The ICC celebrates 30th anniversary

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Three decades of dialogue with our neighbours. Several hundred research, educational, exhibition and publishing projects. The most prominent artists of Central Europe and its most important intellectuals. A true meeting place. 

The ICC is a window to Central Europe, and at the same time it is an institution which tells the world about it and about Poland. The ICC represents our country in international organisations such as UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the Visegrad Group. Thanks to the institution's thirty years of work, Poland has become an important partner for cultural and intellectual cooperation, especially in our part of the continent, and an active participant in the international debate on culture and heritage.

The Centre has been dedicated to its mission of reading the past without stereotypes, which is particularly vital in Central Europe, with its multidimensional culture and complex history. Two aspects are crucial for the ICC – Central Europe as a community and the heritage of Poland's closer and more distant neighbours, because understanding the complicated relations arising from the past is a condition for good neighbourliness. Thirty years ago, Poland had three reluctant neighbours, and none of them survived. Today, the ICC maintains extensive international cultural and intellectual contacts, fulfilling its mission of public diplomacy which is capable of creating bonds resistant to transitory fluctuations and works as our soft power.

The Centre was launched on May 29, 1991, during the memorable CSCE conference on cultural heritage – the first such meeting of the East and the West after the fall of the Iron Curtain – as a result of unprecedented cooperation between the central and local government. It was Poland’s first national cultural institution of a new kind, an experiment in opening the country to the world through culture. Combining a comprehensive approach to the issue of heritage with the need for dialogue across borders, the ICC continues to be an innovative and unique undertaking on such a scale, not only in Poland.

The Centre’s official venue – the historic tenement called “The Ravens House” at Rynek Główny 25, meticulously restored and modernised – has been an important element of the institution's mission and identity, a space for meeting and dialogue. Art lovers associate its address with exhibitions presenting the most interesting phenomena of art and architecture in Central Europe and its outstanding creators. Readers – with the "Herito" quarterly, as well as with book series such as the Central European Library and Heritology. Researchers – with the Thesaurus Poloniae scholarship programme and a research library. Students – with the Heritage Academy. Seniors, young adults and children – with a rich educational programme at the ICC headquarters and online.

Krakow’s citizens remember particularly well several of the ICC’s many exhibitions: A World Before a Catastrophe. Krakow’s Jews Between the Wars (2007), Igor Mitoraj. Sculptures and Drawings (2003–2004) or The Myth of Galicia (2014–2015, also shown in Vienna). The ICC was the first institution whose exhibition went outside the gallery into the space of the Market Square, where monumental statues of Igor Mitoraj were presented. A permanent trace of such an unusual arrangement is the sculpture Eros bendato, which still remains in the Market Square in front of the ICC headquarters. It has become one of the favourite works of art appreciated by citizens and tourists in the public space of Krakow.

Born after the annus mirabilis, the wonderful year 1989, the Centre celebrates its thirtieth anniversary right after the annus horribilis, the horrific year 2020. I have no doubt that the last year was one of the most unpredictable periods in our history, a difficult time for the institution, its staff and its audiences – says Agata Wąsowska-Pawlik, director of the ICC. – The pandemic, a real "game-changer" for the cultural sector and the society at large, forced us to change our plans and projects, as well as to face a lot of challenges, thanks to which we try to turn our present experiences into positive actions. What will definitely remain with us is an awareness of the importance of building relationships with an online audience, permanently installing online activities as a way to reach new audiences; equally important for us will be to address climate change and the challenges it poses for cultural institutions. 

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