Vilnius City Municipality, together with seven European capitals, is implementing the project “Culture for All”. On March 9-10 the last meeting of this program took place – the international conference “Access Transnational Meeting Vilnius”, during which six cultural initiatives were presented to promote the involvement of Vilnius residents in culture and increase the accessibility of culture outside the center of the capital.
The hybrid conference was broadcast from the Energy and Technology Museum. Representatives of the municipalities of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Sofia (Bulgaria), Riga (Latvia), Tallinn (Estonia), London (Great Britain), Lisbon (Portugal) and Dublin (Ireland), creative industries and public figures took part remotely.
Vilnius is a city of culture
Tadas Rimdžius, an advisor to the Vilnius City Municipality Administration, introduced the conference participants to the capital’s creative ecosystems: cultural activities in emerging districts (Užupis, Paupys, Naujamiestis), sleeping and remote districts (Naujoji Vilnia or Trakų Vokė). Rimdžius presented in detail the strategic documents of the cultural policy, the study of the state of the Vilnius city services sector, the guidelines and priorities for the development of culture until 2026.
Algirdas Ramaška, CEO of “Kino pavasaris”, spoke about the festival’s initiatives during the pandemic – “Aerocinema” at Vilnius International Airport, “Holidays with “Kino pavasaris” in the capital’s hotels. Jurgita Murauskienė, the director of the Kristupas’ Summer Festival, showed “Kristupas’ Picnics” – classical music concerts in the green spaces of the city. The Energy and Technology Museum has presented itself as a center of culture and science, an object of industrial heritage where new interactive exhibitions are being created.
The second day of the conference focused on cultural heritage. The Central Library of Vilnius City Municipality operates as a community center in various districts of the capital – day centers, positive parenting programs and the “Openness Isl@nd” were created here. Ieva Šiušaitė reviewed the reconstruction and revival of the Trakų Vokė manor, Živilė Diawara – how the “Loftas Art Factory” and the “Open Gallery” were established in the former “Elfa” radio receiver factory. Both of these spaces have significantly changed the cityscape and community life since their establishment.
Creative inspirations from Vilnius
In addition to the above-mentioned presentations, the conference organizers included creative inspirations in the program. Foreign guests were told about Lithuanian sutartinės that are included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The “Vilnius 700” initiative, which is dedicated to the 700th anniversary of Vilnius in the coming year, has attracted a great deal of interest. As well as short film “Shaping the Future. Spatial Environments of Aleksandra Kasuba” about the work of the environmental artist Aleksandra Kasuba and the exhibition of the same name, which took place in the National Gallery of Art in 2021.
According to the moderator of the conference, the head of the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute dr. Rasius Makselis, the presented creative ideas were not inferior to the partners in the European context in terms of their quality and originality. “We are used to taking ideas abroad, and this time it was clear that our ideas and solutions were relevant and of interest to our colleagues working in Europe,” said Makselis.
The “Access – Culture for All” project, funded by the “Urbact” program, aims to share experiences of how each institution is meeting the socio-economic challenges of recent years. The foreign partners were interested in how these institutions changed their activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and how their sources of funding changed as a result.
Vilnius Deputy Mayor Edita Tamošiūnienė pointed out that the project is being implemented during a difficult period. “Cooperation takes place in a post-pandemic period full of tensions, so sharing experience with foreign partners becomes even more relevant. We have heard many interesting questions addressed to us, we have discussed the specific issues of financing, administration and legal regulation – cultural development,” she emphasized.
Strengthens the sense of community
The main goals of “Access – Culture for All” are to reduce cultural isolation, strengthen a sense of community and ensure the active participation of the population in cultural events. According to Makselis, these long-term goals are important for many European cities.
“Vilnius city planning during the Soviet era determined that public life took place in the city center, which programmed the development of culture here for many years. However, the centralization of culture and the social problems that arise in peripheral areas affect all cities. Each of them forms their own decision strategy: empowering the community, making structural decisions, creating mobile apps that bring professional art to the regions. During this project, based on the examples of foreign countries, we also choose the right solutions for us,” he added.
Other “Eurocities” partners also organized international conferences during the project. Veronika Jaruševičiūtė, the project manager and the chief specialist of the Culture Department of the Vilnius City Municipality Administration, assessed this presentation in Vilnius as a high-level performance. “We have raised high quality bar. We broadcast the conference in a unique space, the Energy and Technology Museum, showed a lot of video material from various projects: Street Music Day, Vilnius Festival of Lights, museum openings. Vilnius has emerged as a multicultural, interesting, green and open city,” said Jaruševičiūtė.