İstanbul’s Journey to Becoming the European Capital of Culture: The European Capital of Culture concept was launched for the first time in the 1980’s by Melina Mercouri, the Greek Minister of Culture of the period, and approved by the European Union Council of Ministers.
This title that has been bestowed upon cities that contribute added value to European culture was first conferred to Athens in 1985 and then to one European city per year until 2000.
Starting with the new millennium, more than one city was selected each year as European Capital of Culture, and the program was extended to also include cities from candidate countries.
A First in the History of the European Capital of Culture Project
İstanbul’s journey to being named the European Capital of Culture began with the decision to grant the title of European Capital of Culture also to cities in candidate countries to the EU on the occasion of the new millennium. The decision of the European Union in 1999 to expand the European Capital of Culture project to cover also the countries that were not full members to the EU motivated a group of interested volunteers from non-governmental organisations to meet on 7 July 2000 to establish an Initiative Group in order to get İstanbul nominated for the title.
Until then, there had always been either a local or a national management among the cities taking part in the European Capital of Culture program. This NGO movement, however, helped İstanbul to establish a new and important criterion towards her selection as the European Capital of Culture.
The Initiative Group set up contacts with universities and other non-governmental organisations after the receipt of support from local and central administrations for İstanbul’s assignment to European Capital of Culture. Communication was set up with the European Union and its associated organs, and visits were organised to former European Capitals of Culture.
On 13 November 2006, İstanbul was proclaimed a 2010 European Capital of Culture in accordance with the point of view of the European Parliament and with the approval of the EU’s Council of Culture Ministers.
The Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency
The İstanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency, which was founded with the objective to prepare İstanbul towards this big occasion, to plan and manage the activities to be realised in 2010 and to ensure coordination among state institutes and institutions for organisations, will concentrate on three main areas:
• Art and culture,
• Urban applications and the protection of cultural heritage,
• Tourism and promotion.
Projects of urban applications and the protection of cultural heritage of İstanbul within this framework are being actualised by the Directorate of Urban Implementations, the Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums and the Directorate of Urban Project Coordination. Culture and art projects of İstanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture are prepared, shaped and actualised step by step by the Directorates of Visual Arts, Music and Opera, Urban Culture, Literature, Cinema and Documentary, Stage and Performing Arts and Traditional Arts. The target is to sustain these projects way beyond 2010.
Why was Istanbul Selected the European Capital of Culture?
With her geographical situation and cultural heritage of millenniums, İstanbul occupies a distinguished position among world metropoles. The creative energy generated by her young and active population makes İstanbul, a mirror of Turkey, one of the most dynamic cities of the world.
The cultural awareness improved particularly during the last twenty years is reflected on the cultural life in İstanbul. With each passing day, the city assumes more the role of a centre for arts and culture that attracts not only its residents, but also people from all over the world.
The 21st century will be the century of cities, where they will form a global culture by revitalising their identities, by conveying their cultures to the future and by sharing their potential. Culture sharing helps citizens to understand and to get to know each other better. To spread culture to daily life and to all layers of community becomes increasingly more important. To upgrade citizenship consciousness to the desired level and to establish cultural exchange help achieve urban development. Administrations and non-governmental organisations must take an active part in achieving this end with the benefit of professional sources of information and experience. In this way, world culture will grow richer through the contribution made by each European Capital of Culture in its turn.
İstanbul as the 2010 European Capital of Culture will enable Europeans to discover the roots of their own cultures in this city, constituting another big step towards mutual understanding. The success of İstanbul as the European Capital of Culture will depend on the support and participation of its residents in this project with the largest possible attendance.
What Will the Title of Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture bring?
• As of 2006, İstanbul will take its place at the heart of the world’s art and culture agenda.
• İstanbul, where different cultures have coexisted throughout history, will share its rich cultural world heritage with the world.
• İstanbul will gain new state-of-the-art museums that will help protect our cultural wealth.
• Urban transformation projects, established through a participatory approach, will change the face of the city as they also improve the quality of life.
• İstanbul will acquire new cultural venues, and the cultural infrastructure of the city will be strengthened.
• İstanbulites will be surrounded by a profusion of all art forms , and the youth of İstanbul will get the opportunity to get into closer contact with creativity.
• It will bring new job opportunities in many areas that range from communication to organisation and from design to education. It will also help develop cultural and economic relations with Europe.
• Artists and creators of İstanbul will get the opportunity to go international.
• International projects will introduce Turkish culture to European countries and will help European and Turkish artists to share their aspirations.
• From 2006 on, İstanbul will welcome distinguished media representatives and a great number of culture and art people from all over Europe as well as the world, adding to her reputation as a global cultural centre.
• The most important achievement of İstanbul by being European Capital of Culture will be to bring a new understanding of governance that will establish trust and solidarity among managers and the managed, who will share their knowledge, experience and prospectives for the common good of İstanbul.
• Consciousness of citizenship will be developed, and the residents of İstanbul will be proud of having the chance to live in such a city as they discover her many assets.
ISTANBUL, THE CAPITAL OF MANY CULTURES
Connecting not only Asia to Europe, but also the East to the West, the old to the new, the traditional to the modern, magic to knowledge, magnificence to humility, dogma to pragmatism and local to universal, this legendary city, where contemporary artists from all corners of the world have chosen to live in, will have the honour in 2010 of serving as the European Capital of Culture in 2010.
İstanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture is a great participatory project that will display the city’s full potential in art and culture in all its splendour, watched by İstanbulites from all layers of society.
Enthusiasts of İstanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture , in other words, Individuals from all over İstanbul or members of all sorts of establishments from non-governmental organisations to municipalities and official organisations, present their ideas or projects to the İstanbul 2010 Agency for evaluation and financial support.
The participatory structure of İstanbul 2010, its most important attribute, is not limited to the residents of İstanbul. This city opens her possibilities and her spirit to all the lovers of art and culture from Europe and the rest of the world. Many İstanbul-oriented European and international projects will be put into effect and will take their places in the 2010 agenda.
In order to project the full spirit of the İstanbul 2010 European Capital of Art and Culture through all possible means, new art and culture centres are being constructed, festivities are being organised. Many projects have already been given a start to revitalise the universal cultural heritage and to strengthen the artistic and cultural infrastructure of the city in a way to obtain maximum attendance and to effect a huge urban transformation centred on arts and culture.
The magnificent mobility caused by such joy and creativity will reach its peak in 2010 through universal attendance. The power of culture and art that unite civilisations will be lived to the fullest in İstanbul in 2010 together with Europe and the entire world.
The reflection of İstanbul’s unique cultural heritage and creative cultural capacity onto tourism will strengthen and enrich the existing domestic and international perceptions of İstanbul. The improvement of the urban infrastructure required by tourism and the efforts made to increase the quality of service, will also help establish İstanbul as a major destination for culture tourism.
The effective promotion of İstanbul in international markets through her historical as well as cultural and artistic potentials will help direct culture-oriented visitors to her. The extension of their stay in İstanbul will contribute to the promotion of İstanbul, as well as provide more income through various commercial activities. As a result, increased tourism will also improve this city’s economy.