Creating a viable cultural strategy for sustainable development of any city is a process requiring first and foremost a holistic vision. The conference will be focused around the following thematic blocks discussing various approaches and strategies for sustaining SMCs through culture, heritage and tourism which should be thought and considered in their interrelation:
Good city life is impossible without vibrant public spaces considered today a public good, an opportunity for socializing, public encounters and exchanges. Public space is a window into the city’s soul, as poetically noted by the urban sociologist Sharon Zukin, and a key element to make city “human”, “inclusive” and “friendly”. The transformation of streets, squares or urban parks into nodes of public life can increase the ambiance of a place, but can also create new rules of its use and restricted access. How to achieve then really lively and open cities by animation of their public spaces with the means of arts, sculpture, design and architecture?
Co-creating, Co-operative and Networking Cities
In times of economic austerity, collaboration platforms and participatory spirit, fuelled by social media, cultural co-operation and co-creation seem both, a necessity and opportunity, especially for smaller cities that suffer from depopulation and material and financial deficiencies.
The possibilities of joining resources by connecting different groups of people in creative projects and of linking and collaborating with other cities in the “we-economy” (Hesseldahl 2017) means that cities, according to Greg Richards (2018) should increasingly think about their role as platforms for a wide range of economic, social, and cultural processes that can combine to develop new business models, new ways of doing things. For small cities it is not just about falling behind in a competitive race, but also about seizing the new opportunities offered by a rapidly changing world.
Authentic cities with protected cultural heritages
In their striving for new image and upgraded identities, SMCs are endangered to lose their authenticity and become ‘more of the same’. The problem, according to Evans and Foord (2006), is “reliance on flagship cultural buildings, iconic cultural institutions, cultural and heritage quarters alongside cultural events, festivals and markets […] to kickstart both physical regeneration and visitor economics” (p. 152) – a reliance which is pushing cities towards a consumption-based economy and ignoring social goals. The good cultural projects are therefore those that respect the genius loci, that have grown out of the place, and that reflect the traditions of local communities.
SMCs can be regarded also as knowledge hubs and research laboratories stimulating the elaboration and application of new research methodologies of “human scale”: participatory methods of research and collection of empirical data; action research; participatory mapping of cultural resources, just to list few of them. How to harvest this knowledge and to apply it in practice to assist smaller cities in their struggle for a better and more sustainable future?