Resilient Fortress of Communities

Reframing military fortress as a community hub

Our work in Kaunas Fort no. 8 has been nominated to the New European Bauhaus Prize in four categories:

  • Regenerated urban and rural spaces
  • Mobilisation of culture, arts and communities
  • Reinvented places to meet and share
  • Preserved and transformed cultural heritage

Project leader: Evelina Šimkutė.

Text by team members Rūta Lukošiūnaitė, Ugnė Balčiūnaitė and Evelina Šimkutė.

Resilient Fortress of Communities

Reframing military fortress as a community hub

DESCRIPTION

Heritage management institution, local arts initiative, urban gardening community and passionate heritage volunteers working together for 5 years to change the abandoned First World War heritage site to a resilient community hub in harmony with nature and history.

Largely based on voluntary effort and with limited funds, this has been a long, open co-creation process which has led to a unique place for arts and culture, biodiversity and community urban gardening with sustainability at heart.

SUMMARY

‘Resilient Fortress of Communities’ is a 5 year reinvention effort within the city of Kaunas to develop Fortress No.8 based on the principles of sustainability seeking synergy among community, nature and history. Fortress No.8 is part of the city wide, circular network of fortifications where artificial reliefs and underground structures are dominant. This reinvention is focused around the Fortress No.8 which was built in 1889-1890. Already during construction this Fortress was an experimental project and now it holds deep historical insights and cultural memory. More than 10 years ago enthusiasts embarked on the journey to preserve historical and cultural heritage that fortresses represent and formed an Association ‘Kaunas Fortress’. Since 2016 these efforts evolved into the pursuit to open Fortress No.8 for co-creation. The collaboration between volunteers, public institution ‘Kaunas Fortress Park’ and the creative platform ‘Šilainiai Project’ gave rise to many experimental events, exhibitions and experiences, in other words, evolving cultural programming. Fortress No.8 acts as a ground for conversation, where diverse input from various actors and social groups are welcome. In order to welcome the diversity of the objectives we focused a lot on security and accessibility of the site, storytelling and historical memory, as well as working with the nature that in a way took over the management of the fort for some time. Throughout the history fort acted as a defence system, home for displaced people, food storage, historical treasure, food provider and now it is slowly becoming a community hub in one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Kaunas, that lacks quality, accessible public spaces and cultural activities. By reframing the fort as a community hub we brought culture and science closer to people, provided time and space for the crossing of diverse cultures, thoughts and experiences contributing to overall sustainability of the city.

KEY OBJECTIVES OF YOUR PROJECT IN TERMS OF SUSTAINABILITY AND HOW THESE HAVE BEEN MET

Sustainability in this community hub permeates all its aspects. Through the focus on a specific place we expanded the functionality of the site contributing to effective land use within the city territory. We provide a space for historic storytelling, exploring and relating to place identity, intergenerational communication, and human-nature connectedness. We contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts by bringing many functions closer to people, developing new life skills, exploring soil remediation methods that help sequester carbon and reduce pollution. Through this work we are setting an example of what sustainability can look like on a neighbourhood level.

In terms of environmental sustainability we worked to ensure a healthy, safe and thriving biosphere in the fort. During the last 5 years, the project site went through a number of pollution reduction activities. These involved managing the invasive and dangerous to humans plant species, collection and proper disposal of accumulated waste, and collaboration with scientists in order to lead informed development of the fort.

In terms of social sustainability we initiated and facilitated transdisciplinary collaborations. Our created space is oriented for maximum inclusivity in terms of age, gender, income, abilities and capabilities. Through continuous presence on site we are fostering feelings of belonging, community and encourage communication. Through diversity of cultural activities we provide space for creators, scientists and society to interact and work together.

In terms of economic sustainability we experimented with circularity and urban gardening to increase resilience beyond economic benefits. We embraced sharing economy principles where our participants through their time and skills contribute to developments on site. All our activities were oriented to maximum economic accessibility, which meant providing most of our activities for free for all, even with limited project funds.

