Kaunas bids farewell to the title of Capital of Culture and passes it on to three other European cities. After the project reached the finish line, many Lithuanian and foreign cities were surprised with photos of people sending air kisses. With this project of photographer Remis Ščerbauskas, “Kaunas 2022” team symbolically says goodbye – according to them, 2022 kisses are dedicated to all dreamers and doers, participants and artists who helped to make the dream of the Capital of Culture come true.
Record numbers of visitors and artists involved
Having attracted over 2 million visitors in 5 years, “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022” can be hailed as a success story. A programme which has delivered nearly 3000 events to guests from all over the world, increased tourism, international media attention, and a huge number of co-creators – these are some of the major achievements and legacies of the Capital of Culture.
18,000 artists and creators from all over the world – Europe, Japan, the USA, South Africa, Israel, and elsewhere – contributed to co-creating the Capital of Culture in Kaunas and Kaunas District. Yet most of the events, 70 percent, were created and implemented by Lithuanian artists. In 2022 alone, Lithuanian and international artists organised 1,370 cultural initiatives open to the public in Kaunas and Kaunas District.
A total of 26 million euros has been earmarked for European Capital of Culture projects, or 13 euros per person over five years. More than 50 donors and partners contributed to the cultural initiatives, with a total value of 2.8 million euros in financial support and services.
From the BBC and The Guardian to National Geographic
According to Virginija Vitkienė, head of the initiative, the Kaunas 2022 project gained visibility not only in Lithuania, but also worldwide – in 66 countries in total in Europe and beyond, including the US, India, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, South Africa, South Korea, and Singapore. Over 170 foreign journalists visited the city.
Kaunas has been covered by National Geographic, Telegraph, the Guardian, the BBC, CNN, The Times, Rai, Deutsche Welle, Financial Times, Euronews, and other news outlets. It is estimated that news about Kaunas 2022 has reached more than 3 billion people worldwide. Foreign media representatives have been attracted to Kaunas not only by the ongoing events but also by street art, subjects related to memory, Kaunas modernist architecture, and appearances by world-renowned artists.
According to Mindaugas Reinikis, Head of Communications and Marketing, “Kaunas has now appeared on maps where it has never featured before, but this will probably take a few decades, or even centuries, to be fully grasped and appreciated.”
Culture boosted tourism
International press attention and high-profile artistic events and exhibitions have led to an increase in tourist visits. In 2022, Kaunas accommodated stays from around 258,000 tourists, the majority of whom were from Germany, Italy and neighbouring countries – Poland, Latvia and Estonia. It was pleasing to see that increasingly more people were choosing Kaunas for more than a single-day trip, spending a whole weekend or a few days in the city.
From new cultural spaces to festivals turned into traditions
A number of popular festivals and events have become an integral part of the city and its surrounding district. The International Day of Happiness, Kaunas Literature Week, and the Fluxus Festival, which has now become a tradition, will continue to attract visitors and residents of the city. Culture to the Courtyards, Citytelling Festival and the international performing arts festival ConTempo will keep on bringing music and performances to Kaunas’s neighbourhoods. Design enthusiasts will remain warmly welcomed participants at the MAGENTA Landscape Design Festival. The European Capital of Culture Forum and the much-loved Contemporary City Festival AUDRA will also carry on. And in Kaunas District, the community project “Contemporary Neighbourhoods” will continue to take place.
The CulturEukraine co-working space, launched in 2022, will continue to run its activities in the city, as well as the Kaunas Central Post Office, which has now been transformed into an exhibition venue and event space. The Kaunas Airport, which was renamed the Kaunas Fluxus Airport, and the sculpture of the Mythical Beast of Kaunas, beloved by children, will serve as reminders of this historic year. Over 1,000 artworks, sculptures and publications created in recent years are going to be exhibited in various art institutions across Kaunas and Kaunas District.
The most important component of “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022,” as Virginija Vitkienė, the Head of “Kaunas 2022,” points out, is the people who have contributed to this project: artists, representatives of the cultural scene, communities, volunteers, and partners, transforming Kaunas into one big European stage.