CEO of the Tartu 2024 Foundation Priit Mikk's job is to steer and shape the winning vision for Estonia's second European Capital of Culture in four years time. He told ERR News what's happened since the city clinched the title and what comes next.
Mikk started his new position on July 1 and brings with him 15 years worth of events organizing experience. He worked on several of Tallinn's capital of culture events in 2011 and after a positive experience working with Tartu's city government for the Metallica concert in 2019, thought "why not?" when approached about the vacant position.
"I had my knowledge and faith in them that it won't get political - culture comes first and then everything else," he said.
Tartu won the bid beating the eastern city of Narva to the title last August. The "European Capitals of Culture" initiative was launched in 1985 and it has since become one of the most high-profile cultural initiatives in Europe.
The cities are selected on the basis of a cultural programme that must have a strong European dimension, promote the participation and active involvement of the city's inhabitants, communities and various stakeholders, as well as contribute to the long-term development of the city and its surrounding region.
Tartu's bid was titled the "Arts of Survival" and it aims to express the power of the arts in affecting Europe's future in three larger areas of life: environmentally friendly culture with a focus on real human communication, strong communities and essential skills for living and, indeed, survival in the coming years.
It also brings together several municipalities in south Estonia, creating a joint entry. Events will take place across the region from January to December 2024, attracting people to Estonia, Tartu and the wider region.
Mikk is not a south Estonia native and told ERR News his new role is a helping him discover the region. He said the culture is quite different from the north.
"It is more friendly and open. On the municipality level, it is more friendly, I feel it. The whole region, the people are open to new things and they want to try things out and see what happens," he said. "I think Tartu and southern Estonia are a great place to try out new ideas and if the ideas are good the whole region and the municipalities will help you implement them."
Over the past year, preparations have started to get off the ground. The foundation was launched in January and the team has been growing since then. Development started during the emergency situation so somethings have been postponed due to covid-19, he said: "But I think we are in pretty good shape."
Three development seminars have been held so far and the 19 municipalities have been working together to create cooperation contracts. As of Friday, 15 municipalities have signed the contract.
"I think it is the largest cooperation between so many municipalities ever done in Estonia so it is quite ambitious," he said. "I'm hoping that we managed to bring them all aboard."
Increasing visibility of the Tartu 2024 brand has also been an important step and Mikk said the team has established a presence at all the major events taking place in Tartu - such as at Car-Free Avenue - and in the surrounding region. Building marketing and communications teams have also been important in the last year.
The plans for next year hinge on the government and the city approving the budget for the next year, hopefully at the end of December. If they are granted the funds, then the development process will end in early summer and contacts will be made with project managers to produce the scheduled events which are being developed. Then the foundation will prepare the next open call for ideas which will launch at the start of 2022. The team will also grow.
Despite coronavirus and all of the problems the virus brought with it in 2020, Mikk is optimistic for the future. He jokes that the phrase "Arts of Survival" has taken on a whole new meaning this year.
"I think it is a once in a lifetime opportunity and of course I am excited for what is going to happen and the fact is that no one has done it before in Tartu before or southern Estonia," he said.
Editor: Helen Wright