KEY OBJECTIVES OF YOUR PROJECT IN TERMS OF AESTHETICS AND QUALITY OF EXPERIENCE BEYOND FUNCTIONALITY AND HOW THESE HAVE BEEN MET

Here we would like to frame the fundamental objectives of our activities as three values that permeate our work: community, nature and history. Some of the most memorable experiences that we created combined nature and history of the place and provided space and time for experiencing these in a communal way. 

We ensured space for multiple social groups, actors and activities to give rise to the collective aesthetics of the place. We believe this to be an important aspect of collaborative placemaking, where there are no “head architects or designers”. The aesthetics of the Fortress No.8 emerged from the values of sustainability and inclusivity, which meant that through a diverse set of activities and inclusive nature of the project an authentic to community aesthetic is created. It provides new seeds for discussions and raises questions that we actively debate again through our activities. 

One of the main objectives since the beginning of all activities was to overcome historical aesthetics of abandonment and neglect of the fortress. This meant many practical actions mentioned in sustainability and inclusivity questions, as well as, focus on quality of experience in terms of navigating the continuum between clarity, cleanliness, order and creative expression, adaptability and flexibility. All of this contributes to one of the main objectives of our activities – to create conditions for the community and the place itself to dictate and create its aesthetics that fosters empathy, mind-body regeneration and creativity. 

Through cultural programming we created many possibilities for exposure to diverse thoughts and cultures that challenge and broaden the identity and aesthetics of the place. Multiple events, exhibitions and experiences gave rise to the aesthetics we see today and the cultural programming, provided a kaleidoscope, through which everyone participating got the opportunity to see the place in a new light.

Kaunas Fort no. 8, educational area. Learning about Natura 2000 and bats in this fort with ornithologist M. Kirstukas, 2020. Photo by Vytautas Paplauskas.

KEY OBJECTIVES OF THE PROJECT IN TERMS OF INCLUSION AND HOW THESE HAVE BEEN MET

It is important to communicate the preexisting ground for the current development of the Fortress No.8. There were many grassroot initiatives, different social groups and institutions using the fortress separately, that led to emergent need for inclusion and collectivity. ‘Resilient Fortress of Communities’ does not end with the boundaries defined by the heritage location but overflow into the Šilainiai neighbourhood and Kaunas city itself.
 

Through diverse cultural programming we provided a space for a complex net of co-creators to empathise and work together.

We initiated and facilitated transdisciplinary collaborations to bring science and insights that help better understand the fort itself. Together with a community of co-creators we gather data of the location, create information sources that are accessible and understandable for all generations. 

Our created space is oriented for maximum inclusivity in terms of age, gender, income, abilities and capabilities. We are improving the physical access to the location, creating gathering and educational spaces, evaluating soil and water conditions, offering free activities and continuously providing useful information via local communication channels to maintain the direct engagement.

Initiatives are shaped to nourish the ownership of creative process and encourage contributions. Through continuous presence on site we are fostering feelings of belonging, community and encourage communication. This process is changing citizens’ relation to the location and supports the habit of caretaking and accountability. 

Through a cultural change the microdistrict inhabitants are invited to use the location as a recreational site, continue using it as a food source, and recognise and celebrate the authenticity of the neighbourhood. Activation of the community through arts and collective caretaking creates bridges between individuals, generations and various organisations involved.

RESULTS/IMPACTS ACHIEVED BY THE PROJECT

  • Reinvented places to meet and share

There are four main initiatives that are a part of placemaking that leads to reshaping the place to meet and share. ‘Šilainiai Project’ initiates art and cultural events. ‘Šilainiai Gardens’ is mainly focusing on community gardening experience while ‘Kaunas Fortress Park’ takes care of physical location and its overall development and is an institution directly reporting to the municipality. Association ‘Kaunas Fortress’ volunteers ensure historical education and heritage protection. Due to the variety of co-creators this becomes a complex , multilayered place for strengthening the community and its resilience.

