Terina Slezák Barčáková - who works hard to connect Trenčín 2026 with international partners - has finally gone offline! She writes about inspiration for Trenčín from the Stage for Europe event in Kaunas (Lithuania) - which is the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) 2022.
1. From temporary to contemporary is the Kaunas 2022 slogan, which also relates to the Trenčín 2026 programme. Through ECoC, Kaunas is striving to find a new identity for the city which honours history rather than dwelling on nostalgic reminiscence such as Kaunas having been the country’s capital (1919-1939) while Vilnius was occupied by the Poles. Such rivalry between the cities remains. Until World War II, Kaunas was also a predominantly Jewish town.
2. The Jewish community was massacred during the German occupation. Kaunas 2022 reflects on this painful time through the Memory Office programme. In the preparatory years, they transformed ancestors’ recollections of this tragic event into plays, publications, and public art. We saw some during a thematic walk with Daiva Citvarienė - curator of the Memory Office - who showed us a mural painting that mentions the city's Jewish citizens. We were amazed by the combination of painting, contemporary music by Patris Židelevičius, and poems by Leah Goldberg - a very moving cultural tribute.
3. Modernism for the future is part of the modernist architecture programme, which Trenčín 2026 also covers. It defines how to create an open, accessible, inclusive and inspiring city. In addition to collecting data and creating strategies, Kaunas also focuses on mapping the stories of modernist buildings. Anyone can create an interactive map of Kaunas architecture. Just register your favourite Kaunas building and its story.
4. A promotion of the Contemporary Myth of Kaunas programme took place by Kaunas Castle. The dark and damp conditions created the perfect mysterious atmosphere for story-telling. "Stories make friends and enemies too," enigmatically observed curator Rytis Zemkauskas, as he showed how we reach understanding through storytelling.
5. Happier thanks to Kaunas 2022? The presentation showed that cooperation with K-TOTEM and Design Festival projects raised participants’ happiness - a positive feeling that plays a key role in Kaunas. Remember the Day of Happiness? This year we celebrated it with Kaunas. You sent us photos of items, animals, and events which make you happy. Let’s do it again next next - hope you’ll join us too.
6. Four years of intensive preparation make impressive reading: 13,000 cultural and artistic activities, 600 events, 350 artists from Lithuania and abroad, 70 long-term artworks, 18,000 people involved, and around 55,000 involved citizens. Most importantly, the Kaunas preparations have helped to shape an active and interested community who now initiate and implement changes in their city.
7. I consider Emerging Kaunas their progamme’s strongest part. During the presentation, young people voiced their views and activities. I was intrigued by a young woman who had decided to stay on and work in her hometown rather than emigrate: "I see how we can change the city, and how the city changes thanks to us."
Thanks for the inspiration Kaunas! You have taken our hearts and minds, and we will see you next year!
Terina Slezák Barčáková
The Stage for Europe event was a presentation of Kaunas' ECoC programme and an exhibition of its four-year preparation for the title. It was also our team’s first international trip together, as happily documented on Instagram.