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European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 programme is now public

Tartu 2024 unveiled the title year programme with 350 projects and over one thousand events.

Illustrative image of space.
23. Oct

The significant milestone was marked by the spectacular performance entitled “A Hundred Nights and Days to the Arts of Survival”. Performers included Alika Milova, Mari Kalkun, Maris Pihlap, extreme sports enthusiasts, acrobats and dancers, whose innovative performances provided a glimpse of what to expect in next year’s European Capital of Culture projects in Tartu and across Southern Estonia. NOËP delighted the audience with the freshly completed Tartu 2024 theme song “Young Blood City”.

The performance, divided into four climaxes, reflected the themes of the events taking place in Tartu and Southern Estonia during the upcoming year: Tartu with Earth, Tartu with Humanity, Tartu with Europe, Tartu with Universe.

The guiding principle of the European Capital of Culture programme is the Arts of Survival – a concept with which Tartu and Southern Estonia won the title from the European Capital of Culture expert commission in 2019. In the coming months, the commission will be monitoring and assessing the Tartu 2024 programme and its preparations, and it will eventually decide whether to award Tartu the Melina Mercouri Prize of 1.5 million euros.

According to Urmas Klaas, Mayor of Tartu and Chairman of the Tartu 2024 Council, the European Capital of Culture year means that the cultural landscape is enriched with both top-class concerts and performances with the bringing together of European values, cultural and thought spaces. “The European Capital of Culture year gives Estonia a strong impetus to embrace major future-oriented changes, both in people’s attitudes and in everyday behaviour,” said Klaas.

The guiding principle evolves in time

The European Capital of Culture programme in Tartu and Southern Estonia, inspired by the artistic concept Arts of Survival, focuses on the knowledge, skills, and values that will help humankind lead a good life in the future.

“The Arts of Survival are interpreted by fields of culture, from folk and food culture to music, film, and visual art,” stated Kati Torp, Tartu 2024 Artistic Director.

The role and meaning of the theme Arts of Survival has changed over time, according to the artistic director. No one could have predicted the global pandemic that wrecked everyday life and cultural centres around the world upon gaining the title of the European Capital of Culture in 2019. Even those who remained at a safe distance were shaken by Russia’s war against Ukraine, and the Israel-Hamas conflict stunned with its quick escalation.

“However, the last year has taught us one of the most important art of survival. Tartu and Estonia’s borders are more than just physical boundaries. We live at a time when European cooperation, solidarity, and democracy are critical to the survival of culture,” said Torp. 

Four main programme lines

European Capital of Culture has a broad and diverse sphere of activity. The Tartu with Earth programme line illuminates and teaches how to be more environmentally friendly, both as a creator and experiencer of arts but also in daily urban existence, from creating and managing a home, to gardening, fashion and dietary choices. Street art, sustainable architecture and creative movement within urban spaces all contribute to cultural diversity – just as enriching biodiversity in the city is itself a part of 21st-century street art.

All the Tartu 2024 events adhere to environmental guidelines. Most cultural events involving the public will set an example by introducing changes that ensure environmental protection.

The Tartu with Humanity programme line unites events aimed at restoring trust and a sense of security in human closeness and direct contact through cross-generational learning and co-creation. Various events offer opportunities to acquire new as well as old hands-on skills. Important aspects of the theme include understanding human relationships through theatre, music and art. Additionally, the focus is on mental health, marginalised youth, the elderly and outsider artists.

Tartu with Europe programme line explore the challenges of life on the European border and seeks ways to bring the European dimension to the fore in people’s minds. At the same time, they signal to Europe that even with our own local languages and customs, we are part of its cultural diversity. Cooperation with each other in Europe and building bridges between different countries, peoples and cultures are integral in this.

Various projects and creative solutions in the Tartu with Universe programme line show how the artistic vision of the future inspires science. Some of the more critical topics under scrutiny include the danger of rapid changes to human science, the pains and pleasures of artificial intelligence and interventions into DNA nanostructures in genetic technology.

The local in dialogue with the international

In creating the programme, the organisers focused on intergenerational, interdisciplinary and international cooperation. Tartu 2024 is brought to life by cultural organisers who work with Estonian and global partners in art, science and business. The creators of the programme projects are collaborating with more than one hundred foreign partners from 25 countries around the world.

“Our goal is to establish international cultural exchange as a lasting tradition in Southern Estonia. We want to deepen our understanding of our desires, expectations and demands, and to recognise the significance of our own contributions. We seek our culture to be one that is open and welcoming to all of Europe. The process of fostering this synergy begins now, and it will continue beyond 2024,” said Torp.

The programme will evolve over time. According to the organisers, many more world-renowned performers and artists will be performing in Tartu next year. These will be confirmed next year once the artists finalise their world tour dates.

Ticket sales for the European Capital of Culture events began with the unveiling of the programme. According to various estimates, the capital of culture will bring at least one million visitors to Tartu and Southern Estonia.

Tartu 2024 unveiled the programme on 19 October. The European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 opening ceremony will begin one hundred days later – on 26 January 2024.