Head of the organising board of the Guimaraes European Capital 2012 project Joao Serra has told the STA that the Portuguese city has managed to fight the difficult situation in Portugal and Europe and secure conditions for “celebrating the ability of art and culture to bring people together and help reinvent the future”.
Speaking about the goals of the project, which was awarded for 2012 to Guimaraes and to Slovenia’s Maribor, Serra said the idea was to “allow us to put Guimaraes in a more favourable position in the European network of middle-sized cities that are a reference in arts and culture”.
He explained that the priorities had been to secure intense cooperation among programme and production teams and a permanent and flexible integration with the city’s cultural infrastructure.
Serra said that the budget for Guimaraes 2012 had been cut because of the crisis to a total of EUR 110m, which includes the costs of infrastructure, of project management and the programme. Expenditure for the last category has been trimmed down a little from an original EUR 25m.
“We tried hard to prevent the programme being affected by these difficulties, and I can say that this goal was achieved with the help of effective management.”
Serra said that three of the five most important venues planned were already fully operative, while one will be finished in March and the last in June 2012. “Let me stress that these dates were scheduled from the beginning, so deadlines are being met.”
“Some of the most intensive moments will occur in public spaces – main squares and streets – benefiting from the natural scenery of the historic centre and from Portugal’s mild climate.”
Reflecting on the long-term effects of the project on the city’s economy and culture, Serra said that such “types of interventions usually take one generation to produce effects”.
“While keeping this in mind, it is safe to say that the city’s image and its position among European cities that are a reference in the cultural and artistic field has surely improved,” he said, also pointing to the infrastructural in organisational structures that will remain in place after the project.
Turning to the public perception of Guimaraes 2012, Serra said that such events generated an explosion of expectations that were difficult to control.
“After and initial phase of euphoria, there was criticism…We were able to reverse this and the trust in this project and its direction were re-established. Of course, there is not such thing as unanimity. Criticism can be stimulating.”
Serra moreover explained that around EUR 3m had been spent on marketing and that the organisers had opted for creative and less costly forms of marketing. He expects the number of visitors to Guimaraes to double in 2012.
Asked about potential advice to colleagues in Maribor, Serra said that no advice could be given, as “our Slovenian counterparts are as much or even more worried about 2013 than 2012″. “We are working for the future of our cities.”