Productivity of Culture

Spyros Mercouris

Honorary President of the ECCM Network


presentation: Introduction to the Symposium
categories: Opening + Capitals of Culture +Presentations + Kids' Guernica Exhibition at the Zappeion Megaron Athens

Introduction to the Symposium

Arts, science, communication, exchange of ideas, trade, economy, tradition, memories, habits, customs, knowledge, culture all shape and define civilization.

People in their everyday lives, especially now in our times, are dominated by the pursue of gain. Some due to the necessity for survival. These conditions minimize the consciousness of the force of culture, its creativity and productivity.
A recent study commissioned by the European Commission has confirmed a point that those of us who have been involved in cultural matters have been making for a long time. This is that culture is of central and growing importance to the European economy. The study has confirmed that no fewer than 5.8 million people are employed in the cultural sector. Whilst the number of jobs in the European Union declined overall in 2004 – 5, the number of those employed in the cultural sector in that year actually increased.
This study is remarkable for two reasons: first, it proves the contribution of culture to the economy, and second, it draws the attention of people to the importance of culture.
Culture is a fundamental part of the European economy. It attracts some of the best talents and knowledgeable people, who can give to society a substantial significance and articulate societys’ aims and ways of survival.

The European Commission is interested in verifying its study on the relationship between the economy and that of culture through the Network of European Capitals of Culture; and expects the newly designated Capitals of Culture, nominated until 2011, to bear proof of this recognition and of the importance of culture to the economy.
The city of Essen in the Ruhr valley, nominated for 2010, has as framework for its program the transformation of industrial cities in the entire region into cities of services and culture.
There is a serious danger. The danger is that many technocrats and bureaucrats may transform cultural activities into just another type of economic activity which leads to the commercialization of culture.
We must never forget that culture is much wider and deeper. It creates quality of life. Culture is present in whatever we do, in all our actions. Culture is horizontal and at the centre of our social, economic and political life.
Culture distinguishes itself through the ability of people to think, to create, to communicate, to innovate, to develop, to understand, to exchange ideas, to give shape to a constructive dialogue between cultures and to respect the opinion of others and to respect the diversity of cultures.
The Capitals of Culture began as an idea. An idea of Melina Mercouri. A vision. It has become an active, and vibrant cultural event.
Today, the European Capital of Culture is an institution.
Most cities of Europe wish to become Capitals of Culture.
The institution of the Cultural Capitals has been copied and adapted by continents and large regions such as the Region of Volga in Russia, the region of Catalonia, the Centre and South America, Canada, and recently the United States. And Arab countries in Africa and Asia.
Despite the turmoil and wars in the Arabic world, Algiers is this year their capital of culture. Japan, India and China are interested in creating Capitals of Culture.
The institution of Capitals of Culture exists now world wide.
The Network of European Capitals of Culture, which is a link between the Capitals of Culture; the Mayor of Athens, the Cultural Centre of the Municipality of Athens, which shapes the cultural policy of the Municipality of Athens; the European Union Club of Athens, which has been created with the aim to bridge a gap between culture and the world of business; the Melina Mercouri Foundation, which continues the visions and activities of Melina; the non profit organisation Horizons – Actions, which has as its aim the development and promotion of culture; and Poiein Kai Prattein which represents the international movement of Kids’ Guernica in Greece, have all joined forces to organize the Symposium “Productivity of Culture”.
At this symposium renowned foreign and Greek personalities will talk about the role of culture, including urban cultural planning, the relationship between culture and the economy, cultural policy, the contribution of the arts of museums, foundations and the receptivity of culture in the Information Age, Cultural Heritage and environment and the necessity of a constructive dialog between cultures world wide.
The various regions and continents that have adopted the institution of Capitals of Culture have created their own networks. They are participating in our symposium with the aim of expressing their opinions and to collaborate together, in order to start the functioning of the Network of Networks.
Within the Symposium we shall present the exhibition “Kids’ Guernica”. It is a movement of peace that started in Japan 1995, fifty years after the end of Second World War. Children from all over the world, including Japan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Martinique, Palestine, India, Australia, Georgia, USA, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece have taken part. The children express through paintings, their rejection of war and their desire for peace. These paintings are done in the same dimensions 7,8 x 3,5 m., as the original painting ‘Guernica’, by Picasso.
Picasso is a giant. Giant of the arts, of painting, of sculpture, but also a giant of thought. He could with his brush put on canvas all his artistic and political sentiments. Love, life, fear, death, and barbarism. Guernica has become a symbol of the horror of war.
Children and young people are also small giants of art. They paint spontaneously what they feel without being intimidated by various outside influences.
The imagination of children and of young people is fresh. They dream. They have visions. They feel and live intensely pain and joy. Their hand runs freely to paint their truth. The result is fantastic. Full of color and of expression.
Children from Izmir and Chios painted together. They don’t want war, they want peace.
The dialog between cultures starts with children.


