciting secrets of Underground Kaunas in the limited-edition strategic board game. Created by a renowned Kaunas-based talent Urtis Šulinskas, the game has already found its place in the homes of many families, even those who have never been in Kaunas. Yet.

Photo by: M. Plepys

Another sweet addition to the Mythical Beast of Kaunas collection is a set of colourful pins created together with Kaunas city tourism, business, and investment development and international marketing agency Kaunas IN. Additionally, petrolheads are welcome to stick beastly magnets on their cars – the souvenirs fit fridges, too. 

One can hear through the grapevine that the above mentioned are not the last souvenirs to please the fans of the Beast of Kaunas. Like most of the fantastic things in life, they will come unexpectedly. But here’s some gossip – have you ever wondered, for example, that Kaunas lacks its own perfume? The scent of a city is composed of various aromas, such as freshly baked goods, mamma’s lunch, wet asphalt, tree alleys, even petrol. The perfume of the Beast of Kaunas will be available before 2022.

The Future of the Beast

Photo by: A.Aleksandravičius

A city game offering a virtual reality experience is currently being developed – everyone will be able to play it online or by downloading a mobile app. The gigantic project will connect the myths and stories of the city and its characters with the essential cultural hotspots in Kaunas and Kaunas district and museum collections. The player will be able to visit historical locations in the area with the Beast as a guide.

Photographer Chiraqas Jindalas (IN / NZ) is working on a photo installation, ‘Underground Kaunas’, set to be opened in Autumn 2022. A unique technology involving negatives, scanning and lightboxes will provide the opportunity to see what’s below everyday Kaunas. 

A total of three premieres by Kaunas State Puppet Theatre and Apeironas theatre from Klaipėda will reach the stage in 2022. The experiential and even therapeutical theatrical games will be used as tools to get to know the Beast of Kaunas and analyze its features. 

The list of possible appearances of the Mythical Beast of Kaunas has no specific end. The character will add its charm to numerous events planned for 2022. 

Next year, Kaunas and Kaunas district will become one big European stage and turn the city to a place where you will not escape culture. More than 40 festivals, 60 exhibitions, 250 performing arts events (of which more than 50 are premieres), and over 250 concerts are planned to take place in 2022. It is going to be the year-long non-stop biggest co-creative festival of all. Come co-create and celebrate with us!

Full programme:

Kaunas 2022 memory program will build bridges between different cultures, religions and languages

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

In 2022, the Kaunas 2022 program “Memory Office” will invite the audience to a year-long cultural research of Kaunas DNA. An extremely rich and multi-layered artistic program will lead to a brave confrontation with the city’s complex past like a mirror that helps you get to know yourself and your humanity better.

The program of events, which brings together creators from Lithuania and all over the world, plus a group of partners, will allow locals to get to know their city better, and for the visitors, it will become an atlas of new stories of Kaunas. World-renowned artists William Kentridge, Philip Miller, Jenny Kagan, the Sala-Manca Collective group of artists, and others will help to explore the city. The most important events in the city’s history, which shaped, changed and raised the city from the Second World War, the 1972 “Kaunas Spring” to the myths, stories and legends of the present-day city will be presented through exhibitions, concerts and performances.

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

Extensive four months programme of the CityTelling Festival

The bigest event of the “Memory Office” program, the CityTelling Festival, which is already popular with visitors, will take place in 2022 for four months and will talk about the return and the community spirit. In this more than ever conflicted world, we will try to forge a new relationship not only with our painful history, but also with those who live next to us today. Extensive program of the festival includes stories of various forms that build bridges between different cultures, religions and languages. Stories that teach to empathize and listen to the Other.

The international program will invite to exhibitions, performances, concerts of internationally acclaimed artists, new routes created by city history enthusiasts and excursions to explore the different side of the city. The storytellers’ project “Where can I find you?” will spread around the city’s cafés, streets and courtyards, looking for everyone who wants to hear and share the stories of the modern world. Finally, the conference on the idea of Europe will raise one of the most pressing questions of today: what is Europe and what is our place in it?

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

Special attention to the Jewish memory of Kaunas 

The Memory Office program and the CityTelling Festival will pay special attention to the Jewish memory of the city. In 2022, the European Capital of Culture will invite Litvaks scattered all over the world to meet at the World Litvak Forum. On 29-30 September, in the program of discussions and culture, famous artists, scientists and representatives of the world of culture will talk about the Litvak identity, memory, and the role of culture in giving meaning to multicultural memory and creating new opportunities for dialogue.

