Timișoara. You can always compare it with cities that have a well-established cultural system, with a cultural agenda, with operators that produce recurring events, with a history, that grow, that respond to the needs of the community, that adapt, that produce change in society. You find them here and you see them attentive, relevant, anchored to European themes and producing quality artistic content.

When we, the members of the Curatorial Team, started working on the Timisoara 2023 project (n.n.: November 2021), our first task was to inventory what was left of Timisoara's application file for the title of European Capital of Culture, written between 2012-2016.

Since winning the title in 2016, some good (or not so good) years had passed, a pandemic had passed over us and we didn't know how much of that ecosystem still exists and wants to deliver in the Cultural Capital programme. To a large extent, the core on which the Cultural Capital was built was still there, with the know-how to deliver a valuable cultural programme. And new cultural operators and artists had emerged and joined the core programme through open calls.

There was also the issue of insufficient cultural infrastructure at the start. Among the biggest challenges cultural operators had to deal with was finding suitable spaces for their projects.

It's a systemic problem at national level, we have a bad cultural infrastructure in Sibiu, Bucharest and everywhere. New cultural spaces have been created along the way: MX - the Corneliu Miklosi Public Transport Museum, the Victoria and Timis cinemas, attractive spaces in the Maria Theresia Bastion, in Traian Square or in the city centre, or even the Uszoda area, which the community has demanded, through culture and sport, for Timisoara 2023. City Celebration (6-8 October).

For my part, I have had the chance to work for two Cultural Capitals: Sibiu and Timișoara. I enjoyed my experience in Sibiu, where I was the technical inspector of the Cultural Capital in 2007, so I was interested in the prospect of seeing what we could do from that point of view in Timisoara.

The approach to the programme in Timisoara was, however, very different from Sibiu. In Sibiu we received some equipment from the Ministry of Culture, we hired another service company and we bought some equipment to service all the projects. In Timișoara, the strategy was totally different, decentralised: we finance cultural operators and support them to implement their projects according to their vision, including the technical production.

We provided operators with working tools and access to information, a lot of supporting documentation: technical drawings, equipment, facilities, contacts, so that cultural operators do not waste 2-3 months to document a space. We have thus created a platform where we have inventoried all the cultural spaces we have found in Timisoara, a list of over 270 spaces that can also be used for cultural events.

If you look objectively at the cultural scene in Timișoara today, you see growth and you see a healthy level of confidence that comes from experience: confidence both in the cultural operators' own capacities and confidence in the local public, now much more used to cultural consumption, much more engaged. Timișoara is coming out of 2023 and going forward with a very valuable cultural ecosystem.