Rethinking a neglected sleeping district
with Evelina Šimkutė

Playground by Evelina Simkute, 2012

Playground by Evelina Simkute, 2012

Much like all other large cities in the Baltics, Kaunas was very different at the start of the Soviet occupation from at the end. Soviet planning moulded, reshaped and greatly expanded the city, and their parting legacy to the city was the sprawling residential district of Šilainiai. Constructed in the ‘80s on a hill remote from the city centre overlooking the River Neris, its towers provide a home for over 70,000 people. The district, like many Soviet-era projects elsewhere, is often dismissed and demonised by those who focus on its grey, frequently dilapidated appearance and impression of monotony and neglect. But for artist Evelina Šimkutė, who was born and grew up in Šilainiai and has recently returned to live there after more than a decade in London, it’s an inspiration and a muse – and making the most of the creativity of the people who live there is her passion. As well as using the district in her artworks, Šimkutė organises photo walks and workshops for local people, and has recently started a residency programme, enabling artists from elsewhere to spend time working in Šilainiai.

Can you talk me through what led you to set up the project?

I grew up in Šilainiai and as an artist I have always been inspired by the site. I was documenting life in Šilainiai for eight years via photography and, whilst living in London, I also made series of sculptures, installations and videos about it. Each time I went back I saw changes and felt it was important to capture them. Nobody else was doing it.

So I started talking to the local residents. Senior residents were happy to share their eye-witness accounts of what the site was like before Šilainiai district was built, and those life-changing stories encouraged me to “dig deeper” – capture, archive, present, and start a conversation. Before the development of the panel-housing district in the ’80s, Šilainiai was considered to be a countryside on the outskirts of Kaunas, with small villages and two large townhouses (Linkuvos andSargėnų dvaras) with vineyards and beautiful gardens. Noblemen of the time used to spend their summers there.

I knew that if I didn‘t do something, very soon these stories would be lost. So I started running photography workshops in local schools and held public photo-walks in Šilainiai, where I met a lot of incredibly talented and driven young people. I learnt about the lack of encouragement and appreciation for their creativity, lack of platforms to share their work and ideas. Also, people who lived in Šilainiai for many years, expressed the wish for “somewhere to go locally”, and for accessible cultural activities in the area where they lived.

There are about 55,000 residents in Šilainiai, but no cultural centre. The library is the only non-commercial place to meet. As a result, this summer I set up a series of activities both in public space of Šilainiai and in the library: artist talks, screenings, performances, walks, exhibitions, poetry readings… Artists from different parts of the world came to live and work in Šilainiai. And so the project started.

What are things you’re particularly proud in achieving?

I am particularly proud of the conversations that have been developed with the local community. Some extremely important themes have surfaced, starting with notions of home, emigration, value of creativity for self-identity. I hope to delve into them deeper next year. Also, I feel very humbled that the project has inspired creativity among the local community.

A series of brand new works – paintings, poetry and other texts have been created. And most importantly – I am very happy for the new connections made – between myself and local residents, as well as connections between different creative people in Šilainiai, Kaunas and nationwide. It is very special to observe new friendships or creative partnerships forming.

What is the impression that people in Kaunas have of Šilainiai? How are you trying to change that (if you are)?

I guess people in Kaunas might see Šilainiai as a grey sleeping district with lots of shops where nothing much happens.

I am genuinely curious about the district: what was here before it was built? How did it look like? Who lived here? What was going on? Who lives here now? How is it changing? Why? What is happening now? What is not happening? Why? How can we use this site for creativity? What work does it inspire? And so on.

What can Kaunas offer that other cities in Lithuania (or elsewhere) can’t?

Kaunas can be old-fashioned and progressive at the same time, there are a lot of clashes of ideas, styles and layers of history, it is a little bit quirky and raw and that’s what makes it unique. It is honest and real. It is surprising for those, who take time to know it. It takes time to know it. It is grey and green. This constant state of flux, the vibrancy and the urgency makes it inspiring.

I get a sense that Kaunas is reviving after a long period of being in Vilnius’s shadow. Would you agree with this?

