The country that brought their cultural space outdoors

Shakespeare is known for the quote “all the world’s a stage”, and during this time of pandemic, Latvia has taken this quite literally – shifting from indoor purposely-built stages to a variety of outdoor spaces, any locations that can be turned into a cultural event venue.

Play video

While the culture industry was expected to suffer due to social distancing restrictions, Latvians have not let cultural events drop off. Rather, new and innovative approaches have been implemented to meet demand for music, theatre, dance, art, and more, while meeting safety regulations. In tandem with one of Europe’s lowest infection and mortality rates, slowly lifted travel restrictions, and the predefined “Baltic bubble”, which allows for border-free movement among Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Latvia has become a sought-out European cultural destination. 

As there was increasing evidence that the COVID-19 virus transmits through air, and the outdoors provide the best opportunities for reducing the parts per million concentration of the virus droplets, culture events were taken outdoors.

World-renowned Latvian organist Iveta Apkalna took to the beach for a sunrise concert. Acoustic river concerts are held with performers floating along the river on barges. A rooftop concert opened the summer season at the Great-Amber concert-hall. During the sunset, ambient electronic music combined with a detailed light performance filled the landscape of Liepāja city and was delivered to viewers by HQ live-stream.

While the Riga Jurmala Music Festival itself was canceled, a series of open-air broadcasts of recordings was delivered in a creative, safe format to what turned out to be a highly international audience. Listeners were given the impression that the sound is produced by their surroundings –  trees, bushes in the parks – which was accompanied by light installations.

“We wanted to create a way for us to give the Festival audience the chance to hear this year’s planned concert programme and to show that Riga and Jūrmala are continuing to live life even during this unique summer. We are truly happy to see that at least half of the visitors were regular passerbys and international visitors to the city, who as well could enjoy the nearly two magical hours each evening accompanied by classical music.” – Zane Čulkstēna, Executive Director of the Riga Jurmala Music Festival.

For those unable to attend in person, remote culture events are aplenty. Countless live-stream events that connect the audience through screens, digital solutions for local exhibitions, and even virtual choir or dance ensemble rehearsals have kept the vivid life of Latvia’s culture alive. VR company Vividly, in collaboration with the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design Vividly created a local “Museum from home”, digitizing and creating a 3D model of an outstanding piece created by the artist duo Skuja Braden.

All in all, the culture industry in Latvia is alive and well, and welcoming to international participants, who will undoubtedly find cultural events in the least expected locations.