The positive exchange is happening through reimagining the identity of the military heritage while it is becoming not only a ghost of the past but an open, creative social platform for various generations to gather. To the people living around or close to the fortress, this place has become a refuge from the densely populated neighbourhood, as well as a place to recover their own sense of identity and connection to nature.

Kaunas Fortress No. 8 is a large green area with fortified landscape and unique underground structures. Despite a close-to-none project budget this is now a unique place for various events, educational programmes, community initiatives, free time activities, workspace for artists and community co-creation workshops hosted by activists, scientists, artists and locals themselves. Art residencies, cultural events are free of charge and accessible to everyone promoting inclusivity, sustainability and  resilience.

Due to the ongoing engagement with citizens the location has been changing rapidly with a constant involvement of the community. Waste reduction, collective clean up work, co-creation of the place, increased accountability of the place, a changed attitude to waste management, reuse of material for art installations, rain water collectors – are some of the activities that contribute to the transition to a circular economy.

  • Preserved and transformed cultural heritage

For a long time Fortress No.8 was considered an abandoned military heritage site that was neglected and was increasingly becoming more dangerous and problematic to the community. Since it seemed to be ‘no one’s land’ anarchy, pollution and even crime took over the identity of the place in the minds of neighbourhood inhabitants. When it comes to reconversion of heritage infrastructure it is very common for the process to get stuck in the planning stage as the debates related to what extent the heritage has to be restored to its original state seems to never find a universally acceptable answer. While specialists and professionals keep debating the topic and look for large amounts of funding with the common goal of establishing museums that bring a certain type of aesthetics, communities are often excluded from the process. Fortress No. 8 was not an exception and the worsening condition of its abandoned state has immensely affected the local community. To highlight the importance of co-creation with the community we created multiple social benefits and values through unique yearly cultural programming and annually recurring cyclic experiences that inherently were adaptable and flexible. We ensured the shortest distance between vision and action through continuous engagement in co-creation instead of waiting or developing a detailed master plan that could take years or decades. With such a cyclic model we also are able to reevaluate our environmental impact on a regular basis and this approach also reduces our carbon footprint in comparison to other heritage preservation and transformation examples in Lithuania. We also ensure many other environmental benefits beyond low carbon footprint such as:

  • preserving and enhancing vegetation to reduce heat island effect, capture carbon, and increase biodiversity.
  • soil and water quality assurance through waste clean up and pollution prevention. 
  • local plant based food production that reduces various greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Regenerated urban and rural spaces 

For a long time Fortress No.8 was an abandoned military heritage site that was neglected and was increasingly becoming more dangerous and problematic to the community. Since it seemed to be ‘no one’s land’ anarchy, pollution and even crime took over the identity of the place in the minds of neighbourhood inhabitants. The paradoxical identity of the place being associated with pain, trauma and war, since the late 80’s started to provide a space for the inhabitants of newly built Šilainiai district to grow their food and stay connected to the soil. People who ‘do not fit in’ with their activities in other public spaces found refuge in Fortress No.8. These examples can be seen as emblematic of the many challenges that territorial regeneration faces within large cities. Working within such a complex setting requires increased attention to the process of collaboration. The success of the project ‘Resilient Fortress of Communities’ rested on the mediation of the diverse objectives of communities, heritage professionals, local authorities, artists and scientists. At the moment we can claim that communal ownership of the fortress has been established and we overcame the identity and aesthetics of abandonment. Ensuring various levels of collaborative participation that spanned from visiting to working on site shaped a new well functioning public space open for everyone. Through the diversity of activities, events and ways of experiencing the place we have reduced all forms of segregation in terms of age, gender, income, abilities and capabilities. We provided a unique place and experiential opportunities in a densely populated soviet built neighbourhood that were not found anywhere else within it. Transdisciplinary or cross-sectorial collaboration has been established as an integral part of the project.

