Aleksandr Fadeev: "Art serves as a catalyst for overcoming regional challenges "

Interviewed by Karoliina Arus

As a teaser to the festival discussion “Arts as regional survival kit”, our team took a dive into the collaboration of European Capitals of Culture with Aleksandr Fadeev, the moderator of the discussion and the International Relations Coordinator of Tartu 2024. 

What does it mean that art is a ‘regional survival kit’?

When discussing European Capitals of Culture, it’s crucial to acknowledge that it extends beyond cities to encompass entire regions. For instance, Tartu 2024 serves as the capital of culture for both the city and our region in South Estonia, covering twenty municipalities. Each region faces distinct challenges like marginalization, isolation, poverty, and demographic imbalances. These peripheral regions present unique obstacles necessitating innovative solutions.

These challenges are common among our ECoC trio, which includes Bodo, representing the northern region of Norway, and Bad Ischl, situated in upper Austria. In terms of regional development, art emerges as a potent tool, often referred to as a ‘kit.’ Artists wield a unique power to spearhead significant projects and initiatives with lasting positive impacts on regional communities and development at large. By bridging global themes with local and international communities, art focuses attention on the issues and challenges facing regions, allowing artists to address them with a critical lens. This capacity is invaluable as it facilitates the exploration and development of new solutions, a topic we intend to delve into during our session.

Contemporary artistic approaches not only attract enthusiastic young individuals but also serve as a catalyst for overcoming regional problems and challenges, ultimately aiding in the survival of these regions. This concept aligns closely with the artistic vision of Tartu 2024, termed ‘arts of survival,’ which embodies the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for a better future. Art has the potential to impart these elements to regions, equipping them with the tools needed for survival.

What do the cultural capitals of 2024 and their regions have in common? How is this commonality expressed in art?

All three capitals represent very different regions of Europe. Tartu represents the Baltics, Bodo represents the northern arctic Norway, and Bad Ischl represents upper Austria, the region of the Alps. This diversity enriches our programs, each region being unique in its history, culture, and nature. While we may seem different, we share common elements.

We are all regional capitals of culture, meaning we represent culture together with our regions, including rural areas. Additionally, we promote cooperation among our municipalities, with events happening across the entire region. For example, Tartu hosts 1000 events not only within the city but also in southern Estonia.

Furthermore, we all apply unifying artistic concepts to our programs, fostering cohesion amidst our diversity. In our art, we often utilize the regional environment, involve local artists, and celebrate various regional traits and cultural traditions. This shared approach has transformed all three regions into sources of inspiration for artworks and projects, reflecting creative and artistic thinking.

We have a Tartu 2024 Arts of Survival Documentary program, showcasing eight films about southern Estonia. This demonstrates how regions inspire artists to tell stories that immerse viewers in local culture. Similar initiatives are evident in the programs of all three capitals of culture in 2024.


What are some of the distinctive “arts of survival” of the regions around Bodo, Tartu, and Bad Ischl?

Each region boasts distinctive “arts of survival” that reflect our pride in our culture, traditions, and our efforts to highlight our regions on the European map. Welcoming visitors and sharing our stories with them is essential to us.

Another crucial “art of survival” is our sustainable approach, integral to our long-term regional development strategies. Cooperation is also paramount, with projects fostering sustainable collaboration among us. This network supports exchange of experiences, international artist participation, and professional sharing, enhancing our cultural programs and addressing challenges collectively.

This cooperation is invaluable, fostering a better future for our regions through sustainable regional development.”


How can cultural capitals help each other in the development of culture?

Supporting each other is one of the key values within the European Capital of Culture family, which comprises a vast international network, including all past and future capitals. The aim is to share best practices, experiences, and foster more sustainable and impactful cultural initiatives. There are various avenues through which we can assist each other, including organizing events and gatherings to exchange best practices and find innovative solutions to common challenges. Capacity building events are particularly valuable, providing opportunities for members of the ECoC family to share their experiences not only with each other but also with local cultural managers, artists, and organizers. This collaborative effort is instrumental in enhancing the cultural landscape and addressing pertinent issues faced by European capitals of culture.

A notable example of such collaboration is the Kultuurikompass initiative developed by Tartu 2024 over several years. It serves as a vital platform for sharing best practices among ECoC and cultural professionals from across Europe. Additionally, initiatives like the Hybrid European Democracy festival exemplify the innovative endeavors that help address various challenges encountered by European capitals of culture throughout their enriching journeys.”

What is the last art exhibition that left a deep impression on you or that you would recommend seeing?
In the vibrant Tartu 2024 program, I’ve had the privilege to participate in several captivating events and exhibitions. One standout exhibition for me was ‘Surrealism 100,’ which showcased the remarkable works of Estonian surrealists through several expeditions. While not an expert in surrealism, I was pleasantly surprised by the intriguing and expressive nature of the works. Surrealism has a unique ability to immerse one’s imagination, making it a compelling experience for viewers of all backgrounds. I highly recommend visiting this exhibition to anyone interested in exploring the depths of artistic expression.
Additionally, I must highlight a recent project that debuted at Tartu 2024 – the ‘Tartu 2024 Arts of Survival Documentary Program.’ Featuring eight films, each directed in a different location in southern Estonia, this collection offers a diverse array of stories in a concise documentary format. Despite the brief runtime of 15 minutes per story, the directors skillfully convey captivating narratives that transport viewers into the essence of each location, evoking a range of emotions. It’s truly remarkable how these films capture the essence of each place and its inhabitants in such a short span of time. I wholeheartedly recommend experiencing this program; the directors have done an exceptional job in crafting compelling narratives that resonate deeply.

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