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27 January 2015

Mons in the Spotlight 

The cultural life of Mons has long been known for its annual re-enactment of St. George’s slaying of the dragon, but this year the southern Belgian city will be in the spotlight for a different reason: it has been designated as a 2015 European Capital of Culture, along with Plzen – of brewing fame – in the Czech Republic.

More than 300 events scheduled over the coming 12 months will include exhibitions devoted to Vincent Van Gogh, who began his artistic career in the region, and poet Paul Verlaine, who spent two years in Mons prison, along with a show of monumental sculptures by contemporary Chinese artists.

Van Gogh will also be honored with a labyrinth of sunflowers in Mons’ main square during the summer. A centerpiece is the newly completed convention center designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind.

Not everything, though, has gone according to plan. The Passenger, a €400,000, 85-metre-long neon-painted wooden installation created by sculptor Arne Quinze partially collapsed after just five weeks and had to be dismantled before festivities began on January 24th because it was too dangerous to repair. The organizers are now considering asking Quinze to create a new work.

The idea of a European cultural capital originated with former actress Melina Mercouri, who as Greece’s culture minister argued successfully that the European Union should represent more than mere economics and politics.

In 1985 Athens became the first of nearly 50 cities to receive the title (Luxembourg has been honored twice). Mons will receive a permanent boost in funding for new museums and the showcasing of sites such as Neolithic flint mines.