  • Mobilisation of culture, arts and communities

Microdistricts are facing a gentrification problem that is apparent in many cities in Europe. Cultural activities mostly concentrate in downtowns, old towns and city centers while Šilainiai can be described as a “sleeping” neighbourhood. Ever since Šilainiai district was built no cultural infrastructure was implemented for the community, an intergenerational gap was growing and the area lacked leisure activities. “Resilient Fortress of Community” created inclusive cultural spaces in Fortress No. 8 and around for the inhabitants that have been slowly separated by socio-economical reasons from the city’s cultural life. 

Artists’ residencies that invited international artists to reside with families from the community in the same apartment buildings were a bridge for crossing cultural boundaries, and creating exposure to diverse thoughts and cultures. Moreover, cultural performances and gatherings not only strengthened already existing culture such as community celebrations but also introduced inhabitants to less familiar contemporary art and culture.

The project encouraged residing artists to exit the individual creation process and host co-creation workshops, where waste materials have been turned into art and objects that benefit the community and the recreational areas. During these workshops participants learned new creative techniques of art and design. 

Fortress No. 8 became a site for both climate and cultural activism. The collectivity of the neighbourhood was expressed through collaboration with artists, conversations, and the growing ownership of the space. Neighbours were involved, engaged and became the artists themselves. The identity of Šilainiai was expressed through local storytellers, artists, and community poets. The co-creators of the community hub continue to provide activities that educate, while weaving a historical relation to the place. Excursions and heritage caretaking builds a strong connection to the location as well as the nation’s history. 

THE WAY CITIZENS BENEFITING FROM OR AFFECTED BY THE PROJECT AND CIVIL SOCIETY HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN THE PROJECT AND WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT OF THIS INVOLVEMENT ON THE PROJECT

The co-creation plays a key role in the evolution of the community hub. The initial activation of the fortress started by the citizen grassroots initiatives and is run and supported by various social groups co-creating the collective futures of the place. This process is happening on various levels through mediation and facilitation of conversations with citizens and institutions involved in the stewardship of the location. There are no superior designers or planners of the place thus it secures an authentic development process that is considerate to issues such as affordability, generation gap and inclusivity.

Through the inclusion and co-creation with citizens the remarkable location with a recreational potential was reinterpreted. This gave an opportunity for communities to view Fortress No.8 identity beyond its military heritage.

The project created opportunities for scientific research and activism. This way scientists and experts were able to share their findings about the location and how these results affect neighbours directly. The topics of biodiversity, soil and water quality became more apparent and the citizens started taking initiative to be considerate to the nature that hosts them. Cultural programming opened a discussion on cultural impact on microdistrict, contributing to healing of the historical trauma, socio-economic inequality and other pressing issues.

Through the continuous presence on site such as communal gardening and cyclic cultural programming, citizens gained access to culture, new knowledge and skills. Benefits for citizens include wider knowledge about food, plants, nature, human footprint, planning and problem solving skills, increased awareness and creativity. Presence of scientists and creators on site sparked citizen curiosity and wish to learn about their living environment that led to environmental awareness. Furthermore, Communal gardens continue to provide citizens with economical, environmental, social and health benefits

INNOVATIVE CHARACTER OF THE PROJECT

Using the WW1 heritage as a community place is not a common practice in Lithuania. This area is also environmentally sensitive and protected by Natura 2000 for maintaining biodiversity. Besides that it also requires a lot of intersectoral and cross-disciplinary work that we have engaged in.

Many heritage areas become highly focused on the aesthetic aspect and the inclusion becomes secondary. The conversation usually ends by authorities or higher in a hierarchy institution deciding the destiny of the place. Sometimes external experts are hired to do the analysis and renovate the locations rarely involving the citizens in the creation process.

Here we see a different approach brings the best long lasting results. In contrast to urbanization practices that apply certain models of aesthetics, here the community becomes the main data gatherer for the solutions to be made. This way gentrification of places when they are being made homogenous and adapted to a certain type of user is irrelevant and the already existing diversity in the area is being protected rather than later to be introduced from a new. 

