The 25 Years of the European Capitals of Culture –
Summary and conclusions
Moderator Rodolfo Maslias, official of the European Parliament, international
advisor to the Mayor of Athens and a former Secretary General of the Network of
European Capitals of Culture, introduced the workshop participants and made a
presentation – an overview of the 25 years of the European Capital of Culture
starting from the first ECC in Athens.
An overview was a symbolic tour into the one of the greatest European
projects and the impact it has made on European history. The overview included
examples of successful and less successful projects, and analysis of their
objectives, achievements and shortcomings. The workshop panellists included
Spyros Merkouris, a brother of Melina Merkouri and a Programme director of the
ECC Athens in 1985, Steven Austin, Amsterdam (1987), Karoly Mehes, Pecs (2010),
Christos Roilos and Alexis Alatsis, Patras (2006).
After presentations on the successful and less successful sides in
organization of artistic programs and management of ECC sites the floor was
given to the other participants who either directed or participated in the past,
current and forthcoming ECCs (Tallinn, Warsaw) and also representatives of
cities which are aspiring to participation such as Tbilisi.
Most of the debate was concerned about the following issues:
- Balance of power between political and artistic cultural interests in the
ECC. Many discussants were referring to the fact that this significant event for
the European cultural development initiative in some countries was completely
seized by the political authorities – i.e. political rather than cultural and
artistic interests are pursued in some ECCs.
- Sustainability of the ECC – only short-term impacts were thoroughly
researched, but more attention should be paid to the long term impacts of the
ECC on the region.
- Diminishing role of the independent artistic and cultural organisations in
- Promotion of local or European international artists, with an example from
Patras. Whether there is reason to concentrate on promotion of local artists to
the local population or to attract more recognised international names was
discussed. Difference in opinions was expressed.
- Ambiguity of the cities selection procedures.
- Balance between the capital cities and other cities, dynamics of those two
and competition which bring out national debate to the European level. Cities
- Research perspectives of the ECC as a European project, and necessity to
bring an accumulated knowledge and experience of the former and current ECC
organisers into new perspective by the possibility of establishing an advisory
agency to the EC.
Summarised by Dr Lyudmila Nurse
Culture and the Financial Crisis – Workshop
Brigita Stroda, Riga
In the perspective of the current global economic crisis, the cultural sector
is proud to affirm that by its very nature, creativity, inspiration and artistry
are limitless resources. Having proved that it has risen to the challenges
imposed both by various social and political measures of outcomes, as well as
critical excellence; the ECP workshop asserts that this sector is systemically
“too important to fail”. Therefore, members insist that public funding of
culture be increased rather than cut and continue to be allocated at classic
“arms length” distance to ensure the freedom and independence of arts.
Furthermore, cultural actors offer a vibrant cultural and creative sector to
deal successfully with the social and economic challenges in this new age of
austerity in re-balancing the economy and designing solutions for the future.
For instance, the impact of arts on tourism has proved to be considerable.
Specifically, the ECP will endeavor to formulate an update to its study on the
Lisbon Agenda – the strategic use of culture document, with the considerable
intellectual and creative resources at the disposal of its members.
On its own terms, culture is not in crisis – neither institutions, nor the
artists themselves – considering that in Europe today more people have more
access to more high quality culture than ever before. The arts institutions
themselves are in a good shape but will certainly be suffering in the countries
where drastic budget cuts are carried out. Good leadership at the institutions
is particularly important in times of financial restraint.
Whilst the arts can be controversial for artistic reasons, arts organizations
and artists themselves tend not to suffer from ethical scandals to the degree
that bankers, politicians and sports organizations have to date. Furthermore,
artists and arts organizations have an impressive track record of clever
financial management of meagre resources.
The “creative sector” is growing in importance, irrespective of public
funding. And the importance of an attractive cultural scene for tourism is now
being appreciated by most communities, both local and national. This is
promising. Creative individuals have a contribution to make, both to production
– through innovation – and to Society – through reflection. Cultural actors
should avoid playing the role of suffering victims. Culture is not only a balm
for the soul but also possibly a way of solving problems in the post-industrial
society. People of the arts should not hesitate to go outside the institutions
in order to meet and influence other sectors of society. As the heart of a
knowledge-based economy culture has very much to offer. But in order to
use art as a resource, you have to have the source that creates art to begin
Having said this, some members of the workshop emphasized that culture and
arts should not be measured by its usefulness. “If things are to be immortal
they have to be strictly useless”. Appreciating the beauty and fascination of
the arts takes time and distance. Artists doing art should not necessarily have
to repack their products in order to satisfy the demands of the market. Quality
and excellence can only survive if supported “on arm-length-distance” without
demands for specific contents or specific target groups. The freedom of arts was
considered very important. Based on this principle public support to culture
should be increased rather than cut. The consumers of “high culture” may be a
minority, an elite, but through education and through good use of various media
this minority could be growing to encompass a larger proportion of the
The workshop preferred the European model of public funding of culture and
arts, but found the American model of tax incentives and rebates for sponsorship
and grants useful for European governments to consider as a means of encouraging
complementary support to the arts.
