Rui Moreira participates in the first EU University and Culture summit and affirms the key role of culture in the city

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Miguel Nogueira

Mayor Rui Moreira participated in the EU University and Culture summit, themed “Fostering the Union through Culture and the Arts”. The Mayor highlighted the key role of culture in the development of the city and advanced that “this is the best investment we can make”. The two-day online event kicked off on 29th March and concludes today, 30th March. Follow this link or view it on YouTube. No registration is required.

The University of Porto, in partnership with Porto City Hall and other institutions of the city, will launch, starting this next academic year, an innovative project to transform the university in a true place of culture: the Cultural Corridor of Porto (Corredor Cultural do Porto). This strategy was presented at the first University & Culture Summit, organised by the University of Porto and the National Arts Plan.

Mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira participated in the summit, this morning, in the “A Conversation with…” segment, conducted by Miguel Sousa Tavares, and explained his vison for the city: “The story of Porto is linked to the bourgeoisie”, however, “the new bourgeoisie did not inherit a cultural background and what they tried was to illuminate their children. That was the tradition of the city of Porto. Eight years ago, when I ran for Mayor, we decided that it was not enough. Basically what we were trying to do was to attract young people and people who had no access to culture to our temples of culture. (…) When you look at the city, you have a sort of a triangle – economy, culture (very important) and social cohesion - this is sort of the virtuoso triangle we wanted to build, and it was necessary that culture was accessible to everyone”.

The Mayor furthered this idea by explaining the meaning of “Culture in Expansion” (Cultura em Expansão). “That means we have to look at the people who surround us not as mere spectators but to involve them in the creativity of the city; to turn them into actors of culture. Of course this is a long process, it is not something you can do overnight. And it must be a continuous process. It is a step by step development – what we did was to bring music into neighbourhoods and invite the kids to participate. (…) For every age group we tried to come up with suitable programmes, and we have brought people together”.

Describing how a city must envisage culture, Rui Moreira stated that “a city must be comfortable and interesting, as well, and this happens through culture and the University of Porto has been able to comply with this plan. Years ago, when I was a student, the University was closed (…). These days, it is open and this has to do with innovation and sustainability”.

When talking about the post-pandemic era, and as regards the involvement of foreign students, Mayor Rui Moreira affirmed that “the association of students – FAP- has been doing a great job and we articulate with them. The student’s Union articulates with the City Hall and provides every student with adequate information. (…) Very much like in Britain. I studied there and the minute I arrived, they were giving me information on everything, not only the bus schedule, but what was happening in the city”.

“Culture can be a part of the economy of the city and (…) the fastest way to recover from the pandemic”, Miguel Sousa Tavares asked the Mayor. Rui Moreira said that “when we talk about culture we do not say it is a subsidy - 7% of our budget is invested in Culture – this investment created jobs, innovation and fostered creativity and attraction because when foreign people invest in a city, they do not want to invest in a boring city. IT investors, for example, they want their families to know they are safe, we have a great health system and great schools, and culture is a powerful tool. And they say “this is the perfect place to live and to work”.

Cultural Corridor of Porto

The University of Porto and the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU organise the EU University and Culture summit and debate the creation of Porto Cultural Corridor; this is step one of the achievement of a European Cultural Corridor that goes beyond national borders, and each university marking the member organisations. In the future, the goal is to allow all university students to access a European Cultural Corridor that includes museums and concert halls.

The idea of such a pioneering initiative is to grant national and foreign university students free access to the museums in the UP, in the Municipality and also of the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis. Students will benefit from a 50% discount in the ticket price for shows at the Teatro Nacional São João, Teatro Campo Alegre, Rivoli and Coliseu Porto, as well as the Museu de Serralves. This free access and discount policies will encompass higher education students, both from public and private institutions, of all countries, under the ERASMUS + agreement.

The University of Porto will also introduce new course units of cross cutting cultural and artistic baseline, for the academic year 2021/2022, available to students of all training fields. This is the result of partnerships established with cultural institutions such as Teatro Nacional de São João, Casa da Música, and Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis.

While the pandemic is still very much in the world’s agenda, the post-COVID-19 era calls for reforms at various levels, and higher education institutions play a vital role in this process, as citizens will be required to rethink the way people interact with each other and how they deal with the Other.

“This Summit stems from the idea that providing higher education ecosystems — students, researchers, teaching and non-teaching staff, as well as communities outside the campi — free access to cultural heritage, exposure to contemporary artistic discourses, and opportunities for expression through artistic experiences will contribute to the construction of a university culture at once scientific and artistic, guided by the principles of constant innovation, attention to the Other and ecological responsibility.”, as stated by the organisation.