A Revolution in Sustainable Cultural Management: A Naive Dream or Systematic Action?

In difficult times, culture has always been an escape and a promoter of peace and democracy. The role of culture is invaluable during difficult times when we as a society are tackling various issues from safety and security to climate crisis. It may sound naive but I sincerely believe that culture and the arts have the ability to inspire and influence the way people think and act.

Triin Pikk. Photo: Mana Kaasik.

Tartu and Southern Estonia will hold the title of European Capital of Culture in 2024 and it is our goal to revolutionise sustainable cultural management. A number of crazy changes have taken place in the world during our joint journey towards 2024: the coronavirus crisis is still on-going and Russia has invaded Ukraine. On 24 February, the world was irrevocably changed and the concept of Arts of Survival of Tartu 2024 took on a new heart-wrenching meaning. Europe is literally fighting for survival. The people of Ukraine are fighting for survival before our very eyes, in our own home – Europe. 

The values of Tartu 2024 will help us keep moving forward even in the new, changed world. Uniqueness, sustainability, awareness and co-creation are more important today than ever before. The role of culture in adapting to the new situation is invaluable as it helps us face new challenges together. 

War and security concerns will continue to haunt our society for a long time. Nevertheless, we must address with due seriousness the threat that often goes unnoticed but which will soon have a real impact on our lives, as well as those of our children. Scientific warnings about climate change have led to growing concerns and the amount of critical change required is increasing. Culture can lead the way when it comes to change in its sector and inspire other sectors to develop creative solutions as well.  

The programme of European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024 calls for the prioritisation of ecological factors over economic factors in activities. As a capital of culture, we are aware that events have a significant environmental impact. The impact depends, for example, on which means of mobility the performers and audience use, what kind of energy is consumed and what kind of food is served at the events. With regard to this, finding a balance and implementing new solutions is going to be a major challenge and objective over the next few years. One way of reducing environmental impacts is to follow common principles in the organisation of events. In co-operation with Acento and the City of Tartu, Tartu 2024 Foundation drew up guidelines for organising environmentally friendly events, which all events of the official programme must follow. In 2024, a revolutionary and unprecedented change will take place in Estonia as one quarter of Estonia will be organising hundreds of events following the same principles under the auspices of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024. Something like that has never been done before in Estonia.  

During the preparatory phase, the Tartu 2024 Foundation is organising the Kultuurikompass forum. This year, the international edition of the forum focuses on the urgent need to change the current functioning of the cultural sector to tackle climate change. The belief that cultural events can play a pioneering role in environmental change is at the heart of this year’s programme. The contribution of each sector to the fight against climate change is essential. In the cultural sector, this entails reviewing and supplementing cultural policy strategies and changing everyday practices. 

A revolution in sustainable cultural management may seem like a naive dream, but through systematic co-operation it can become a reality. On 28 April, Tartu will host the trailblazers of sustainable culture at the Estonian National Museum. Let’s meet in Tartu, the European Capital of Culture, and discuss how we can change the world through environmentally friendly cultural management. Tartu aspires to be an attractive city with the best living environment for healthy, happy, and active people.

Every change starts within ourselves – how we carry out our activities both at home and at work, as well as when we organise evens and offer experiences. The Kultuurikompass programme will be sure to give you ample inspiration, good examples from Europe and ideas for planning your future activities.

Author: Triin Pikk, Tartu With Earth Programme Line Manager at Tartu 2024 Foundation

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