ATHENS – There are many ways to invest in a country and different ways of attracting commercial investment. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, the magnificent complex on Attiki’s southern coast, is celebrating its fifth anniversary. It is already a people magnet, converting Greece’s ‘brain drain’ into ‘brain gain’ – one of the elements of life in the Greek capital that sings ‘you must come to Athens’ to the world’s best and brightest, Greek and non-Greek.
It takes a great architect to create an iconic cultural complex – but to make the SNFCC not only the cultural heart of the capital of Greece but also part of the soul of one of the world’s great cities required vision and passion – and a profound love and appreciation of one’s country.
“The most important achievement of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) is the way it has been embraced by all people, creating – as we had envisioned along with its architect, Renzo Piano – an open and accessible public space,” said SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos.
It also took having a man like Dracopoulos at the helm, with all his life and world experiences and qualities – modesty and appreciation for the contributions of others not least among them. He noted that, “it took a lot of effort, a lot of energy, and a lot of work by many people, as well as close cooperation between the public and private sectors. The SNFCC is an international landmark, which is home to the Greek National Opera (GNO) and the National Library of Greece (NLG), along with Stavros Niarchos Park. It is a place thousands of people embrace and visit daily to be entertained and express themselves, to join conversations, to meet up and enjoy quality time together.”
It is remarkable how quickly the residents of Attiki along with people from all over the world have made the SNFCC a ‘must see’ and a ‘must be there’ place.
But that was not accidental or merely function of the beautiful natural setting and architectural excellence of the place. The SNF grasped that to introduce the Center to the people, carefully thought out and well-presented initial programs – concerts, lectures, fairs, etc. for people of all ages – were as important as the architectural design.
The commitment to excellence also guaranteed the SNFCC’s immediate impact on the nation’s cultural life as the world’s greatest musicians are invited and delighted to perform and tickets often sell out quickly.
And judging from the delight displayed by children all year long, Athens’ love affair with the SFNCC will continue for decades.
A PIONEER OF PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS
The SNFCC is also a model in Greece for great endeavors – in the public and private sectors – but most importantly for the public-private partnerships analysts say will be vital to Greece’s economic development and the creation of an environment that attracts investments.
According to the statement issued to mark the anniversary, “it took resolve, transparency, respect, and the dedication, vision, and hard work of a great many people to create the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Athens and deliver it to the public.” During the first five years there were more than 16,000 open events.
SNF has allocated a total of $739 million to the project through several grants which paid for the construction of the SNFCC and included operational and programming costs for its first five years. “In addition, SNF’s support has gone to additional programs for the development of the SNFCC and to infrastructure projects beyond the original design. Now that one cycle of support has been successfully completed, we are renewing our support for the SNFCC with a new $11.2 million grant to cover operating and programming costs for another year,” according to the website.
DEVELOPING GREECE’S HUMAN CAPITAL
SNF is also committed to developing Greece’s human infrastructure. In addition to showcasing the best and brightest artists and musicians among Greece’s talented youth, it has also supported 11 cycles of paid internship programs that has given more than 900 young people the opportunity to enrich their skills and enhance their job prospects, to help address the high rate of youth unemployment in Greece as part of the SNF Recharging the Youth initiative.
Once a year the SNFCC presents SNF Nostos, “a free and open event for all that celebrates art, culture, learning, and the joy of being together… The eagerly awaited SNF Nostos Conference will return in person again this year on June 23 and 24, 2022, and will focus on the most fundamental element of our lives, as it has been redefined by the pandemic: health, with the SNF Health Initiative as a starting point.”
Perhaps the most impressive SNFCC number is the more than 340,000 student visits, just one dimension of the work that “has allowed the SNFCC to fulfil its purpose every single day: offering a one-of-a-kind public space that welcomes, serves, and celebrates human beings and their potential.”