“Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022” programme has ended: the organizers reveal the most important figures and future plans

The “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022” project, which attracted more than 2 million visitors in 5 years, can be called a success story. The programme has gifted almost 3,000 events to guests from all over the world, increased tourism, international media attention and attracted a huge number of participants. All these the most important achievements and the legacy of the Capital of Culture were discussed at the last “Kaunas 2022” press conference held by the Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys, the head of “Kaunas 2022” Virginija Vitkienė and Head of Communication and Marketing Mindaugas Reinikis.

The journey of “Kaunas 2022” from temporary to contemporary capital began back in 2015 – when the application for winning the European Capital of Culture contest was started. In March of 2017, it became clear that Kaunas convinced the International Commission of European Experts with the prepared plans and programme – the city was given the opportunity to hold the title of the most important EU cultural project in 2022.

“I thought that it would be sad when the final year ended, but today I feel that many things are just beginning, and how everything moves forward will depend on us” – Minister of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania Simonas Kairys started the speech. According to the Minister, 2022 is an extraordinary year that significantly changed the rules – the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other challenges forced the organizers to look at the project differently, to adapt to the current situation.

“I think the biggest challenge raised by the project was to understand that we are part of the European cultural scene: how important it is to create an opportunity for dialogue, international cooperation, to be open.” […] This title reminds the rest of the world that we were part of Europe for centuries, that even after 50 years in a complicated black tunnel, today we are back in the European family,” said the Minister of Culture.

In the events – a record number of visitors and involved artists

According to Virginija Vitkienė – the head of “Kaunas 2022”- during the five years of project implementation, almost 2 million culture lovers visited various types of events – festivals, concerts, exhibitions, performances, contemporary dance performances and other artistic initiatives. More than half of them visited the events in 2022.

18 thousand people – artists and creators from all over the world – Europe, Japan, USA, South Africa, Israel, etc, created the Capital of Culture in Kaunas and Kaunas district. However, most of the events (70%) for Kaunas were created and implemented by Lithuanian artists. In 2022 alone, Lithuanian and foreign creators organized 1370 cultural initiatives accessible to the community of Kaunas and the Kaunas region.

26 million EUR has been allocated for the implementation of European Capital of Culture projects, in other words – 13 EUR per person over five years. More than 50 sponsors and partners contributed to the cultural initiatives, the value of whose contribution in terms of financial support and services reached 2.8 million EUR.

From the ‘BBC’ and ‘The Guardian’ to ‘National Geographic’

Project manager Virginija Vitkienė emphasized that the “Kaunas 2022” project was visible not only in Lithuania, but also all over the world – in 66 countries, including not only European countries, but also the USA, India, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, PAR, South Korea or Singapore. More than 170 foreign journalists visited the city.

‘National Geographic’, a popular science magazine with 6 million readers, emphasized that Kaunas is “finally getting the recognition it deserves”, ‘The Telegraph’ stated that “the city will experience a real artistic renaissance”, and ‘The Guardian’ included the Capital of Culture among the 10 most outstanding European cities.

Media portals such as BBC, CNN, The Times, Rai, Deutsche Welle, Financial Times, Euronews also talked about Kaunas. It is estimated that news about the “Kaunas 2022” project reached more than 3 billion people worldwide. The attention of foreign media representatives was attracted not only by the ongoing events, but also by street art, themes of memory, Kaunas modernist architecture, and visits of world famous artists.

According to Mindaugas Reinikis, head of the communication and marketing department, “Kaunas appeared on maps where it had not been before, but we will probably fully understand this only after a few decades, maybe even centuries.”

Increased tourism

The attention of the international press, high-level artistic events and exhibitions led to an increased number of tourists. In 2022 About 258 thousand tourists stayed in Kaunas with an overnight stay, the majority of whom were guests from Germany, Italy and neighbouring countries – Poland, Latvia, Estonia. It was pleasing that more and more people chose Kaunas not for a short trip – guests spent the whole weekend or several days in the city.

From new cultural spaces to traditional festivals

Some of the favorite festivals and events have become an inseparable part of the city and the district: the International Day of Happiness and the tradition “Fluxus Festival” and Literature Week will continue, “Culture to the Yards”, “History Festival” and the International Performing Arts Festival will bring music and performances to Kaunas micro-districts. “ConTempo” design lovers will be able to participate in the “Magenta” landscape design festival; the Forum of the European Capital of Culture will continue to take place, as well as the popular contemporary city festival “Audra”. The community project “Modern Old Towns” will continue in the Kaunas region.

The collaboration space “CulturEukraine”, which has opened its doors in 2022 in the Kaunas Central Post Office and has become a space for exhibitions and events, will continue its activities in the city. The Kaunas Airport, which received the name „Fluxus“, and the sculpture of the Mythical Beast of Kaunas, beloved by children, will remember the historic year. In the future, it is planned to exhibit over 1000 works, sculptures and publications created in recent years in various art institutions operating in Kaunas and the Kaunas region.

The “Smaragdo kelias” route of public art objects will continue to operate in the Kaunas district, which includes as many as 50 works by Lithuanian and foreign artists; as well as the dredging ship “Nemuno 7” located in Zapyškys, which has become an art and culture space.

The capital of culture says goodbye by sending 2022 kisses

According to Virginijas Vitkienė, head of Kaunas 2022, the most important aspect of “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022” are the people who contributed to this project: artists, cultural representatives, communities, volunteers and partners, who turned Kaunas into one big European stage.

Handing over the title of Capital of Culture to the other three European cities, Kaunas bids a symbolic farewell by sending 2022 kisses to Lithuania, Europe and the whole world. Since 2017 photographer Remis Ščerbauskas sought to capture the participants of the Capital of Culture events, community members, artists, Kaunas and guests of the city, volunteers, the team that contributed to the implementation of the project and those who often stayed behind the lights. All these people raised the city’s culture to a new level with their energy while preparing for the title year.

“Every European Capital of Culture is unique and exceptional, but it’s nice to receive positive comments, for example, about the fact that Kaunas has made the project of European Capitals of Culture fashionable again. You will hear more about us.” – The press conference ended positively.