Bottom-up driven process might not be the quickest solution, however it builds different habits of the community and encourages a strong sense of ownership and accountability. This project is particularly innovative in its approach that does not suggest one vision for the place but rather creates a platform of co-creators to continuously share the conversation without a superior agenda, thus maintaining the context sensitivity. 

An approach that is aiming to focus on the authenticity of already existing communities, their practices, interests and ways of communicating is building communities’ resilience and encouraging the ability to see the importance of collective decision making in the city planning. This approach also has a potential to grow the connection with city governance and re-build the trust between the government and communities.

HOW THE PROJECT LED TO RESULTS OR LEARNINGS WHICH COULD BE TRANSFERRED TO OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES

Learning 1: With continuous mediation and facilitation, heritage and nature protection areas can become community hubs and contribute to overcoming the mental nature-society divide that is deemed necessary to pursue sustainability. Our project challenged and transformed the view of how heritage and nature protection areas should be managed. The most important part enabling this transformation was mediation and facilitation. Before we established the conversation, the fort was a sort of ‘battle’ field of different interests trying to monopolise the territory. Long, careful, adaptive and continuous mediation and facilitation is key to delivering inclusive projects.

Learning 2: Flexible participatory co-creation establishes ownership and responsibility for the place. Co-creation has been a cornerstone element in this project. This requires active seeking for collaborators and ‘mixing’ them in various combinations to test what works and what the place needs. We had many specialists, artists, scientists, public servants and locals co-creating and interacting as equals where we created an environment where everyone’s contributions are welcome. This intentional welcoming disperses the ownership of the project to all participating.


Learning 3: Decentralisation of decision making power, culture, arts, science, knowledge and social benefits in cities has to be a long and persistent pursuit that requires contextual sensitivity on a neighbourhood and even site level rather than the whole city as a uniform unit. The more we delved into the context of our site and got to know active people practicing their interests the more we noticed the unique potential this specific place holds. The existing situation itself informed all our activities and collaborations as it continuously provides us with a to do list. Once we have the new item on the list we embark on the journey to find who could work with it on site in this way bringing everything that the place needs straight to it.

Social Media accounts

https://www.facebook.com/silainiaiproject

https://www.facebook.com/silainiusodai

https://www.facebook.com/kaunotvirtovesparkas

https://www.facebook.com/KaunoTvirtoves8Fortas

Šilainiai Project is 5

Šilainiai Project is 5 this year.

Exactly five years ago today I started the active preparation for project launch in the autumn 2015.

It has been an incredible, life changing journey and even though it was tough at times I am very happy that I started it. I cannot express in words the gratitude and humility that I feel to so many people that took this journey with me – either one moment in time or continuously. It’s 2020 and the journey continues… #silainiaiproject2020

 

Here are some things that I feel like sharing with those who might be at the very beginning of their journey / letter to myself five years ago

 

