We have to build our own city. Seven representatives of the cultural sector on the future of Košice


The way we live in our city, country, and world is influenced not only by our actions but also by factors that we have little influence on as individuals. Global problems, such as the aging population, decrease in social resources, society’s polarization, and ecology, are becoming increasingly pressing. Košice, together with ten other cities in Europe, has a unique opportunity. Thanks to the prestigious Cultural and Creative Spaces and Cities project, a new cultural strategy for the city will be created for the next few years. We talked to some of the most prominent cultural producers and city and regional representatives about how culture can solve problems that affect the daily life of Košice residents.

Culture as a tool for dealing with sensitive topics

Jana Knežová, Head of the Department of Culture and Tourism at Košice Self-Governing Region

If we value active and creative people, then we have something to build on. An amazing cultural and creative community has been formed in Košice. I consider the human potential to be the most important in the development of the city. If these people continue to live and work here, it will also affect the development of tourism and all the other economic sectors and industries that we have here.

“A city that has creatives has huge potential. Investing in their development is the best decision it can make.”

Culture in the city has so far been the cause of a positive change in people’s thinking, and that is something that needs to be discussed in the future. Thanks to it, Košice become a metropolitan city that deals with global and societal issues, such as climate change or migration. Art and culture are great tools for perceiving things we are afraid of, which we do not understand, and we are not sure about. Through them, these things can be dealt with in a very sensitive manner. In addition, the cultural community has raised important questions about the development and identity of the city, which is today perceived as the creative center of the East, not just historically as a steel city. We should use culture and creativity in technological innovations and socially sustainable solutions and make them a cross-cutting industry element. In addition to gaining a strong global position, it would also boost the local economy, create new job opportunities, and contribute to a better life and well-being.

Thanks to culture, people are more kind to each other

Michal Hladký, Director of Creative Industry Košice, n.o.

The city needs to invest in creative people because they approach challenges and problems in unconventional ways. This creates innovations that affect its development.

“Living is better in a progressive city. People are happy here, and they are more kind to each other. They have the opportunity to develop, educate and exist in a space that is welcoming.”

It is important to think about our responsibility to the younger generation and motivate them to work in this sector. This is why we want to build on what was created here in 2013 and come up with ways to develop it further, for example, through city grant schemes, but also by actively linking traditional sectors with creative people. Before the European Capital of Culture (ECOC), the situation in culture in Košice was completely different. There were state and regional organizations, basic events, and minimal emphasis on independent operators. That has changed. The ECOC title brought Košice the infrastructure and tools to support the creative industry, such as CIKE itself, which has programs, networks and builds awareness. It is fair to say that a European format for infrastructure has emerged here and can be developed further. Thanks to this, Košice has become a UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.

General cultural awareness (also) in everyday life

Dorota Kenderová, Director of East Slovak Gallery

The future of culture and art in Košice depends not only on the development of the social situation but also on other factors, such as climate change, and the attitude and steps that cultural institutions will take towards solving them. We can already see that the culture in the city is not bad. The city must be creative because creativity is the ability to create new things and meaningfully involve them in all areas of our lives. Creativity significantly affects life visually, psychologically, or sociologically.

“The people who are creative are happier and more empathetic to their surroundings. Creativity improves interpersonal relationships and builds communities. It contributes to general cultural awareness, and it must become part of our daily routine, not just occasional free time.”

What culture – the ECOC title – has visibly and formally brought to the city is the infrastructure, from brand new buildings to the revitalization of existing ones. It thus created an environment for the emergence of new initiatives. This is where Košice has one of the biggest advantages over other cities. We perceive a significant change in the number of visitors to the gallery and the city’s atmosphere. Although it may not seem so, people from abroad will certainly notice it. However, it is also necessary to distinguish between high and low culture, between quality and waste. This is, of course, very difficult, and that is why cultural institutions should help us to better orient ourselves and be a guarantee of quality. We must improve processes that aren’t working and organize and offer high-quality events. Because the more responsible we are, the more we can pass on to visitors.

People’s thinking and attitudes have changed the most. They have found their way to culture and they have something to choose from

Lukáš Berberich, Director of Cinema Smile

Culture in Košice has a chance to become more complex. It is experiencing growth and is increasingly influencing young people. It cannot be perceived separately but as something related to other industries, penetrating them and improving their quality. It can also benefit the economy or education, which greatly affects people and their lives. Until recently, it was perceived very marginally, but in the last 10 years, it has changed very positively. The year 2013 was a major milestone, and thanks to it, the authorities also began to look at it differently.

