The Slovenia Times

Maribor - European Capital of Culture - The Chance of a Lifetime



The culture capital is a Pan-Slovenian project of European dimensions where Maribor and its five partner towns - Novo Mesto, Murska Sobota, Velenje, Slovenj Gradec and Ptuj - are going to be put in the spotlight. The title gives them an exceptional chance to become more widely recognised. A transformation of mentality through cultural communication and development on all levels is also expected, including "public dialogue, education, promotion of cultural norms and values needed by the environment, encouragement of the broader cultural perception and democratisation of opinions," says Suzana Žilič Fišer, general director of the Public Institute Maribor 2012. The project is a key driving force of development in the city and the region.

A winding road

It is undoubtedly a valuable and inspiring project but the path to it has been anything but simple. Problems began as soon as the candidacy was declared successful. From the end of 2008 the project seemed to stagnate, with little additional work on the programme and few meetings. 2009 did not bear any fruit either. It was only in 2010 that things finally started to move in a productive direction with the establishment of the Public Institute Maribor 2012.
The Institute has had a tough job. It has had to confront the bad management of the past, unsettled contracts, cuts of budgets which had only been promised and not yet guaranteed, searches for appropriate venues and funds for the construction of the main ones, not to mention dealing with political interference. "The situation was tougher than I thought," admits Mitja Čander, programme director of the project since November 2010. Even today, less than three months before the official opening in February, certain things still remain open, however "with immense effort we achieved our goals," they say at the Institute.

Ambitious programme

And so at the end of October the programme was confirmed and presented to the public. The initially planned 16 programme segments have been shrunk to four and include projects designed in 2010 as well as new ones. According to Čander, "Terminal 12" is an opportunity for both famous and lesser known Slovenian and foreign artists to present themselves. Some of the highlights are Maribor festival, Mars festival, Tomaž Pandur's War and Peace, Black Masks opera, and an exhibition from London's Tate Gallery.
The "Town Keys" segment, meanwhile, "concretely revitalises the city" says Čander. "We'll be dealing with its identity, the past and the future. The most important events here are the international book fair, house of literature and house of science; also taboos from the past about the Germans and Jews are going to be discussed in order to eliminate them. The goal is to bring life to the city in various forms," he explains.
"Urban Furrows" will deal with social margins which are most difficult to integrate to community. Highlighted will be ecological and social projects, natural cultural heritage and good practices of sustainable development.
Life Touch connects what is dispersed in real space. "It will lift the project from the physical to a global sphere as its basic medium is the internet," explains Čander. "A European intellectual context with columns and essays of eminent intellectuals will be established; this is extremely rare in Slovenia."
Besides the four programme compounds, seven artistic spheres. In all there will be 412 projects. A special part will belong also to cultural embassies which will take care of cultural presentations of European and also countries around the world.

Amazing opportunity

"European Capital of Culture is a trademark that puts on a pedestal not only the selected city and its partner towns, but also the entire country," believes the Public Institute's Žilič Fišer.
"Despite the troubles we have been facing I know that Slovenians somehow always unite in the end and do things right. Slowly everybody is becoming conscious that the title really means an opportunity for everyone. The amount of finances in question is such that it is not worth blowing this outstanding chance," affirms Čander. Hopefully Slovenia will know how to grab it.


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