  • There will be people that will think you are crazy and will tell you not to even bother, that you can’t start something alone. Listen and try to understand their reasons for saying this, but always make up your own mind. Innovation and groundbreaking projects are never born by playing it safe. If something has never happened before, it is not the reason not to do it.
  • Share. Don’t keep your dreams and ideas to yourself. Talk to people, write about it, present it, shout it out… There might be somebody out there who wants to join you and help to make it a reality or might have some invaluable advice. Take precautions, but fear of being copied and not starting is the worst possible outcome. Later on – share knowledge and resources with others.
  • Don’t expect it all to work out the first time. Try, fail, try again. Ask for feedback. Constructive feedback is worth gold. This is how we improve. Sometimes we learn much more from failures than successes. Embrace these learning outcomes.
  • Integrity. There will be times when you will have to make difficult decisions, it will be hard and you will have to make sacrifices. However, be brave not to compromise on your values – it makes you who you are. Know yourself.
  • Be flexible and sensitive to new information and changing situations. Having a plan is good, however be ready for change and for the unknown. This is where the magic happens.
  • Ask for help. Build a team. You can’t know everything and do everything – it’s a recipe for overburn. Find people who share your passion and values and divide tasks by competences. It will take time to find team members and, so you know, two people are a team too.
  • Don’t assume things. You might think that some things are self-explanatory. Think again. People speaking the same language might understand the same word differently. Use simple words, explain what you mean, use examples, visual material. Try to look from another person’s perspective – it is not easy and sometimes impossible, but still – try.
  • Realize that this is your job. Understand the value you are bringing and monetize it. It will be hard, but you do need to eat and pay rent. Otherwise you will end up broke and overburnt. “Day job” is good, but it will leave you with less time and energy to do your work. Find the balance that is right for you.
  • Do your best to build teams, projects and situations that are resilient and sustainable.
  • Never stop learning.
  • Join local and international peer networks for professional and emotional support and feedback. Support others.
  • Have holidays from work. Even if you do love what you do, it is healthy sometimes not to do it. You will be back refreshed and with new energy, which will improve your work.
  • Value your supporters and keep them updated on your progress. It can seem an impossible task sometimes when there is so much happening, but do the best that you can.
  • Enjoy it. There will be ups and there will be downs and sometimes it will feel like a roller-coaster. Celebrate milestones, however small they might be – you and your team did it! Eat cake!

Institute for Public Art-Research Network meeting

I am currently attending Institute for Public Art-Research Network meeting in China, where I’ve been invited to talk about my work in Kaunas. I am very grateful to College of Fine Arts, Shanghai University for the opportunity to share my work and meet colleagues who share the passion for public art. You may read an abstract from my speech below.

 

‘Šilainiai Project’: Connecting people and places through art

 

The microdistrict of Šilainiai is the largest residential complex in the city of Kaunas, Lithuania. Built in 1980s, the area and its residents make up more than 50,000 people, however there are currently no space or centre for cultural events or activities. The local library is the only non-commercial space for residents to come together or to have any sense of a community gathering. They usually have to travel to the town centre or the countryside in order to spend any leisurely time.

 

During my research into the history of Šilainiai, I had discovered a large number of creative people living and producing work within this area, but later found out that none of them had any recognition whatsoever. I found that young people of whom desire to follow a creative path were unable to pursue their ambitions, due to the lack of support and space for them to practice and share ideas. Even a larger number of residents who simply want to engage in activities closer to home or after work, there is no place for. Having lived in Šilainiai myself, I have noticed that the people within this district have become disconnected and the communities fragmented.

 

In 2015, I started the ‘Šilainiai Project’ in order to address some of these issues. The project has 5 branches of activity:

 

• Šilainiai Archive

• Walks and Talks

• Events in Unconventional Spaces

• Workshops

• Artist Residences

 

The project is ongoing, but already some positive changes have came as a result, e.g. A growing number of people actively participating in local events, new creative support networks being formed, abandoned and unused spaces are being utilised for creative activities and new artworks inspired by Šilainiai are being created. What is also important is that the volunteers and team members from this project are all developing the talents within their field as well as learning new skill sets via practice and social interaction. But what I found most interesting and rewarding at the same time, is that the residents of Šilainiai are starting to reconnect and are finding new connections with the place they live in. Through creative activities, they have the opportunity to re-examine their personal histories and the relationships they have with this place.

This process can affect each and every person in a different way. It can evoke such feelings of nostalgia, curiosity or even be part of the healing process from past trauma. This is invaluable for each participant as they in return will be a lot more connected, encouraged, inspired, and ultimately content living in Šilainiai, and that is a lot.

 

Since the start of this project, culture de-centralisation and better access to cultural activities has become an important part of the official strategy within the culture sector for the city of Kaunas.

Become an art patron

I invite you to become my art patron by supporting my crowd-funding campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/silainiai

And by donating 2% of your income tax (Lithuanian taxpayers only):

Sveiki,

Šiemet LR Kultūros ministrė suteikė man, kaip meno kūrėjai, paramos gavėjo statusą ir paramos gavėjo identifikacinį kodą – 72000461.

