Revelation of the long-awaited program of Kaunas – the European Capital of Culture 2022

After a twelve-year break, the title of European Capital of Culture returns to Lithuania – in 2022 Kaunas and Kaunas district will become one big European scene. On the 22nd of January 2022 the grand opening of Kaunas 2022 program will take place, and in total during the next year there will be approximately 40 festivals, more than 60 exhibitions, over 250 performing arts events (more than 50 of which will be premieres) and over 250 concerts will be held. These figures and many other undisclosed details were revealed for the whole of Europe at the press conference by the organizers of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022. Representatives of the other two European Capitals of Culture of 2022 from Esch (Luxembourg) and Novi Sad (Serbia) also took part in the event and shared their news.

Introduction of the programs of capitals of culture

“From the very conception of Kaunas 2022 as an idea, I was privileged to participate in the events in this program and an opportunity to witness the idea become reality, whereas the reality be coloured with new colours. I am convinced that the strength of the program lies in the very origin of its conception. The vision of Kaunas as the future European Capital of Culture came from the community, the artists, the residents of the city and the patrons of its history. The sense of unity, energy exchange, sharing the ideas and concentration enabled this vision to turn into the final decision, which will record year 2022 in the history of Kaunas city as a truly exceptional period”, claimed the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania Simonas Kairys.

The Minister claimed that he had no doubt that the ambitious program of Kaunas 2022 will receive great international attention and response: “It certainly has all the opportunities to become one of the programs prepared for European Capitals of Culture, which are later analysed and presented as especially successful examples.”

Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 has taken another significant step further, since it has revealed the cultural program for the next year, which has not been published anywhere before.

“Today, when we hold the printed book containing Kaunas 2022 program in our hands, when hundreds of art and culture projects and exceptional participants are presented to the entire Lithuania, Europe and the world – we present what we have been preparing for a long time with many partners!” stated the head of Kaunas 2022 Virginija Vitkienė at the press conference.

According to her, this meeting is exceptional because many representatives of European Capitals of Culture network from all over Europe gathered in Kaunas, moreover, the programs are presented by three capitals of culture: Esch 2022, Novi Sad 2022 and Kaunas 2022.

According to the Mayor of Kaunas City Municipality Visvaldas Matijošaitis, Kaunas is experiencing a special moment in the history of the city.

“We have grown to become the main scene in the Old Continent – the European Capital of Culture. Today, we have every reason to be proud of Kaunas, the city that is 613 years old and now has received another solid recognition and deserves to be at the centre of attention. I am confident that we will maintain the same pace after 2022 and without slowing down will consistently and boldly continue to create an ambitious, sustainable future for our city, full of positive change and outstanding achievements. Let the next generations look at this period as one of the most productive stages of Kaunas in another hundred years”, claimed V. Matijošaitis.

Invitation to know the culture

Kaunas and Kaunas district have been preparing for the most important cultural title of the continent for five years already, and it is safe to say that the international project has already succeeded. The change has been implemented, the city and the surrounding settlements, the communities that make up the core of Kaunas became more active, therefore, we invite to celebrate this awakening and create a new history of “Modern Capital” throughout the entire 2022.

Valerijus Makūnas, the Mayor of Kaunas District Municipality, also encourage to celebrate the waking-up, the sense of community and partnership: “The goal of Kaunas district in the partnership with the city of Kaunas is to reveal what grants cosiness to the industrial features of the city, what has been hardened in the forge of history and adapted for today, what makes us exceptional. Therefore, we offer what we consider our gold fund: beautiful nature, unique towns and centuries-old traditions. The project “Modern Townships” assisted in attracting the well-known European artists to Pakaunė towns and to unite the communities.

Community project

Kaunas 2022 program is formed as a single huge dramatic production, granting meaning to the path of development of the city and its citizens – the European Capitals of Culture program implemented since 1985 has not had such a vision so far. From day one, it is a community project – most of the effort, time and money is devoted to involving as many citizens as possible in the culture. At the same time, it is an educational project, since hundreds of professionals and enthusiasts in this field have learned new ways of working in culture, as well as a large number of young people growing up here, so the future legacy of Kaunas 2022 is a high-quality and rich future for the city and district.

The idea of ​​Kaunas 2022 is also unique, because so far no city has tried to change its life through the creation of a new myth for itself. The story of Kaunas beast, which has become the mascot of the program, is exactly such an attempt. The biggest events of 2022, or a trilogy of contemporary Kaunas myth – “Uprising” (the 22nd of January), “Confluence” (the 20th of May) and “Treaty” (the 25th-27th of November) – are created by many Lithuanian and foreign artists working together. Historical personalities who were born and created in Kaunas, such as Jurgis Mačiūnas or Emmanuel Levinas, are also reborn in their ideas. The names outstanding under the program of Kaunas 2022 include: William Kentridge, Marina Abramović, Yoko Ono, Robert Wilson, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Modestas Pitrėnas, Edgaras Montvidas, Oskaras Koršunovas, Jenny Kagan, Philip Miller, Antony Polonsky and many others. It is important to emphasize that each branch of the program has its own superhero, some of them are still awaiting for their stardom, thus, Kaunas and Kaunas district, which will become one big European scene, will become a creative springboard for them.

