Žilina Beskids 2026 bid is a manifestation of our ambition to further professionalise the management and administration of culture. This is also an opportunity for deepening strategic partnerships with the European partners, cross-border cities, regional government, University of Žilina, industries and the civic sector. We see the candidacy as a unique opportunity to work on major transformative processes to improve the cultural and creative ecosystems in the city. ECoC is a tool that can be used to accelerate many strategic processes and regardless of whether Žilina will eventually win the title of European Capital of Culture or not it is an opportunity to make Žilina an attractive creative city.

Along with the preparatory process of the ECoC candidacy, the city of Žilina started in 2020 to work on its new cultural strategy: Creative Žilina 2035.

We started the process by framing the future strategy and by carrying out first analyses. We collected available data, organised thematic focus groups to conduct SWOT analysis, and published an online survey.

Before finalising strategic documents, this analytical phase will be followed by further research in 2021, including in-depth interviews with cultural operators, opinion polls concerning cultural needs and values of citizens and focus groups with regular public discussions and a final participative exhibition of the outcomes in spring.

Based on the outcome of the preliminary research we identified a set of core strategic areas:

Audience development, improvement of visitor services and experience

The cultural operators feel that there is enough expertise and a rich cultural offer in the city, cultural participation is however rather low. A complex audience development strategy is urgently needed. Furthermore, many of the traditional public cultural institutions have a low quality of infrastructure, limited usage of ICT and low number of additional services for visitors.

Urban development and art in public space

An inquiry into citizens’ opinions showed that most of the inhabitants perceive the low quality of public space to be the biggest problem of Žilina. Part of the new strategy will address this issue as well as reflect the place of greenery and climate change in the city’s overall development strategy.

Creative education

The city of Žilina tends to see itself as a city strictly focused on engineering and industry. Strategically, one of the most important things to address is the creative brain drain partially caused by the absence of university-level arts and creative education in the region, while the city has a well-recognised high school focused on art and design.

Sustainable working conditions for creative workers

The future of culture in post-COVID 19 society and the creative brain drain from the region needs to be reflected in our action plan. We aim to nurture a sustainable working environment, with fair working conditions and health and safety considerations for creative workers and their audiences. Current situation exposed the vulnerability of the cultural and creative sectors and made us realise the lack of a solid support system and sustainable environment for cultural and creative workers.

Open and collaborative culture

We identified a need to improve information and expertise sharing and collaboration between the city, regional and government-run cultural institutions, but also between private and civic organisations. There is a need for open data collection and representation of the cultural sector in debate with the city.

European profile of the city

The city of Žilina aspires to become a modern European city, which includes participation in more European projects and networks. A part of the strategy is to make more use of the city’s geographic position close to the Czech and Polish borders, as well as to reinforce and build the capacity of the cultural sector for improved international cooperation.