Seeing as how “artists in
residence” is a valuable and successful concept, the workshop suggested that
“politicians and bankers in residence” at arts organizations should be
Finally the workshop considered that the ECP should try to update the
excellent and important study (2006) on the implementation of the Lisbon
strategy – “Culture – the heart of a knowledge-based economy” The ECP
should defend its role as an excellent think-tank in issues related to The
Strategic Role of Culture.
Culture and New Technologies – Workshop
Mulder, The Hague
This workshop facilitated 7 presentations where many ECP members are
professionally active in new media. Bellow follows collective minutes of what
was being shared during a lively workshop.
We talked about five subjects specified below. Industry is driving a new
development. The funding has shifted as well. Some people think we shouldn’t
talk so much about technology because these are only tools but we can see they
are very complex and complicated. Artistic professionals should be more involved
We have also talked about copyright. There is a situation that is developing.
We couldn’t decide if e were in favor or against but for sure the situation is
developing. We have to open up on technology; you have to be prepared to use it.
We were against free cultural products on the internet. The society is quicker
than policy makers. It’s a wide subject.
In spite of democratization in new media and technology there is still
imperialism of the western world. There still exists some kind of curtain that
should be turned down.
The themes discussed were:
- digital tools shape our world and mind
- they change medium, product and proces
- digital tools may stifle creativity and quality
- artistic professionals
- should be more involved in development
The digital era changes many of our perceptions, for good and bad. There are
so many worlds as there are perceptions – in digital space and time. The digital
culture confronts tradition in a new ever changing world where we may by digit
today and already offstage tomorrow. The digital consumer is an interactive
participant, our relationship to knowledge is changing and our social life is
being reconstructed. Internet means interconnectivity. However, is there
anything specifically European of our current work? In Europe there is national
pride for social messages, providing money for cultural project. The European
approach is diverse with varied structure and bridges between art / science from
country to country. In Russia science always gets more, there is no cultural
policy only occasional attempt. That’s why culture there is dealt by enthusiast,
sometimes lucky to have some money but usually at personal cost. In USA, Canada
and Japan there are strong policies, they seem more focused.
- policy makers are slow and get behind
- they should be more aware
- digital development should be supported
The field is moving faster than the policymakers who constantly are left
behind the new technology. More connectivity creates more networks and surveys
mapped out shows that cultural networks also on policy making reach a variety of
cultural consumers. Can digital culture provide future cultural policy
making even on institutional level, bottom up? How do we inspire new structures?
on digital tools
- ‘new media are just tools’
- don’t focus on technology
- focus on cultural and artistic practice
All technical invention is a form of art. Digital imaging, processing sounds
etc. It is therefore important to bring art into technological universities.
Media art is an ever changing thing, creating in new media always has opened
further creative possibilities; finally we might end up create creating.
Most valuable of our institutions is its content but they must each
increasingly develop new digital concepts of communicating this. Unrestricted
space provides a powerful tool where one of the greatest assets is multinational
Nowadays for the first time artist deal with matters that they do not
understand or grasp. Programmers provide our grammar and the platform of our
work. We become users of civilization but we do not now the makers that laid the
ground. This is a nightmare in architecture where ready models are more made by
programmers. If artistic people where involved in creating the grammar
then perhaps there would be less limitations.