Turite galimybę tapti mano kūrybos mecenatais pervesdami iki 2 % pajamų mokesčio sumos.

Tai galima padaryti atsispausdinus paramos formą FR0512 ir ją pateikus Valstybinei mokesčių inspekcijai.
Arba per savo elektroninę bankininkystę prisijungus prie deklaravimo sistemos.
https://deklaravimas.vmi.lt/lt/Pradinis_Prisijungimo_puslapis/Prisijungimasperisorinessistemas.aspx 

Instrukcija pildant internetu:

Paramos gavėjo identifikacijos nr. (kodas) rašomas 1 eilutėje E2 stulpelyje: 72000461.
2% paramą galite skirti užpildę deklaraciją Valstybinės mokesčių inspekcijos interneto svetainėje:

1. Prisijunkite prie Elektroninės deklaravimo sistemos (EDS) VMI svetainėje arba per Jūsų elektroninės bankininkystės sistemą;
2. Pasirinkite “Pildyti portale”, FR0512 formos 02 versiją;
3. Užpildykite aktyvius laukelius:
5 Mokestinis laikotarpis 2016;
6S Mokesčio dalį skiriu paramos gavėjams – uždėti varnelę;
E1 Gavėjo tipas – įrašyti 2;
E2 Gavėjo identifikacinis numeris (kodas) – 72000461;
E4 Mokesčio dalies dydis (procentais) – kaip nuspręsite skirti 2 ar 1 procentą (kitą procentą galite skirti kažkam kitam);
E5 Mokesčio dalį skiriu iki mokestinio laikotarpio – galite įrašyti iki 2020 arba nerašyti nieko, tada bus skiriama tik tiems metams.
4. Spauskite “Pateikti”.

Gautos lėšos bus skiriamos kūrybinėms veikloms Šilainiuose tęsti.

Mano kūrybos portfolio galite pamatyti www.evelinasimkute.com

Ačiū Jums!

Evelina Šimkutė

Fundraising for 2017

evelina-simkute-2016-silainiai-project

Photograph by Artūras Bulota

I invite you all to support the continuation of an amazing, community based art project in Šilainiai post-war housing estate in Kaunas (LT). In 2016, with minimal resources I was able to organise a global artist residence in the neighbourhood, several exhibitions, public walks introducing residents to their seemingly generic but actually extremely diverse community, poetry readings and photography workshops. I would like to continue doing amazing things for the community in 2017 too! Please support and/or share. Thank you very much.

https://www.gofundme.com/silainiai

Kind regards, Evelina

ŠILAINIAI PROJECT FUNDRAISER

Šilainiai Project GoFundMe campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/silainiai
Hi,
My name is Evelina. I have been living in London for over 10 years and during this time, I have graduated with an honours degree in Fine Art and have also worked in Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

Despite considering myself as a Londoner, my inspiration for my current work comes from the Šilainiai estate in the city of Kaunas, Lithuania, the place where I grew up.

I have recently started two projects – ‘Šilainiai Photo’ and ‘Šilainiai Project’ in which I have decided to take the next four months to work on them full-time. This is a major step for me as I am funding my time in Lithuania by myself, however as I do not have any other source of funds, I am in much need your help. Please take the time to read the project descriptions below and I hope you will find them as special as I do.

Image: Photography workshop at Grusas Art Gymnasium in Šilainiai.

‘Šilainiai Photo’ is a community photography project. 

–       Šilainiai Visual Archive: a collection of old and new Šilainiai photographs from local residents, accessible online: www.silainiaiphoto.com;

–       Photo-walks in Šilainiai (free and open to everyone);

–       Photography workshops for 13-18 year olds in local schools;

–       Photography exhibitions in Šilainiai, displaying photographs contributed by Šilainiai residents and those created during the photo-walks and photography workshops;

–       Šilainiai Photo publication.

