The path to European Capital of Culture
The city’s Kulturdirektion first evinced interest in Linz being nominated European Capital of Culture in the early 1990s, at a time when the concept of culture was already strongly in evidence in the city’s orientation and envisaged profile.
To give itself the benefit of a dry run and to create new international contacts and intensify existing ones Linz first applied for the title of a host city for the “European Cultural Month”. The title was created in 1992 and awarded from then onward by the Council of Ministers of the EU. This format made it possible at that time also for cities outside the EU to present themselves in a European context. The five weeks of “European Cultural Month” starting in September 1998 provided Linz with an opportunity to present a decidedly contemporary programme with significant contributions from the city’s independent scene. More than 30 projects, conceived and realised by more than 2,000 artists, drew 400,000 or so visitors to unusual venues in Linz.
European Cultural Month provided also the backdrop for Linz’s decision to apply for the title European Capital of Culture. Two years earlier, in September 1996, a discussion had been initiated about the direction in which the city’s cultural policies were supposed to be heading in the medium and long term. It involved the cooperation of Linz’s entire cultural scene and culminated in 2000 in the draft of the Kulturentwicklungsplan (KEP), a proposed blueprint for the city’s cultural development, which contained a number of guidelines relevant to that process. KEP was presented and passed in the same year. Among the goals it explicitly formulated was Linz’s nomination as European Capital of Culture.
In 2001 a group of experts settled down under the auspices of Linz Kultur to preparing Linz’s application. (Linz Kultur is the agency of the City Council in charge of matters related to culture) This process involved office holders in the relevant institutions both of the Province of Upper Austria and the City of Linz on the one hand and the so-called independent scene and other actors in the field of culture on the other.
Acting on a resolution passed by the City Council in July 2004 and supported by the Province of Upper Austria, the City of Linz applied to Austria’s Federal Government for recognition as candidate for the title European Capital of Culture. In December 2004 Austria’s Council of Ministers passed a resolution which proposed the City of Linz as a candidate for the project “European Capital of Culture 2009” to the EU. In September 2005 the title was officially awarded to Linz by the European Union. In the end Linz turned out to be the only Austrian city to have applied – St. Pölten/Krems, Salzburg and Innsbruck, which had initially declared themselves interested, withdrew in the end.