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The Warsaw Voice » Destination Warsaw » November 30, 2010
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Vying to Be Capital of Culture
November 30, 2010   
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Ewa Czeszejko-Sochacka, who is leading Warsaw’s bid to become European Capital of Culture 2016, talks with Jolanta Wolska. From among 11 Polish cities, Warsaw was short-listed in October along with Gdańsk, Katowice, Lublin and Wrocław.

What makes Warsaw different from other European cities?
We do not aspire to be another Paris, Rome or Venice; those cities are already defined. Because of its history, Warsaw is constantly under construction, literally and figuratively speaking. Warsaw looks different and can endear itself with completely different things than other European cities.

We have modern architecture. We consider it to be our attribute, as do many foreigners. Also, Warsaw has a unique atmosphere. Because the city is constantly recreating itself, that creates an atmosphere of constant innovation, constant rush. We describe it as a creative space in progress, a city vibrant with new artistic ideas.

We want to become a real metropolis – not only to be seen as a city for business and politics, but also a city of culture and a broker between the cultures of East and West.

What were the differentiating features of Warsaw’s bid from other cities applying for the title?
The bid for European Capital of Culture 2016 title is a process, and we demonstrated that we have achievable plans for every year between now and 2016, as well as beyond.

Nearly all cities basically promoted their city’s brand. I felt they did not read the brief. We did not promote the Warsaw brand, but instead we built on the brand through initiating and promoting specific artistic events and cooperation within artistic circles and with NGOs.

We defined our goals honestly as well as the challenges and problems that are confronting the city and how we plan to solve these through culture. We demonstrated this in a thematic format. One of the thematic lines is Warsaw under construction: it is a city that is constantly changing, and we want that to be an attribute. The second is “Vistula, river of opportunities”—we want to solve the problem of the perceived division between the better and worse part of the city. Currently, the river is dividing instead of connecting the two banks. And the third theme is Warsaw, a city of talent: it is that which differentiates Warsaw from other cities. We are the only city in Poland that has a huge group of eminent, talented artists and an art market. It is rare that these two aspects go hand in hand. Often there are many artists in one place, but they look to market their work elsewhere.

Our Warsaw Under Construction Festival includes a dialogue among artists, decision-makers and residents, from which we develop various projects with the participation of residents in their local area or suburb.

We have two clear challenges. One is that many Warsaw residents do not identify with the city. They come here to work, because Warsaw is a springboard to careers, but they identify with their hometown. We want people to say that Warsaw is their city... and that they are proud that the capital represents them.

The second challenge is to connect the two river banks through artistic activity and infrastructure. We are planning a Festival of Art on the Vistula River in cooperation with the Copernicus Science Center, which opened to great fanfare recently. In 2017, the Museum of Modern Art will be up and running as will the European Center of Music; one is on the right bank of the Vistula and the other on the left.

What are the benefits for the winner of the title?
A prize of 1.5 million euros in cash, which has to be allocated for an artistic project. But more importantly, European attention would be focused on Warsaw. We want to broaden our image from being a city of business and politics to being a city of culture as well.

Measurable benefits of the title include greater interest in cultural tourism, as we can expect an increase of 12-15 percent annually. Also, it is easier to showcase our great artists around the world. They can develop more contacts, have greater opportunities and then receive more contracts. Moreover, it means more funding for artists and NGOs in the form of sponsorships, because it is easier and more prestigious for business to be associated with artistic events.

Warsaw Destination Alliance management and staff wish its members and friends of Warsaw a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
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