Born in Athens (1926). Studied Law at the University of Athens. Active in the Resistance during the German/Italian occupation. Member of the resistance organisation “Democratic Defence” during the colonels’ junta (1967-74) in Greece. Organised the tour of Melina Mercouri against the dictatorship in 14 countries of Europe. Took part in activities against the junta throughout Europe and United States with speeches, interviews and by organising political and cultural events. Co-founder of the political party PASOK.

Owner and Director of the property development company in London “Dimmerk Property Developments LTD” (1969-81).

Special advisor and co-ordinator of cultural events at the Ministry of Culture in Greece and abroad (1981-89).
Organiser and general co-ordinator of the first Cultural Capital of Europe “Athens 1985”.

Contributed towards the construction of the exact replicas of the ancient trade ship “Kyrenia II” 300 BC and of the ancient war ship Trireme 500 BC Organiser of the events for the launching of the ships “Kyrenia II” and “Trireme Olympias”.

Organiser of the kindling of the Flame for the Olympic Games and its celebration in Athens for the International Olympics in Seoul (1988). Presentation of the exhibition “Mind and Body” in Athens and in

Greek Organiser and co-ordinator for a year of cultural events by the city of Dallas “Dallas World Salute to Greece” (1990).

Organiser and curator of 70 exhibitions in Greece and abroad among which the most important are: “Greece and the Sea”, “Democracy and Classical Education”, “From Byzantium to El Greco”, “Prehistory and Antiquity”, “The Mycenean World”, “The Human Figure in Early Greek Art”, “Mind and Body”, “A Stage for Dionysos - Theatrical Space and Ancient Drama” “Greek Myths & Ancient Drama at La Scala”. These exhibitions have been presented at prestigious venues such as the National Archaeological Museum of Greece, the National Gallery of Greece, the National Gallery in Washington D.C., the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, the Royal Academy of London the Theatre Museum of London, the Antiken Museum in Berlin, La Scala di Milano.

Co-ordinator of event on island of Lemnos “Aegean Archipelago” for the preservation of Culture and Environment (Melina Mercouris’ last vision).

General co-ordinator of the Cultural Capital’s Seminar: “New Cultural Roads in Europe”, during the event, “Waves of the Black Sea” and “Aegean Archipelago”.

Organiser of numerous symposia, such as “Man at the age of technology” “Experiences and Visions” “Thucydides” etc. and TV programs on culture also lectures and personal appearances on television in Greece and abroad.

Producer and director of the following documentaries: “Poets sing to Greece”, “A voyage through Myth and Time”, “Onassis’ Cultural Heritage”. Co-founder of the film distribution company “Lambiris - Mercouris”.

Co-ordinator of the European Cultural Event, 5th of May 2000 - Day of Culture, with the theme “Freedom of Expression and Dialogue” and 5th of May 2002 - Day of Culture, with the theme “Cultural Diversity Versus Uniformity” organised by the Network of Cultural Capitals and Cultural Months of Europe.

Honorary President of the Network of Cultural Capitals and Cultural Months of Europe. President of the non profit organization Horizons – Actions. Member of the Board of Directors of the Melina Mercouri Foundation. Special Advisor to the movement “Kids’ of Guernica. Member of the Board of the Cultural Centre of the Municipality of Athens for eight (8) years until 1996.

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