Rijeka 2020


We have prepared an artistic strategy with seven interdependent Flagships which can grow and adapt. Each Flagship is led by collaboration between two or more cultural institutions or independent arts organisations and is conceived as a driving force for a Fleet of small and medium scale projects.

One River: Learning
27 Neighbourhoods

Capacity building programme
Framing RI:2020
27 + Rijeka = Europe


Brick House
Seasons of Power

A centre for young creativity
Great European art responds to crisis
A wandering museum


Sweet & Salt

Work is Dead, Long Live Work!
A centre for creative migrations
Urban re-invention where the river meets the sea



The clusters: Water – Work – Migrations, together with the term Port, form our City’s narrative and value system. At the same time, they mirror and reinforce the European Union’s foundations of respect for diversity, open dialogue and transparent cooperation. Regardless of political will or democratic tradition, these values should never be taken for granted, but must be revitalised by each generation. It is precisely the true and constant danger of collectively losing sight of these values that makes them so valuable and so fragile. They must be defended seriously, strategically and culturally. Our Cultural Programme provides the conditions for artists and citizens of Rijeka to defend and develop these values. They are challenges on which the future of Rijeka and Europe depends. We are convinced that Rijeka 2020’s concept and implementation can inspire other European cities to face similar developmental problems with an appropriate cultural response.

Rijeka is the largest Croatian port. It was also the largest port in former Yugoslavia and one of the two competitive, main ports of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, alongside Trieste, for nearly 50 years. The city’s ups and downs follow the ups and downs of its port. The port’s fate was the city’s fate. Despite significant economic shifts, the port maintained a strong position in the economy of the city. Much of this is now being opened for a different kind of urban development. The port is a common, magnetic concept with which all citizens of Rijeka still identify, despite the fact that modern ports, including the port of Rijeka, do not wield the same cultural influence that historical port cities displayed, where seamen became emissaries of cultural exchange, bringing global experiences, new vinyl LPs, new fashion and trends. The historical port of Rijeka played a role similar to the Internet, a global information hub which significantly shaped the spirit of the city.

“Put your finger in the sea and you’ll be connected to the entire world.” Together with the port, the history of Rijeka developed in a context made up of shipyards, a refinery, a torpedo factory, shipping and fishing industries, and military and naval academies. Life and labour by the sea and with the sea are a distinctive part of our city’s existence. However, the sea is not the city’s only water. Rijeka is a city that thrived on fresh water; its immediate hinterland has an average annual rainfall of 3,500 mm. Our surroundings include dozens of fresh water springs. The city is named after the Rječina river that once represented the border between two countries, and two distinct parts of the city. Since the 17th century, the city’s coat of arms includes the inscription “Indeficienter” ( inexhaustible ), under the image of a jug from which water flows unfailingly. One of the city’s fresh water sources springs at the very heart of the city, supplying the whole of Rijeka and its region with fresh water. Water is both a strategic resource and a public good that provides, one which provides countless possibilities for sensible and environmentally responsible use. Rijeka is a city marked by water and named by water – a fluid city, both literally and metaphorically.

As an essential human right, work has been completely transformed over the past two decades. In the 1990s, due to the war and a catastrophic privatisation process, Rijeka lost almost 25,000 industrial jobs, as well as the status and identity of an industrial city. In the de-industrialisation processes, which affected many cities, the economic strategy of turning towards the service sector did not bring expected results. Rijeka has yet to discover its full potential in the sphere of intellectual and creative work. In these times of deep economic and social crisis, accompanied by high unemployment, existential issues arise: what is the fate of work and workplaces in the era of new technologies and industries? Will traditional forms of employment, stable workplaces with full hours and rights, survive after 2020? What will the position of employees be in science, healthcare, education and other spheres of public interest? What fate might befall those that must adapt to a life based on occasional and temporary work? What will the position of employees be in cultural institutions? Of independent artists? Can we talk about a connection and interdependence between the “work of art” and the “art of work”?

Rijeka is a city of political discontinuity, marked by numerous migrations both to and from the city. Different cultures have intertwined/ clashed/re-joined. Fortunately, the result is a tradition of tolerance as a fundamental value. During the entire 19th and 20th century, Rijeka as a strong industrial city attracted new residents, so it is no wonder that to be a citizen of Rijeka today means to live in a city with 22 national minorities, where daily papers are published in two languages ( four until recently ), regular radio broadcasting in Italian and a Roma neighbourhood whose inhabitants are integrated into the working and social life of the city. As in the past, Rijeka is recognised today as a liberal and open city which has always opposed discrimination. While forming the final Cultural Programme, the theme of migration imposed itself as important content / the cause of diversity. We understand that Rijeka, Croatia and all of Europe must prepare for future scenarios involving immense changes of population, increased mobility, physical and intellectual nomadism and transnational exchange. Rijeka, however, already knows this story. So many emigrated, through our port and from our countryside, some have returned, some have nurtured their native culture in other countries and on other continents. We want Ri:2020 to provide creative links between the experiences of emigration and immigration. We want to understand the tendency towards cultural nomadism and intercultural lifestyles.