One of the most anticipated events of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 is the work “Kaunas Cantata: Reconciliation” by composer Philip Miller and artist Jenny Kagan. The largest and most massive musical experience of Kaunas to date, dedicated to the symbolic reconciliation of nations, will be played during the Litvak Forum. More than 400 performers joined this piece of vocal instrumental music: local musicians and singers, choirs, representatives of different genres and generations.

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

The major events of the four-month CityTelling Festival program are also dedicated to the Jewish theme – exhibitions, performances, musical stories, installations dedicated to the heritage of Jewish memory and cultural signs in the city spaces, and many other activities. Litvak artists who returned to Lithuania from the Republic of South Africa, Great Britain, France and Israel took a particularly active part in the development of the program. Main events: William Kentridge’s exhibition “What We Don’t Remember”, musical performance “Dybbuk”, Jenny Kagan’s exhibition “Out of the Darkness”, photography exhibition “The Last Litvaks”, art installation in public spaces “Threshold” and others.

The book “Kaunas Jews”, which will be released in Lithuanian and English languages this year, is no less important. This is the first such presentation of the Jewish history of Kaunas from the most important facts, concepts and names. This most comprehensive book on the subject to date does not seek to answer all the questions, but starting from the 15th century will consistently remind the contribution of Kaunas Jews to education, medicine, industry, business, culture and other areas of life, and will touch on the painful pages of history.

Photo by: M.Plepys

Events dedicated to the times of the disobedient and a different look at the city and its people

The special program of events will remind of the time that led to the biggest historical turning point in the life of the city. The nineteen-year-old Romas Kalanta who set himself on fire on 14 May 1972 and the events that followed led to the birth of the so-called “Kaunas Spring” – anti-Soviet protests that involved thousands of people and took place mainly in Laisvės alėja (Liberty Avenue). These events left traumatic traces not only in the further development of the city, in its cultural life, but also in the fates of a large number of young Kaunas residents. These historical events and the period of the disobedient will be revived within the Kaunas 2022 program through performances, exhibitions, concerts, discussions, meetings, etc. dedicated to this topic.

The crucial point of this program will be the exhibition “1972: Regime, Youth and Art”, in which paintings, photographs and films, documentary testimonies of musical life, youth fashion and other artefacts will tell about alternative culture and non-Soviet way of life in Soviet Lithuania. The exhibition will reveal the diversity of mindsets and creativity in the Soviet background that levelled everyone. It will explore how aesthetic tastes and ethical attitudes in Soviet times shaped different patterns of life and the atmosphere of disobedience to the government.

Photo by: A. Aleksandravičius

A series of events dedicated to the identity of the city will invite to look at the city and its residents from a different angle. We will examine the city, re-explore the city’s industrial heritage and histories of some factories. Perhaps the most interesting highlight of the program is the conversation between Kaunas and Vilnius about the confrontation between the two cities, the silent struggle and the mute dependence. In the exhibition, which will take place simultaneously in the two cities, MO museum together with Kaunas City Museum will remind how the big cities shaped each other and how modern Lithuania arose from the tensions between them.

Important events: Exhibition “1972: Regime, Youth and Art”, concert ” Made in Kaunas”, Historical-documentary performance “Kalanta”, rock opera “Kalanta”, exhibition “Kaunas – Vilnius: move the mountains”, route “Memory Circle”, exhibition “The Big Industry” and others.

Kaunas walls also tell stories

Photo by: M. Plepys

Kaunas and Kaunas district have been adorned with works of street art that bring back the faces of those who lived before us, tell their fates and present culture. This way, the poet Lea Goldberg , the charismatic Rosian with her mother Gerta, and the signs of the Tartar legacy returned to Kaunas again. The number of these meaningful wall drawings is increasing, so when wandering around Kaunas, Kulautuva or Kačerginė, don’t forget to look around and stop to read the inscriptions. Look for the special memory street art route at

And this is only a short look at the Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 program “Memory Office”, which brings back the memory of the city’s ethnic communities. 


Next year, Kaunas and Kaunas district will become one big European stage and turn the city to a place where you will not escape culture. More than 40 festivals, 60 exhibitions, 250 performing arts events (of which more than 50 are premieres), and over 250 concerts are planned to take place in 2022. It is going to be the year-long non-stop biggest co-creative festival of all. Come co-create and celebrate with us!

 Full programme: