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Coaching Kaunas to put creativity and cooperation at the heart of the city's cultural strategy

 

 

Early December a group of four Culture for Cities and Regions coaches, including peers from Birmingham and Lisbon, visited Kaunas to help the city deal with two main issues: improve cooperation between Kaunas City and Kaunas District; and valorise the modernist heritage of the city. Kaunas is Lithuania's second largest city and was the country’s capital between WW1 and WW2. It counts above 300,000 inhabitants, but has been losing part of its population in the last 10 years. Retaining and attracting population is a key challenge for the city.

The city is shortlisted to become European Capital of Culture in 2022. The current period therefore represents for Kaunas a unique opportunity to use creativity as a local driver for action and to develop a clear long term cultural vision. Kaunas is currently preparing a local cultural strategy that will put emphasis on:

  • Improving the quality of cultural services

  • Strengthening communities

  • Developing the local cultural and creative industries and local infrastructures

Cooperation between the city and the districts

Improved cooperation between local cultural institutional actors would lead to a better cultural offer, better communication on cultural activities and more efficient use of resources. It will also be a way to create a feeling of “one Kaunas”. Personal cooperation and networking between the various local cultural actors and individual administrative representatives from the district and the city will be key.

Concrete recommendations include:

  • Demonstrate to politicians the positive effects (win-win) of cooperation examples that already take place; Involve politicians themselves in the city/district cooperation; Have a “champion” in each political party who supports cooperation of the city and the district and / or cultural activities.

  • Arrange study visits with politicians/decision-makers to other European city-regions, where the cooperation works successfully, or invite European decision-makers to come and explain in Kaunas

  • Use the ECoC bid to demonstrate that cooperation is beneficial

  • Collect and present evidence for the impact of interventions as a whole and use data concerning participation, economic impact and sense of identity (for example) to inform the development of programmes

Valorising the modernist heritage of Kaunas

The most important heritage buildings for the city of Kaunas date back from the 1919-1940 period, when Kaunas was the capital of Lithuania. Kaunas’ modernist architecture received the European heritage label in 2014. This helped to raise the attention to the modernism architecture in Kaunas. However, many buildings need rehabilitation and need to find new functions. How to raise awareness about modernist buildings is also a key concern in Kaunas.

Concrete recommendations include:

  • Map vacant/derelict heritage buildings. Find out (communicate) the opportunities of these buildings; check what really needs to be changed in the structure/infrastructure, etc.

  • Map the stakeholders (change makers: public AND private ones!) interested in the regeneration/reuse of cultural heritage buildings; that want to be or are already active (check Facebook followers on modernist architecture in Kaunas). Involve them in the development of activities linked to the ECoC bid; develop community projects related to heritage buildings; arrange a regular forum of interested parties, to galvanise action, and discuss priorities

  • Attach people emotionally to their cultural heritage. Make them part of their daily life, create contemporary stories for the modernist heritage, for example through tours or “Open doors” days when the public can take a look inside and behind the façade.

Other recommendations have been grouped through the following headings: Smart cooperation & partnerships for a rich and innovative cultural offer for its citizens; Bid for ECoC as a unique opportunity for change and to test innovative approaches; Strengthen Kaunas identity and DNA (attachment of people to Kaunas); Cultural heritage as a tool to foster this identity feeling; and capacity buildings and skills/ resources.

 

The coaching visit's supporting documents and report are available here.

 

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