Košice in preparation for ECoC 2013

Košice has always been a vibrant and unique city. The multicultural city of eastern Slovakia has won the title European Capital of Culture which has brought many new opportunities. Not only new cultural events, but also investment projects, revitalization of the city and its transformation to a modern cultural and creative city of European significance.

We talk with mayor Richard Raši about the challenges that face Košice and how the new, creative city will look like.

All cities in Slovakia suffer from the same diseases. How is the situation of Košice different, what are the main pluses and minuses of Košice?

I would start with what troubles us the most, which is the missing infrastructure. Košice and the whole region suffer from the bad highway network. Nevertheless I think that this disadvantage is also a factor that has forced the city to move further on. The present trend is a shift from heavy industries to those branches of economy using modern technology, ecological approaches and computerization. The non existing highway forced Košice to support a type of economy with value-added business requiring higher education. Košice have a strong knowledge background with three universities and lots of active and educated youth.

Košice is thanks to that a vibrant city full of energy. Therefore it has been a suitable candidate for the title European Capital of Culture. We have managed to get the project into a phase, when the citizens got used to it. They no longer expect just, lets say, traditional cultural events such as theatre or cinema. Citizens as well as many tourists got used to Košice as a city of culture, where always something interesting is going on.

In present, Košice are going through a significant change thanks to the European Capital of Culture project. What else besides new cultural events has it brought to the city and its citizens?

The European Capital of Culture project is a big step towards becoming a real and world-renown cultural metropolis. It is not just passive providing culture to the citizens. The project creates suitable conditions for talented people, supports creativity, innovations and new ideas. Last but not least, it is a matter of prestige and image of the city and the ability to attract tourists from home and abroad. It is an opportunity for the city to revitalize neglected parts, to apply for grants and start a process that will secure for Košice a long lasting future of a modern and prosperous city.

When talking about future, the project does not end with the year 2013, when Košice will have the European Capital of Culture title. How did the existing activities of the project influence life in the city and what will remain after the end of 2013?

As I have already mentioned, there is a significant change in the citizen’s claims for cultural events. Also, we have started several pilot projects which will continue and will be further enhanced. We run preparations for year 2013 for several years by now, the running projects will by no means end in 2013. Such project is for example SPOTS where thanks to the investments from the European Capital of Culture we were able to reconstruct unnecessary heat distribution buildings outside the city center and convert them to cultural facilities for leisure-time activities of the local citizens.

The project creates conditions for self-realization and participation of citizens in cooperation with local civic associations, local authorities and artists. Our plan is to reconstruct five heat exchanger stations in four largest city districts by the end of 2012.

Besides that the European Capital of Culture project represents attractive investment projects as reconstruction of former barracks which will become a center of culture – Kulturpark. Then reconstruction of the long closed and decaying swimming pool to a hall of art – Kunsthalle, transformation of the City Park and several other parks to vibrant open space places for cultural and social events. A positive change will take place also in the Craft’s Lane, Košice castle, and amphitheater. These projects could not be implemented without the European Capital of Culture project because of difficulties with their financing. Kulturpark, Kunsthalle and the amphitheater will provide modern cultural infrastructure absent in the city in present.

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