Rīga 2014 calls for valuable European Capital of Culture experience to be put to long-term public use
At their press conference on Monday, 1 December, the Rīga 2014 organisers expressed their conviction that Rīga’s year as a European Capital of Culture and the implemented programme have been a success story for Rīga and Latvia and that this experience should be put to good use in the long term. As the end of […]
At their press conference on Monday, 1 December, the Rīga 2014 organisers expressed their conviction that Rīga’s year as a European Capital of Culture and the implemented programme have been a success story for Rīga and Latvia and that this experience should be put to good use in the long term.
As the end of the year approaches, Rīga, as a European Capital of Culture, is being held up as one of the most successful Capitals of Culture, with an unchanging team and resolutely implemented artistic concept; the programme approved in advance by the international jury was implemented and involved 90 different countries; the programmes implemented by Rīga municipal and non-government bodies and institutions were of high artistic quality and achieved a high profile both in the local community and internationally; new cultural traditions were established; the numbers of people attending cultural events increased; initiatives were implemented and issues raised with the intention of having a positive, long-term impact on the cultural, social and economic environments in Rīga and Latvia. Given the above, it is imperative to convert the European Capital of Culture outcomes into long-term initiatives and experience.
Interviews with the curators:
“This year is a turning point. We all wanted to build this year in a meaningful way with substance, with projects that were implemented to a high-quality artistic and professional organisational level. And we succeeded. We have been able to show that the status of European Capital of Culture can be more than a formal slogan, but a way to underscore our own cultural identity, talent and excellence in the European mix, which would reinforce every person’s awareness of their creativity and special worth. This is the leap in terms of quality, the fulfilment of which we have been thinking about and contributing to all the way through – that the presence of culture in everybody’s life should be a daily need rather than an occasional, spontaneous choice” emphasised Diāna Čivle, Director of the Rīga 2014 Foundation and curator of the Rīga Carnival programme chapter.
Putting together and implementing the European Capital of Culture programme throughout 2014 involved more than 12 000 participants from nearly a hundred different cultural bodies, national and municipal cultural institutions, and non-government cultural organisations.
More than 1 900 artists and representatives of creative groups took part in implementing the European Capital of Culture artistic programme. They were directors, producers, musicians, dancers, actors, artists, and many, many more creative personalities from Latvia and many other places.
Rīga 2014 is pleased with the very high attendances at European Capital of Culture events, for concerts, theatre performances, film screenings, festivals and exhibitions. To date (up to 1 December), more than 1.5 million people have already attended Rīga 2014 events.
Many of the European Capital of Culture events could be enjoyed without being there as they were broadcast live on television and radio or streamed online via the internet. Latvian Television viewing figures show that broadcasts of Rīga 2014 events, concerts, opera and other activities reached a total of 6.2 million views.
Data collected in an impact assessment study of the European Capital of Culture programme by an expert working group (research group leader Anda Laķe, a Doctor of Sociology, sociologist Gints Klāsons and Doctor of Art History Baiba Tjarve) shows that the Rīga 2014 programme made it possible for a large number of people to enjoy the cultural and arts content for free: 63 % of events were free or freely accessible (freely meaning outdoors, in parks, etc.); provisionally, 37% of events required an entry fee; at 37% of events the audience comprised not only spectators, but either a) participants; or b) both spectators and participants. (Data source – Analysis and typology of Rīga 2014 projects according to different features).
The programme created by Rīga 2014 for this year has given the whole of Latvia tangible benefits both in terms of international recognition and economically. According to a report by the European Travel Commission, the number of foreign tourists in Latvian increased by 18.9 % in the first half of the year, the second largest increase in Europe in that period. Most of that happened thanks to Rīga being awarded the title of European Capital of Culture and focused cooperation with the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all Latvian representations abroad, the Latvian Institute and tourism authorities in promoting European Capital of Culture events in Latvia and worldwide for several years beforehand.
As early as in 2013, foreign media took very intense and consistent interest in Rīga’s role as a European Capital of Culture. Up to 1 December, there had been 1 503 foreign articles, reports or TV spots about Rīga as a European Capital of Culture, created by media representatives from 66 countries (in total, 460 foreign journalists visited Latvia, a further 100 or so foreign journalists are expected for the European Film Academy Awards ceremony).
“Overall, the European Capital of Culture programme has been substantive in content, diverse, compelling and included both public-participation projects and so-called high culture. Internationally, Rīga is being rated as a very successful European Capital of Culture, with an excellent performance and a high level of organisational quality. Cities from other countries are already visiting us to benefit from this experience and this will definitely continue for the next ten years, so this experience should be put to good use” stressed Rīga 2014 Programme Director Aiva Rozenberga.