Highlights of the program

Celebrations that emerged in Kaunas and Kaunas district under the initiative of “Modern Capital” – Fluxus, Stories, ConTempo festivals, Design event, program “Contemporary Townships” – have become the favourites of the residents of Kaunas city and Kaunas district and will undoubtedly be continued after the title year. Some of the new occasions, such as Happiness Day, have already grown beyond the borders of Kaunas and spread across Lithuania. Kaunas 2022 programs such as “Modernism for the Future” contribute a lot to the appreciation and employment of the exceptional architectural environment surrounding the citizens as well as the rapid path of Kaunas modernism towards the UNESCO World Heritage Lists.

Introducing the main highlights of the program for 2022 during the press conference, the following events were mentioned: the 13th Kaunas Biennial “Once upon Another Time… The Already Lived Differently”, one of the most influential contemporary artists in the world, the exhibitions of whom makes the galleries of the world to compete among themselves, William Kentridge and his exhibition “What We Don’t Remember”, retrospective exhibition “Garden of Freedom” of non-conformist, prominent figure in the New York art scene Yoko Ono, the exhibition “Memory of Being” of one of the world’s most famous artists Marina Abramović, one of the greatest success stories of Kaunas 2022 is a huge partnership project – the international Happiness Day, the exhibition of the MO Museum and Kaunas City Museum “Kaunas – Vilnius: Moving the Heaven”, Japanese Days in Kaunas “WA!”, an extremely open conversation between the city and the man – exhibition “1972: Breaking the Wall”, a unique platform for leaders, academics, cultural professionals and the wide society – the European Capital of Culture Forum, the Festival of Courtyards strengthening friendships, the contemporary city festival “Storm”, Jenny Kagan exhibition “Out of Darkness”, the World Litvak Forum, the world premiere of the cantata by the composer Philip Miller (PAR) performed with the co-author of the concept Jenny Kagan  (UK), “Magenta” landscape design festival and other events.

Building bridges to reach as far as Africa

The press conference introducing the program was enriched by artistic performances, including two premieres. An excerpt from the upcoming premiere of performance Pluto (choreography by Matthew Dane Livingston) of Kaunas dance theatre “Aura” was presented at the event. The main storyline of the performance is a journey through own identity: who do we think we are, or what do we believe we are? The event also included the performances of the joint team formed exclusively for this event by KTU hiking club “Ąžuolas” and “Slackline Lietuva” team.

The premiere of the song “City Sisters” by Ambassador of Kaunas 2022 Jurga Šeduikytė and songwriter from the Republic of South Africa Kgomotso Le Roux received especially a lot of attention. This song sensitively narrates the different, but at the same time very similar experience of two women in Lithuania and PAR. A special touch is given to the song by the fact that Kgomotso sings in native Zulu language. This song, the creation of which was assisted by the cultural bridges built by Kaunas 2022, was performed live by singer Jurga Šeduikytė together with well-known producer Leon Somov.

The artists were brought together for a joint project by the Joint Club of African and European Capitals of Culture ACOC-ECOC. “City Sisters” was recorded in Johannesburg and Vilnius, the final version of the song was produced by Leon Somov. This connection between Lithuania and the Republic of South Africa is not the only one under Kaunas 2022 project. A beautiful and very important link is the exhibition of world-famous RSA artist William Kentridge organized in Kaunas. The South African artist with Lithuanian roots analyses the topics of violence, empathy and racial inequality. Jurga and Kgomotso share similar topics. Their song becomes a kind of additional soundtrack to promote the exhibition. A music video for “City Sisters” will be filmed in the nearest future, while the world premiere will take place in Johannesburg and Kaunas.

Discussion of the program at a special Forum

On the 23rd – 24th of September Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 will invite you to the 4th European Capital of Culture forum, which this year will be dedicated to a detailed review and evaluation of the Kaunas 2022 program. At this event the curators and program partners of six Kaunas 2022 programs will talk about the vision of the Capital of Culture, the results of the activities implemented during the scope of five years, the greatest achievements, the lessons learned from the Capital of Culture and the most important projects, that had influence upon the program and, most important, what most prominent projects and events await in 2022. Forum program: forumas.kaunas2022.eu/, Forum broadcastings will take place on the 23rd – 24th of September at youtube.com/c/Kaunas2022, forumas.kaunas2022.eu/ and facebook.com/kaunas2022.

For more information about Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022, visit kaunas2022.eu/

Photographs of M. Plepys