Summary of 2023: NETWORKING  

Networking activities conducted by the Wrocław Institute of Culture are not always visible on a daily basis – meetings with local and foreign partners, phone calls and emails, conferences, debates and presentations are not spectacular. At the same time, these local, national, and international contacts are often the starting points for our support and competence projects and events. In this regard, the year 2023 was hectic for the Wrocław Institute of Culture. 
In European Family  

In 2016, as everyone remembers well, Wrocław held the title of the European Capital of Culture (so did the Basque town of Donostia-San Sebastián). Even though the Wrocław Institute of Culture was founded at the beginning of 2022, its roots reach the times of preparation for the event. To this day, we are one of the institutions taking care of the legacy of the European Capital of Culture and continuing the projects initiated then. The Wrocław Institute of Culture also represents the capital of Lower Silesia within the European Capitals of Culture Family (ECoC) network – an informal association of previous, present and future capitals of culture. Last year, we all celebrated the capitals of 2023: Hungary’s Veszprém, Romania’s Timişoara and Greece’s Eleusis. We also welcomed to the EcoC Family newly-announced capitals of 2028: Czech Repibilic’s České Budějovice, France’s Bourges and North Macedonia’s Skopje, as a candidate to the UE. 

But mostly, we met with teams from other European Capitals of Culture and shared our experiences. Just in September, in Wrocław, we hosted delegations from, e.g., Umeå 2014, Timişoara 2023, Veszprém 2023, Trenčín 2026 and Chemnitz 2025. Of particular importance was a study tour by representatives of Chemnitz, the Saxon state government and the managing director of the European Capital of Culture 2025, who spent several days in our city to find out how Wrocław had prepared for its role as the European Capital of Culture. In the autumn, we also attended the ECoC Family’s annual general meeting, this time held in Tartu (European Capital of Culture 2024), where we discussed the future of culture.  

Meeting of representatives of the ESK Chemnitz 2025 and Wrocław

This year, the theme of the European Capital of Culture resonated particularly loudly in other Polish cities and towns. Until mid-September, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage had been accepting applications from cities and towns wishing to become the European Capital of Culture 2029. Twelve local governments entered the competition – during the months of preparation, many of them contacted us to find out more about the behind-the-scenes organisation of the European Capital of Culture in Wrocław. Employees of the Wrocław Institute of Culture talked about the process of organising the event. Moreover, they answered questions from the towns preparing the applications, e.g., Lublin, Katowice, Rzeszów, Kielce and Pszczyna. On 27th October, the finalist cities were announced – congratulations to Katowice (together with the Upper Silesian metropolitan area), Lublin, Bielsko-Biała and Kołobrzeg! We will find out which city will be awarded the title of the European Capital of Culture 2029 in mid-2024. The second capital of 2029 will be a town in Sweden, most likely Kiruna or Uppsala. 

The year 2023 was also a time of intensive cooperation with European partners, with whom we created international residency projects implemented under the AIR Wro programme. In March, in Wrocław, we hosted curators from more than a dozen European countries taking part in MagiC Carpets – a platform co-financed by the Creative Europe programme and led by the Kaunas Biennal, which aims to develop artistic and social activities involving young talent. A month later, we organised a “kick-off,” the first meeting of the What’s Next?Project, whoseteam consists of animators from Romania, Germany, Austria, Ukraine, and Poland. It is a programme funded by the European Commission to support good, brave cultural practices in the cultural sector. 

MagiC Carpets meeting in Wrocław, photo by Wojciech Chrubasik

In October, we visited Gdańsk, where the conference Partnership for Culture and Heritage – Experiences and Results from the Culture Programme of the EEA Financial Mechanism took place, during which we not only talked about the project Whose Voices are Being Heard? Exchange programme for foreign artists from Poland and Norway, but we also learned about the experience of other beneficiaries of the EEA Financial Mechanism 2014-2021 under the Culture Programme. At the end of November, we travelled to Malta to plan the next year of activities for the MagiC Carpets project with a broad group of partner organisations from 20 different countries. 

Friends from the City, the Region, the Whole of Poland  

In our summary, it is time to return from the long-distance travels and look at initiatives where we joined forces with local partners. Our employees were active in numerous networking initiatives in 2023 – the Wrocław Institute of Culture once again took part, e.g., in the Museum Think Tank, a nationwide platform for the exchange of inspiration and practice created by POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, BWA Wrocław Contemporary Art Galleries, the European Solidarity Centre and the Goyki 3 Art Incubator. The theme of this year’s meetings (in Wrocław, Warsaw, Gdańsk and Sopot) was “Pleasure.” At the end of the year, in Barbara, we hosted “Reagujemy!” – the open network of people of culture, which provides a space for the exchange of ideas and experiences on the topic of working in the cultural sector from an intercultural society perspective. Representatives of the Wrocław Institute of Culture also participated in, e.g., the Non-Congress of Cultural Animators in Gdańsk or the Animation + Future Congress in Warsaw. 

We had another year of moderating cooperation between cultural institutions and local governments affiliated with the Coalition of Cities. This initiative was founded as an association of candidate cities for the title of the European Capital of Culture 2016 and today functions as a space for coming up with answers to the challenges the local cultural sector faces. In addition to numerous internal meetings, the Coalition of Cities was also visible in public forums. In November, it sent an Open Letter to the Leaders of the Democratic Opposition, drawing the attention of future members of the government to the power of urban culture.  

It was a precious experience for us to oversee the activities of neighbourhood communities of nearly 40 cultural entities operating in the neon-lit courtyard of ul. Ruska 46. The culmination of the cooperation between NGOs, cultural institutions, clubs and artists with studios here was the organisation of a three-day-long Courtyard Celebration in mid-June – about which you will read more in the summary of the “Events” section. For a review of our competence and research activities, we refer you to more information about Dwulatka. Szkoła Praktyk Animacyjnych (which is realised thanks to a fruitful bilateral partnership with the ZAMEK Cultural Centre in Poznań) and the forum for local artistic activities Art of the Neighbourhood, an initiative organised by the Wrocław Institute of Culture that enables meetings of artists working with local communities. 

The doors of Barbara, Klub pod Kolumnami and Recepcja were open all year round to cultural practitioners from various cities in Lower Silesia and Poland. For example, we hosted the Lower Silesian Exchange of Inspirations, organised by the Agora Cultural Centre. We also accommodated the participants of the PL-UA Essentials for Activism project created by the Umbrella Foundation, and the representatives of the town hall and institutions in Łódź and people involved in setting up Młyny Rothera in Bydgoszcz. And this is just the beginning of a long list of our guests and visitors.  

A different type of activity, but one that is extremely important in terms of networking, is the publication of the Wrocław Cultural Guide by the Wrocław Institute of Culture. This free bi-monthly magazine presents a broad spectrum of cultural activities in Wrocław – each time, the calendar features more than 100 events submitted by dozens of Wrocław institutions, NGOs, informal groups or independent artists. In the middle of the year, the Guide celebrated an exceptional occasion – the 50th issue of this unique magazine!  

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