The European Capital of Culture year has introduced new events to Rīga’s cultural calendar, new festivals have announced themselves and enriched Rīga’s cultural space: the Blank Canvas: art-ground, play-ground, crime-ground street art festival and the RE RE Rīga! international festival of street art and world music.
A number of international events have been founded, setting themselves international and ambitious goals. For instance, the European Film Academy Awards ceremony, to be held on 13 December, has motivated Latvia’s film professionals to present themselves as widely as possible by screening Latvian cinema in this international environment, so laying the foundations for the Rīga International Film Festival, enabling the Latvian film industry to develop international contacts.
The Born in Rīga concert has become an international musical calling card for Rīga. Having already been broadcast in nine countries around the world, it encourages us to continue to present special large-scale musical events that present our city to the world as the birthplace of outstanding musicians and musical events of high artistic calibre.
During the World Choir Games, held as part of the European Capital of Culture programme, 27 000 singers in 460 choirs from 73 countries in five continents gathered in Rīga. 1 600 people from 15 countries were involved in their organisation.
“I am convinced that we have put down a clear dividing line – Rīga before the Capital of Culture year and Rīga after the Capital of Culture year. People’s self-esteem is also different after this year, because being the European Capital of Culture means achieving one’s own goals” stated Uģis Brikmanis, curator of Rīga 2014’s Thirst for the Ocean programme chapter.
A number of new works have been specially created for the European Capital of Culture year, including the opera Valentīna by Artūrs Maskats, musical avant-garde opera-lecture Mikhail and Mikhail Play Chess by Kristaps Pētersons and librettist Sergei Timofejev, the Transcendental Oratorio by Zigmars Liepiņš and the staging of chamber opera Lysistrata.
As part of the Rīga 2014 programme, the Kamēr… choir recorded a new CD Amber Songs featuring arrangements of Latvia’s most beautiful folk songs by composers from 17 countries along the historic Amber Road, specially commissioned by the choir. In its turn, State Academic Choir Latvija issued an album/book of poetry Amber Road combining the poems of contemporary master poets from twelve European countries with music by twelve Latvian composers.
Numerous books have been published under the Rīga 2014 programme, including bilingual poetry collections such as those of the Orbīta text-group: Poetic Dedications by Artūrs Punte, I See, I Hear, I Keep Quiet by Zhorzh Uallik and Sergei Timofeyev’s Stereo; and PROZA a selection of short prose works by Russian authors in Latvia.
The European Capital of Culture year has seen a number of documentaries and feature films produced that will also be seen in the future, for example, a documentary film about outstanding Latvian-American artist Vija Celmins, director Olaf Okunov’s Territory. Vija Celmins. We have also watched the film Escaping Rīga directed by Dāvis Sīmanis, which is a story based on documentary events in the lives of two exceptional 20th century personalities – film director Sergei Eisenstein and philosopher Isaiah Berlin – who were both born and spent their childhood in Rīga. Over the European Capital of Culture year, seven renowned European documentary filmmakers created a single story about Rīga, the documentary film Across Roads and the River.
With the assistance of the Rīga 2014 programme, the former State Security Committee (KGB) building, popularly known as Stūra māja (The Building on the Corner), opened its doors to the public for the first time. The Stūra māja. File No 1914/2014 exhibition helped visitors find answers to questions posed by 20th century European history, thereby initiating broader public debate on many issues that had never been thoroughly considered – the legacy of totalitarianism and commemorating the victims of totalitarian rule. The Stūra māja. File No 1914/2014 exhibition was viewed by more than 45 000 visitors in just a few months. Recent government decisions will allow the ground floor exposition to re-open and guided tours of the KGB cellars to resume on a permanent basis from January 2015.
“Our preparations for the European Capital of Culture programme have given the city of Rīga abundant content. It is also essential that the resources and potential for cooperation between people created during the Capital of Culture are utilised in the long term, such as in thinking about Latvia’s upcoming centenary and the future development of the non-government cultural sector” stated Gints Grūbe, curator of Rīga 2014’s Freedom Street programme chapter.
