News Release

Eu­ro­pean Cap­i­tals of Cul­ture are both learn­ing and suf­fer­ing from the corona pan­demic

A recent report by the University of the Arts Helsinki examined the outcome of ten recent European Capitals of Culture in the pandemic

Reports and Proceedings

University of the Arts Helsinki

During the pandemic, digitalisation provided opportunities for Capitals of Culture to focus on issues of ecological sustainability and accessibility, to seek new audiences, to strengthen regional cooperation and to experiment.

With international tourism and its impacts in a total stand-still because of the restrictions, many of the cultural capitals turned to regional and national tourism during the pandemic. Cities that have traditionally enjoyed international tourism, such as Tampere, Finland, naturally suffer from travel restrictions, but cities in scenic locations such as Savonlinna benefited from local and national tourism.

Instead, international artist collaboration, a holistic understanding of multidimensional artistic productions, and peer-to-peer networking of artists often proved impossible. However, there is still a need for a richer, more complex and humane digital cultural offer.

Instead of the number of visitors, the new goals might be innovation and creativity

In the Capitals of Culture, participatory cultural projects suffered the most from COVID impacts. For example, projects aimed at children and senior citizens proved almost impossible to implement. The pandemic highlighted the vulnerable position of the cultural sector and freelancers in particular. The need for financial support from the private cultural sector also came to the fore. A risk of digitalisation fatigue may also be percieved, which may reduce people’s interest in cultural offerings over time.

Instead, projects that present the well-being effects of the arts gained new significance. The pandemic prompted Capital of Culture organizations to discuss alternative future prospects for their cities. Significant innovations also emerged through this debate. In some Capitals of Culture, audience numbers even lost their relevance, and the goal instead was to create something new, innovative and special. It remains to be seen how the public will behave after the pandemic.

About the report

The report Reflections on Aspects of the Impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic on European Capitals of Culture was initiated by Violeta Simjanovska, Head of the Arts Management degree program, and co-led with her by Franco Bianchini, a visiting professor at the Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki. They examined the outcome of ten recent European Capitals of Culture in the pandemic: the impact of the pandemic on cultural activities in the cities, the development of their welfare programs, and cultural activities related to social exclusion and tackling mental health problems. The ten cities were Turku 2011, Aarhus 2017, Leeuwarden 2018, Matera 2019, Galway 2020, Rijeka 2020, Novi Sad 2021/2022, Kaunas 2022, Eleusis 2021/2023 and Tartu 2024.

The report was co-written together with five students from Master’s degree programme Arts management, Society and Creative Entrepreneurship: Elizaveta Bomash, Miia Kivilä, Paola Nieto Paredes, Jenni Pekkarinen and Valtteri Pokela.

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