“Timișoara 2021 – European Capital of Culture” is a remarkably ambitious long term project that started as early as 2011. Using the help and the active engagement of the citizens, the initiative imagined a feasible development for the city during the next decade and even further, attracting numerous partners as well as media coverage and international recognition.
These EU awarded titles represent good opportunities for cities to develop according to a more long-term vision, in a close partnership with the citizens, Simona Neumann argues. As a city, Timișoara is close to Hungary and Serbia, hence, there will surely be a local impact of the project, but maybe also a regional impact, stretching over the borders. In this sense, there are already a number of strong collaborations with these countries.
The city represents the historical, economic and cultural center of Romania’s Banat region, sheltering over 300 thousand people and boasting an impressive Austrian-Hungarian heritage. Essentially, Timișoara is a city of innovation, mostly in fields such as IT&C or the automotive industry, but is also a city that is characterized by plenty of initiatives and consistent entrepreneurship, connected to a well-established civil society. Diversity would also describe Timișoara perfectly, as the city is remarkably intercultural and multiconfessional.
Despite all these qualities, Timișoara, just like any other city, is far from being perfect. This project was meant, from its very beginning, to solve issues such as the passivity of citizens, the intolerance directed towards marginalized groups, loss of public spaces and lack of a consensus on urban vision. All these stand on an unjustifiably underdeveloped international profile of the city.
The response to these issues that the project promotes is culture – and more precisely using culture as an engine for long-term positive development. That is why the project attempts a direct appeal to the regular citizen, encouraging him or her to “Shine your light – light up your city!”. This light and the development that implicitly comes with it are to be sparked by some sort of enlightenment linked to civic energy, based on values such as interculturalism, confessional acceptance, entrepreneurship and civic participation.
This cultural program is growing with the help of the people, as there is a clear strategy of engaging the public, inviting them to participate and to connect with artists, cultural organizations and institutions and so on. Therefore, one of the priorities is outreaching to a new audience. Moreover, partners of the project come from all over the continent.
The very fact that the title was awarded to Timisoara already had an important and visible impact on the city and its people. The public was extremely satisfied with the opportunity and was eager to get things underway. More empowered citizens will be “built”, along with a better infrastructure, supported by the municipality, growing and further conserving the sense of community around the city. Making the citizens feel proud of their home is a top priority of the program.
Watch Simona Neumann’s full Urban Talk here:
Simona Neumann has been the CEO/ Executive Director for the Association “Timisoara 2021 – European Capital of Culture” since January 2013. She has successfully led the bidding process representing the city of Timisoara during the multi-year competition among 14 Romanian cities for the contest deciding the European Capital of Culture title in 2021.
She holds a Ph.D. in Public Diplomacy, an MA in European Affairs, and has specialized in strategic management of non-profit organizations at Harvard University and at The Kennedy School of Government. Moreover, since 2016, she is an Aspen Leadership program alumni. She has been managing multi-stakeholder programs professionally both in Romanian and international contexts, in fields ranging from culture, education and public diplomacy to interpersonal contacts and civil society development. working for the European Commission in Brussels or at the United Nations Development Program in Bucharest. Monitoring the implementation phase of the current Timisoara 2021 project is her priority at the moment.
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