“Fortunately, we no longer have to explain why we need to plan the development of the city through culture and why it is so important.”

However, we are still relatively at the start, and we still have a lot to build. In my opinion, however, people’s thinking and attitudes have changed the most. Cinema Smile and the community around it are growing. There are so many layers of people packed here that you don’t get to know everyone. This natural process has shown that people have found their way to us and that we have the potential to grow further. We develop naturally with our audience.

Culture is an expression of an attitude towards democracy and freedom

Mirka Vargová, Arts & Business Connection, n.o.

For me, creativity means strenuousness and dynamism, not when coming up with ideas but especially when realizing them. Our city should be creative because it chose culture and creativity as its driving force a positive change ten years ago. This reason is a conscious increase in the quality of life of its inhabitants. Today, thanks to this, Košice has a great advantage over other cities. People here understand that culture is not a luna park, a circus, or a public barbeque accompanied by a folklore ensemble performance. They even understand that it is not just a theater, a concert, or an exhibition.

“Košice already understands that culture and creativity represent an attitude towards life. Towards art, education, health, the social sphere, ecology, transport, jobs, infrastructure, investment, cooperation, leisure… It is an expression of an attitude towards democracy and freedom.”

For the sustainable development of the city, for its more dynamic and economic prosperity, and for preventing young talented people from leaving, this attitude must become an integral part of the city management and executive thinking. The potential of culture and creativity must have the opportunity to be implemented in all processes related to the city. I consider Košice to be a city full of talent. However, it must not be forgotten that talent is usually only a small part of success, or rather a prerequisite for it. The rest is continuous work on oneself. Therefore, we believe that Košice will not waste its talent.

Interesting city attracts interesting people

Peter Radkoff, Director of Tabačka Kulturfabrik

I have been involved in culture for more than 20 years, and I want to see its future positively. The authentic bottom-up culture was almost non-existent in Košice. Today, city residents and foreign visitors can experience several independent spaces, galleries, and diverse subcultures. The impact of the European Capital of Culture has been significant for our city. However, ensuring that all proposed system solutions are implemented and subsequently successfully developed requires a fundamental change in the approach of local governments to culture, the joint setting of clear long-term goals for its development, and, last but not least, a motivated group of experts, creatives and innovative potential to implement the selected strategy.

“Creativity is essential for all areas of life. Only a few realize that its greatest importance lies in the value it adds to our lives.”

It is necessary to realize that the more interesting the city is, the more educated and interesting people will want to live in it. Over the years of its existence, Tabačka Kulturfabrik has become a place where differences are blurred. Here you will find an ambassador in a suit sitting next to a student with dreadlocks, or mothers with children, and a manager who came for a quick lunch. No one interferes with anyone. Everyone feels good. They can talk and inspire each other. Tabačka was also the center of Košice’s Pride. I was part of the crowd, and I saw how happy the people were there. During the march in the city, it changed because they were harassed. But when they returned, all their discomfort subsided. Bands played in the yard, discussions took place, and everyone had fun and felt safe. Members of various communities meet here as part of regular programs and normal days, and they always feel good with us. We are glad that we managed to create such a space in Košice. Maybe it won’t take long, and it will be like this all over Slovakia. But we have it in Košice.

Social and friendly environment, and the ability to realize oneself are the motivation to stay in Košice

Marcel Gibóda, Vice Mayor of the City of Košice

Since culture has contributed to many positive things in Košice, the city perceives it as its important component. It is an important area that contributes to the city’s rebirth at the economic level. Improving grant schemes to support the cultural and creative sector is current but complex and still requires a lot of discussions, planning, and cooperation.

“Building communities is important for the city. They are a strong motivation for people to stay here and have a social environment where they feel good, which allows them to live a more fulfilling life. That is why Košice must support the development of creativity in individuals.”

Projects related to the UNESCO title deserve great support from the city, and so far, they may not have been so significant and visible. However, we cannot concentrate just on modern art forms because it is equally important to preserve the traditional ones, and we must find the right balance between supporting them. The title Košice – UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts, can be beneficial for Košice in many ways. However, today it is not yet clear to many of us what it means to us and how significantly it can contribute to building the overall identity of the city. I believe that we will find answers to many questions related to the support and future of culture in Košice when working on a new cultural strategy.

The CCSC project has brought new opportunities for cooperation between cultural and creative industries and the local government in Košice. Read more about it.