The project aims to raise questions and start conversations about Šilainiai through the medium and process of photography as well as discovering and encouraging creativity in Šilainiai community.

Image: Photography workshop in Šilainiai.

Image: Photo-walk in Šilainiai,  photo by Vita Ku.

Image: Photo-walk in Šilainiai.

‘Šilainiai Project’ is an artist mini-residency program in Šilainiai microdistrict in Kaunas, Lithuania. It invites international artists to stay with a host family in Šilainiai for one to two weeks and make temporary works in public spaces. The residency functions as a managed ‘couch surfing’ but for artists and therefore no money change hands.

In addition to using public spaces for making work, each artist does a presentation/ Artist talk/ Q&A with local community. Extracts from artists’ daily work will be presented online on the project website: www.silainiaiproject.com.

Image: Artist working on location in Šilainiai.

Towards the end of the year, all artists will partake in a group exhibition and it will take place at ‘Kabinetas’ project space Mapu St. 20 Kaunas, 31 October – 14 November 2016.

At the moment the residency is by invitation only.

The artists who will be resident in Šilainiai: June – August 2016, Brooke Carlson (Australia), Francis Olvez-Wilshaw (UK), The Lake Twins (UK).

What are the funds going to be used for?

Šilainiai Photo:

–       Printing photographs

–       Mounting work for exhibition

–       Exhibiting fixtures

–       Small printed publication

Šilaniai Project:

–       Basic drawing materials (paper, pencils, etc)

–       Sculpture materials (wood, steel)

–       Exhibition venue costs

Both myself and participating artists are funding their own travel expenses.

Image: Photography workshop in Šilainiai.

All patrons will be noted on the project’s websites, exhibition and printed material and will receive regular updates of the work in progress.

I feel so strongly about these projects as if they were like a void in my life that I just needed to fill. I know that statement may sound a bit far fetched but but it has been on my mind for many years. Now that I have taken a leap of faith and finally putting it into practice, I couldn’t be more happier and excited of the things to come.

I feel both privileged and thankful to be able to return to Lithuania and create work that I truly love and hopefully that will inspire others to do so as well.

I very much appreciate any of your help and support for me and my projects.  You will be helping me to elevate my projects and my career as an artist to the next level. Thank you all!

Evelina

Šilainiai Project GoFundMe campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/silainiai

Solo Show – Save the Date

Please save the date for the Evelina Simkute solo show

at ‘Kabinetas’ project space, Mapu g. 20 Kaunas, Lithuania

22 – 31 August 2016.

This exhibition will present Evelinas’ sculptural work to Lithuanian audience for the first time.

Invitation to follow.

Šilainiai Photo

 

In autumn 2015 I have launched a project called ‘Šilainiai Photo’. It is based in Šilainiai microdistrict in Kaunas, Lithuania. The project involves collecting both archival and new photographs of the area produced by the local community as well as photo-walks and photography workshops in local schools.

Silainiai_Photo_Workshop_2015

Silainiai_Photo_Workshop_2015
Silainiai Photo workshop in Grusas Art Gymnasium, Kaunas 2015.

Silainiai_Photo_Walk_2016_Vita_Ku9
Photo-walk in Šilainiai, January 2016. Photography: Vita Ku

I am pleased to say that the project has been very well received by the local community. Spring 2016 photo-walk was lead by a local community Association “Šilainių baltai“.

Associacija Silainiu Baltai foto pasivaiksciojimas 2016
Association “Šilainių baltai“ leading the spring photo-walk in Šilainiai, 2016.

I was invited to curate an exhibition in honour of Šilainiai 30th birthday. The exhibition took place in Šilainiai library and featured photographic documents from Lithuanian National Archive, photographs made by Grusas Art Gymnasium students and Romas Simkus and my own works.

Silainiam 30 leaflet
Silainiai Photo launching exhibition, 2015.

You may follow the progress of the project on its website www.silainiaiphoto.com.

More images from the photo-walks are in the Worksop section.

Photographs contributed by the local residents can be found in the Foto section.