The Rīga 2014 programme provided museums with the opportunity to put together high-quality, international-standard exhibitions, which has led to international cooperation continuing in the future. For example, the 1914 exhibition at the Latvian National Museum of Art Arsenāls exhibition hall featured works from 17 of Europe’s most prestigious art museums and national galleries from 11 countries. Double Reality, the solo exhibition of world-famous Latvian-American artist Vija Celmins was compiled from works held by New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Washington’s National Gallery of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art, Cartier Centre for Contemporary Art in Paris, London’s Tate Gallery, Scotland’s National Gallery, New York’s McKee gallery and the Latvian National Museum of Art. It was this type of international collaboration between museums that made possible the Gustav Klucis (Klutsis) exhibition Anatomy of an Experiment, the Tutankhamun’s Amber exhibition, the Amber: the Myths and the Science exhibition at the Pauls Stradiņš Medical History Museum, as well as many other lively Rīga 2014 exhibitions.
Rīga 2014, working in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Latvian embassies abroad, held 190 different public diplomacy events in 2013 and 2014, in 39 countries around the world, telling Rīga’s European Capital of Culture story.
“For Latvia, unlike other capitals of culture, renewing or releasing the inner freedom of all the people involved had great significance and the Capital of Culture achieved this. I very much hope that the Rīga 2014 year will bear its real fruit in preparations for the next major events in Latvia” said Vita Timermane-Moora, curator of Rīga 2014’s Amber Vein programme chapter.
The Rīga 2014 programme has also established a good base for future creative initiatives and greatly reinforced Latvian citizens’ sense of belonging to what is happening in the Latvian cultural space.
“The European Capital of Culture programme also highlighted the creative potential of the city’s residents, reflected in the many interesting, appealing locations that in recent years, seem to have popped up in our city like mushrooms after rain, gathered into clusters and brought our creative quarters to life. I am delighted that we managed to spur our city’s creative spirit, stimulate a whole series of positive citizens’ initiatives, as well as promote the activities of our creative industries” pointed out Solvita Krese, curator of Rīga 2014’s Survival Kit programme chapter.
In this light, during the European Capital of Culture year, Rīga’s 58 neighbourhoods hosted many, many neighbourhood projects; also projects in Rīga’s five creative quarters; many citizens’ initiatives were stimulated. In order to increase public participation, Rīga 2014 implemented new approaches and forms of participation at events, taking part in which, residents welcomed the implementation of their own ideas.
The Esplanāde 2014 Cultural chalet operated for three whole summer seasons (from 2012) as an open venue for cultural events and discussions, both for the residents of Rīga and visitors to the city. Every day featured a number of Rīga 2014 project activities – discussions, presentations, concerts, theatre productions, performance art and other activities running into several hundreds.
More than 3 700 Rīga 2014 volunteers (2 202 from Rīga, 980 from near Rīga, 525 from other Latvian regions) made a huge contribution to the smooth running of the Rīga 2014 programme. The youngest volunteer was 14 and the oldest 83. The average age of our volunteers was 22 years, 83% of them were women and 17% men. The volunteers worked in many, diverse areas – as guides for foreign visitors, as photographers, exhibition supervisors, creators of art works (concepts, constructors, painters, illuminator, video editors, etc.), social-media content creators, translators, flag carriers, people-movement co-ordinators, information centre staff, guides, concert organisers’ assistants, market researchers, coordinators of other volunteers, workshop leaders, artists’ assistants, conference organisers’ assistants, sports event organisers’ assistants, assistants at the marathon and many others.
“In my opinion, new levels were set in motion during the European Capital of Culture year through expanding the cultural space and lifting the cultural landscape to a new degree of quality. Now we have to work on this space not contracting again, the level not falling and activity not diminishing” considered Gundega Laiviņa, curator of Rīga 2014’s Road Map programme chapter.
Great interest arose in the www.riga2014.org cultural portal, the home of articles and other material about the European Capital of Culture programme. Since its launch in April 2013, 651 000 unique users have visited the site. The Latvian-language section of the site was visited by 452 000 users, the English section attracted 127 000 visitors, while the Russian section had 72 000 visitors.
In total, the portal published 5 544 articles, 1 705 photo galleries, 269 video recordings and 202 audio recordings. The portal was the hub for 32 live, online broadcasts from different European Capital of Culture events.
Most users visited the site from within Latvia itself – 81.52%, but the other visitors came from 190 different countries. The leaders in that list were Germany, Great Britain, Russia and the United States.
The Rīga 2014 Artistic Council expresses its gratitude to all implementers of projects, events, creative and citizens’ initiatives, and to its partners for the joint efforts in implementing the European Capital of Culture programme.
The European Capital of Culture programme was developed by the Rīga 2014 Foundation in collaboration with government, municipal and non-government cultural organisations, and creative associations. The programme has been funded by the Rīga City Council, the Ministry of Culture and the European Commission. Rīga 2014’s programme partner is Lattelecom who also provided technological support.