On the other hand artist who wants to do something should be given a
technical chance to realize their idea. Equally one can sometimes sense a fear
of losing quality of the art. Acropolis makes a good example – digital
reconstructions or the ruins – what do we prefer?
research and development
- developments come from industry
- arts/culture no longer conceptual leaders
- artistic professionals implement
- quality of reflection is suffering
- arts/culture should focus on creating
- more meaningful applications
Previously artists were driving the development now technology has taken over
and is being used by the arts. Arts in research are no longer an issue. In
Athens we are rather trying new artistic ideas using and researching new
technology. We try to get cities promoting their region using the tool of
We should use technology and find out how we best can express ourselves. The
language is the most important prior the best technology. Content, content,
- copyright | copyleft | creative commons
- digital rights evolve differently in different domains
- new businessmodels developing
- there is no escape
- be open, adaptive and knowledgeable
Copyright requires cultural policy but cultural policy is not likely to solve
the problem. New products come all the time and with that new business models
start to appear. Copyright is a young invention created during the 19th century.
Other agreements are appearing in the jungle. Share rights, anti-rights… Also
this jungle has an evolutional development. It’s a matter of surviving. If we
understand the rules of the jungle we got a better chance to survive. It’s a
matter of education. Battista is one good example who managed to conquer the
jungle of the internet. Also worth mentioning is the open source. Why shouldn’t
we participate to improve? The whole debate of the expert versus the amateur is
a dangerous issue but we won’t have the time to go into that.
Concluding questions and remark?
Are we moving fast enough?
Do we want to affect the development?
Do the artistic realms get better by quicker adaptation of new
Do we now have a completely new perception of the world?
When most of us where young there was a lively discussion about choosing
A couple of decades ago TV was a time issue; TV or not, friends versus TV.
Today there is no option – we cannot avoid life on the Internet.
“Youth ECP” – Workshop
Moderator Sabine Froschmaier,
Summary of the Workshop on “Youth-ECP”
Athens, 18th of September 2010
Youth-ECP participants recognise that within the ECP there is an enormous
potential of knowledge, ideas and a wide variety of informed approaches to the
issues debated. The ECP is a strong framework and potentially a tool for
achieving something that we cannot do on our own.
The younger participants missed more debates fuelled by the original broad
range of approaches to a theme and possibly a clearer focus on specific issues.
We also felt that it was a pity not to reach a wider audience – and obviously
we were not the only ones. We feel that the thoughts voiced at the conference
should be spread, the knowledge preserved. There is a lot of power in ideas and
we ought to use it!
Therefore Youth-ECP decided to start an
Internet Platform for continuous exchanges with the technical support of Peter
Hanke – thank you very much, Peter! The workshop participants agreed to give it
relevant time at least once a week over a period of three months, so that it can
develop and grow. All ECP members are more than welcome to join in and use it.
The platform will be visible to everyone who might be interested, and readers
can leave comments, so that we can open up the debate to a broader public
without losing control of the site and its themes.
In those three months we hope to develop something like a think tank, a set
of themes that will be of relevance to several of us, a sort of common agenda
that we hope will contribute to the preparation of the next ECP Conference.
We will start by posting blogs using the themes we are currently working on
or questions that are moving us. Thus we are hoping to generate debates in order
to discover common grounds, clear points of disagreements or questions that need
more thought, research or input from others. We would also like to share
information on relevant articles, conferences, other networks or projects and
thus start building a field of ideas, references, sources…
Some themes did already emerge during the discussion but the list is open to
any proposal and to the further development of the online discussions:
- art form innovations
- art as means of communication within our societies, outreach, social
- education, integration through the arts
- what is art /culture? And if so, what is quality? Add value to culture!
- testing ground for project ideas, market place for finding cooperation
- quality check, discussion of best practice examples and network building
- culture and politics
- European identity within change, diversity and movement
- common network of artists and arts managers
- How to survive the culture business?
We would also like to propose that we podcast and publish the next ECP
Conference, possibly life-stream the debates. We believe that through our social
media we can spread information on ECP Conferences and debates in a more
targeted way and generate more visibility for the ECP than it is possible
through the traditional media.
We greatly welcome the offer of some EPC members to serve as mentors to
younger participants, their projects or their thinking. A group of us has tried
to give the idea some shape and we are handing over to Peter Hanke, who tell you
all about it.
We all feel very privileged to be here – thank you! We hope to contribute our
share in the future.
Youth ECP added doc on Blog and mentoring:
Art & Culture Debates
- Min. 15 committed bloggers
- Engage minimum once a week over 3 months
- Youth-ECP members begin and teach ECP-members how to do
MENTORING (private area)
- Simple principles of engagement between Mentor and Mentee
- Mentor is approached by Mentee
- Negotiate how often you meet/talk and the relevant objectives
- Mentee decides the level of engagement and takes the first steps
- Physical meetings are preferable but not the only way