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Tartu, Estonia, Reveals European Capital of Culture Programme for 2024

Tartu, Estonia, Reveals European Capital of Culture Programme for 2024

Tartu 2024 will be the main event in Estonia next year, as a quarter of the country participates in the European Capital of Culture initiative, hosting a wide array of exhibitions, installations, festivals, musical, dance and theatrical performances, community events and much more.

Providing new reasons for visitors to explore Tartu and the southern Estonian region, immerse in local and international cultural experiences and connect with the welcoming Estonian people.

Tartu is the second largest city in the Baltic state of Estonia and the regional capital with a population of just under 100,000 first documented in the year 1030, it is known as the country’s centre of learning, thanks to its globally respected university and scientific community, as well as being a hive for innovative start-up businesses and the IT-sector. Whilst the wider southern region, with its beautiful, expansive countryside, forests, and wetlands, is home to the indigenous Seto and Võro people and the Old Believers community. Combining long standing traditions with a contemporary and progressive approach to living.

The European Capital of Culture programme in Tartu and Southern Estonia, inspired by the artistic concept ‘Arts of Survival’, will focus on the knowledge, skills, and values that will help humankind lead a good life in the future, shining a spotlight on innovative approaches to sustainability, co-creation, local uniqueness, science, and technology.

The programme boasts a full calendar of over 1,000 events across 350 projects happening throughout 2024, with activities for all ages and tastes and including architecture tours, street and contemporary art exhibitions, light installations, music, film and culinary festivals, and LGBTQ+ events in the city of Tartu and surrounding parishes, most of which are within a hours’ journey from the city. It will be the second time an Estonian city holds the European Capital of Culture title, following the success of capital city Tallinn in 2011.

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“The Arts of Survival are interpreted by fields of culture, from folk and food culture to music, film, and visual art,” stated Kati Torp, Tartu 2024 Artistic Director.

“The role and meaning of the theme Arts of Survival has changed over time, the last few years in particular have taught us a great deal about the importance for the need to adapt to survive. We live at a time when European cooperation, solidarity, and democracy are critical to the survival of culture,” said Torp.

The grand opening of the European Capital of Culture 2024 in Estonia will take place in Tartu on 26 January 2024 with the spectacle “All Becomes One” on the banks of river Emajõgi, showcasing the interconnectedness of people, regions and eras through images, movement, and music.

Programme highlights include:

ArCo3, 1 March – 30 November: Cutting-edge contemporary artworks in unexpected settings across four Southern-Estonian locations known for their natural, cultural, scientific, or industrial heritage. (Tartu; Nõo Parish, Räpina Parish, Kastre Parish ja Põlva Parish)

Surrealism 100, 15 March – 8 September: An international exhibition at the Estonian National Museum, in collaboration with the National Gallery of Prague and Tartu Art Museum, works on display include Estonian alternative surrealism by Kris Lemsalu and a survey of Ilmar Malin’s work. (Tartu City) 

Architour, 1 April – 31 October: The “Architour” is an excursion comprising of four architectural and historical guided tours by local historians. Visitors can learn about the collective farm architecture of the twentieth century, the hidden monumental art of Tartu, the school buildings of the twentieth century in Southern Estonia, and the Arhitekti street area of Tartu. (Tartu City - Põlva Parish, Antsla Parish, Otepää Parish, Elva Parish)

Open House Tartu 2024, 20 - 21 April: A diverse collection of buildings in Tartu’s urban space allows access to the public over one weekend. Architecture and culture enthusiasts can discover structures and spaces that they would not typically be able to enter. The goal of the Open House event is to promote people’s knowledge of design, architecture, and urban space, as well as their participation to their development. (Tartu City)

Washing Machine Made of Beetroot, 24 April – 29 December: Experience the invention and ingenuity of the garage culture of repairing and home-building vehicles, recycling and DIY mentality, which was sparked during a time of deprivation in the Soviet era still has a strong presence and relevance in Estonia today, This is a joint exhibition project with exhibits at the Tartu City Museum, Estonian Road Museum, Estonian Agricultural Museum and Kaunas City Museum. (Kambja Parish, Kanepi Parish, Tartu City)

Naked Truth, 10 – 11 May: Sauna is a fundamental part of Estonian life, where secrets are shared, business matters resolved, and the world set to rights. At this opinion festival the sauna becomes a conversation stage, with hosted discussions in pop-up saunas, celebrating discourse in the guise of a sauna culture. Saunaing together also brings individuals closer and fosters emotions of unity towards others. (Tartu City)

Kissing Tartu, 18 May: A major concert performance with an unprecedented simultaneous kissing event in the town hall square, beneath the city’s famous Kissing Students statue. This electrifying concert will feature some of the best-known tunes from the Eurovision Song Contest and a mass kissing event which is expected to draw over 10,000 visitors and will be broadcasted on TV, reaching people all over Europe. (Tartu City)

Wild Bits, 25 June – 15 September: The open-air exhibition at Maajaam, the South-Estonian technology and art farm, will feature works of art from Estonian and international artists, blending into the surroundings of countryside, woodland, and meadow settings. (Otepää Parish)

Stencibilty Goes Europe, 7 June – 01 August: One of the oldest street art festivals in Europe, which has become an important meeting point for street artists from Estonia and the rest of Europe for the past 12 years. The festival features drawings on city streets, abandoned houses and several exhibitions. In addition, Europe’s largest sticker exhibition, will see 100,000 stickers by artists from around the world displayed on a bus driving around Tartu. (Tartu City)

Out of Town Art Festival, 06 July 24 - 31 January 25: The Art Route will wind out of Tartu throughout the summer, where landscapes of the municipality will be decorated with murals, eco-friendly sculptures and installations. Care for nature is an important part of the creative process: the works are designed to age with the environment, and green culture will be discussed in workshops during the festival. (Tartu Parish)

Aigu Om! 2024, 15 – 21 July: Concerts celebrating the harmony of music and nature, with forest bathing and cultural walks guided by Estonian thinkers and artists, archaic dragnet fishing, outdoor cinema and workshops on folk medicine and food culture, all of which have the forest as a common denominator. (Rõuge Parish)

Kanepi Hemp Festival, 19 – 20 July: Cultivation and valorisation of industrial hemp is a growing trend in the world and now in Southern Estonia. This two-day hemp festival looks at the role of hemp in agriculture and heritage culture, as well as the environmental sustainability and constraints of hemp cultivation. (Kanepi Parish)

Pagan Folklore Night, 24 August: Taking place at Kubija Song Festival Grounds as part of the celebrations for the 240th anniversary of the town of Võru. The event, which combines folklore, theatre, lightshow, and nature, will feature actors and dancers from Saare, Viru, Harju, Võru and Seto counties. There will also be five simultaneous parties with performances in different locations based on Juhan Jaik’s fantastical tales, where ancestral beliefs and pagan traditions from different regions of Estonia will be brought to life. Culminating in fiery and musical celebrations at midnight. (Võru City)

Pühajärve Beach Gourmet 2024, 13- 14 September: Enjoy a culinary and cultural experience at this inaugural international food festival, bringing together top local chefs, food producers, and entertainment artists in Otepää‘s major square. (Otepää Parish)

The full programme of events and access to tickets, where applicable, is available here: tartu2024.ee