Matera 2019, culture is social energy

Matera 2019, culture is social energy

A year that never ends. Matera European Capital of Culture is not stopping at 2019: the journey instead marks the start of a renewal for the “City of the Sassi” that aims at building an open, inclusive future all together.

The Matera model has already demonstrated how culture, traditions and the involvement of local communities can kickstart innovation and value creation. This aspect was highlighted by the partners and institutions involved in the initiative, which was also supported by the Enel Group, as one of the most significant results of an extraordinary year at the final press conference on 20 December and at “Open Future, Together!”, the official closing ceremony, which featured a concert at the Cava del Sole coordinated by Manuel Agnelli, to mark the handover to the 2020 European Capitals of Culture: Galway (Ireland) and Rijeka (Croatia).

The stunning results of a unified approach

The success of Matera 2019 is the result of a unified approach that began during its candidacy. With a strategy that has become a benchmark for the European capitals of culture, the city tackled the challenge with widespread participation from its inhabitants, the involvement of Italian and international artists, the promotion of multidisciplinary activities and a cultural calendar composed predominantly (85%) of original projects.

The numbers from 2019 show how the model generated value: 17,000 students, 1,500 volunteers, 18,000 residents contributed to cultural events in 37 community projects. The Fondazione Matera Basilicata 2019 organised 1,228 events in total, including 410 across the region, and involving 482 artists.

Overall the initiative has provided a significant boost to the local economy:  Matera has registered the highest growth in tourism as a European Capital of Culture in the history of the initiative. The year saw a 30% increase in foreign tourists to the “City of the Sassi” and a 34% rise to the region of Basilicata.

These values of community involvement, culture and responsibility inspired us to become Silver Partners and as Carlo Cascella, Head of Institutional Affairs Southern Italy Area at Enel Italia, pointed out during the press conference these are initiatives that provide us with the opportunity to offer a vision of energy for the future.

The Lumen Social Light project demonstrated this energy, with the creation of workshops from the Open Design School in Matera which reinstated the old tradition of luminarie (festive city lighting) and provided map pointers to enhance strategic points in the city. As did the Open Dome installation in Piazza San Francesco, part of the Open Culture Festival, which offered visitors a virtual journey to the European Capitals of Culture with virtual reality technology in “ECOC Digital Visions”. 

To celebrate the conclusion of Matera 2019, we brought classical music by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven to the Teatro Guerrieri on 19 December with performances by the String Quartet of the Soloists from the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.

“Capital forever”

The year as European Capital of Culture has brought a new awareness to the “City of Sassi” which has transformed the opportunity into a new beginning.  Salvatore Adduce, President of Fondazione Matera Basilicata 2019, emphasised this aspect, describing the experience as “a tool kit that can be freely used by every resident who can take what they need to create a new approach to tackle the challenges they face.” “These tools”, he added, “don’t make bricks but bolster skills.”

This year has laid the foundations for a process of growth based on people and the values of culture and innovation. This concept was reiterated by David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, who citing film director and poet Pier Paolo Pasolini, urged the community of Matera to treasure the gains achieved this year: “Pasolini said he found the sun here, today he would find not only the sun but also a city that is known around the world and one that has represented Italy and the most authentic of European values in such an extraordinary way.” 

The Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Dario Franceschini, also stressed the importance of Matera’s achievements in making the most of its heritage and demonstrating its credentials to be considered “Capital forever”.

“The need to create new history continually,” explained Raffaello Ruggeri, Mayor of Matera, “is an essential part of creating identity.” Thanks to this awareness, the city approached the year “as a forerunner of the future and, in a year which could have been spent simply in celebration, has set up its future by working on the creation of places for cultural production, because this is the characteristic that distinguishes cities that live on culture from those that merely consume it without creating it:  culture is social energy."

Energy that generates value from its ties to local communities in order to build a more sustainable future together.