All the Town’s a Stage | A €6.3 Million Project is Putting Vienna’s Artists Back to Work

Stadt Wien’s “Kultursommer 2020” is a full-throated anthem of commitment to the arts, and the city’s willingness to put its money where its mouth is.

Despite Corona restrictions, the City of Vienna has taken extraordinary measures to fill its concert halls and streets with music once again. Musicians, actors and performers will return to the stage, sponsored by the city, as part of Kultursommer 2020, featuring over 800 acts and 2,000 artists throughout the months of July and August.

The city-sponsored effort announced June 5 by Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig, is designed to give artists the opportunity to perform. Responsibly. Twenty-five open air venues, with two main stages at the Laaer Berg and the Donauinsel, the city will set the stage for music, theatre, stand up comedy, dance and other cultural festivities to bring Vienna back to life. “We are purposefully setting an example. An example of optimism,” Mayor Ludwig told the press.

Stadt Wien to the Rescue

Vienna’s venues have been empty since mid-March and filling them, while restrictions are still in place, is no easy task, said Greens speaker for culture Martin Margulies. “A vibrant cultural scene this summer” would not be possible without municipal cooperation, he said.

All events will take place outdoors, audience size restricted and tickets free of charge. Reservations are only required for large events in the week of the showing. The schedule is subject to change weekly.

The Wiener Symponiker will open the Kultursommer, with a performance at the Arkadenhof on July 9.

Kultursommer 2020 is a reminder that a commitment to the arts is real in Vienna, even in times of economic hardship. The original allocation of €4 million has now been raised to €6.3 million, Ludwig said.

Currently the federal government subsidizes arts and culture to the tune of 0.6% of Austria’s GDP, according to city councillor for culture Veronica Kaup-Hasler (SPÖ). In an upcoming session on June 24, the city of Vienna will seek to increase annual subsidies for its landmark institutions with federal help: for the Theater in der Josefstadt, they will ask for an increase of €1.7 million and an additional €2 million for the Volkstheater, just to name a few, she said.

88 Days of Silence

Austria’s road to cultural normality has not been without hick-ups. On May 15 State Secretary for Cultural Affairs Ulrike Lunacek (Greens) resigned under mounting criticism for her failure to secure sufficient funds to support the arts through the lockdown. She was swiftly replaced four days later by Andrea Mayer, a choice that was lauded by the political and cultural establishments alike.

That same day, the government began laying the groundwork for Austria’s cultural reopening, announcing that events with up to 100 people would be allowed starting May 29, up to 250 starting July 1 and up to 500 starting August 1.

Despite the change in leadership, museums reopened as planned in the last week of May and cinemas are set to fill their seats again mid-June.  Just three weeks after the government announced its timeline, Vienna’s world renowned concert halls, the Konzerthaus and Musikverein, held their first orchestral concerts after 88 days of silence.

Of the People, by the People, for the People

For Kultursommer 2020, “the artists were part of the discussion from the very beginning,” said Greens spokesperson Margulies. The project will be “participatory and fairly compensated,” he emphasized.

Mayor Ludwig’s (SPÖ) term is up this October. Running on the slogan “Vienna, with all my heart,” the SPÖ plans to show that it is “the party of Vienna,” said Ludwig as he unveiled the campaign on June 8. So is Kultursommer 2020 a political move? “Nothing to do with the election,“ insisted City Councillor Veronica Kaup-Hasler. 

Either way, it was the right thing to do.

(Foto: C.Jobst/PID)

Sophie Spiegelberger
Born in New York, raised in Moscow, Sophie now lives in Vienna where she is a freelance graphic designer, contributing writer at Forbes and director of communications for Democrats Abroad Austria.

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