I do remember having to constantly travel to Vilnius to see movies or exhibitions and it did seem that the cultural investments were made into the capital “by default”. Young people wanted to move there to study, work and live. But the situation has changed dramatically in the past ten years. There are a lot of progressive, innovative and creative people living in Kaunas who know the town inside out, who are embracing and reviving it. It is very exciting to be in Kaunas right now.

Full article:



I will be presenting Šilainiai Project and my further research in public art practices at these conferences/ events:

Audience Links Xchange Conference and Baltic Audience Links workshop, Stockholm, Sweden 20-24 February 2017.

3rd International Pulblic Art Research Network Meeting for global research about art in public space and place-making, Zhejiang Province,  China 13-16 March 2017.

College of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Art, Place-making and Resilient Cities Conference, Hong Kong 17-20 March 2017. 

IPA-Hong Kong Baptist University Conference, and the IPA-HK Govt. Dept. of Leisure and Culture Services – Oi! Workshops.


It is important to me to share my practice and learn from other good examples. I feel very privileged to be able to do so.

Fundraising for 2017


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.

Kind regards, Evelina

In the press

Šilainiai Project was extensively covered by Lithuanian press this year. Here are a few highlights. More radio and TV interviews you may find in the Press section.


Evelinos Šimkutės Šilainiai – balta drobė kūrybai. Kaunas pilnas kultūros. December 2016. Online:

Audronė Meškauskaitė, Gyvenimą keičiantis menas. 2016 11 24 – 2016 12 07. Nemunas, Nr. 20 (980) Online:

Vaida Stepanovaitė, Decentralizacijos projektų patirtys Lietuvoje. 2016 11 25. Online:

Pokalbis apie kultūros decentralizaciją Lietuvoje. 2016 11 21. Online:

Neringa Krikščiūnaitė, Kitoks Šilainių veidas2016 11 25.  Online:

Šilainiai driokstelėjo: forto tuneliuose – kaukianti sirena ir menininkų projektas. 2016 10 15. Online:

Evelina Šimkutė: „Šilainių fasadas tėra viena dėlionės dalis“. 2016 09 28. Online:;

Tyrimų laukas – Šilainių mikrorajonas. 2016 09 19. Online:

A sleeping district of poets and painters: redefining Kaunas’s Šilainiai. Deep Baltic Blog. 2016 10 31. Online:

Evelina Šimkutė: „Kūryboje ir darbuose Šilainiai visada buvo su manimi“. 2016 08 31. Online:

Daugiaaukščių Šilainių istorija domina net japonus ir australus. 2016 08 28. Online:;

Kaip miegamasis rajonas virsta kultūriniu židiniu. 2016 08 09. Online:;

Kokie yra tikrieji Šilainiai? 2016 08 05. Online:

Evelina Šimkutė: „Šilainių ilgesys išaugino idėją surengti rajono nuotraukų parodą“. 2015 10 22. Online: evelina-simkute-silainiu-ilgesys-isaugino-ideja-surengti-rajono-nuotrauku-paroda/336770


Šilainiai Project: exhibition of international art residency


Šilainiai Project: exhibition of international art residency
31th of October – 14th of November, 2016
Opening on 31th of October, 6 p.m.
Project space ‘Kabinetas’ in Kaunas (A. Mapu str. 20)

On 7th of November, 6:30 p.m. we are inviting to a discussion led by project director Evelina Šimkutė with other artist-led initiatives of cultural decentralization in Lithuania.

Project curated by artist Evelina Šimkutė is one of the first who stepped into Šilainiai micro-district of block multistory houses, culturally separated from the city centre. The artists were staying in this micro-district by means of ‘couch-surfing’ in summer of 2016, where they developed new artworks. Also they made connections with local community, presenting their creative work publicly and participating in open meetings in a public library of Šilainiai.

Šilainiai Project is an initiative oriented to the local community of various generations and in this way is part of other Lithuanian and foreign practices seen in micro-districts – open creative social platforms, community and participatory arts and others. International artist residency is one of the many activities led by Evelina Šimkutė in Šilainiai, which help and start to reveal the cultural identity of the last developed micro-district in Kaunas in Soviet times. The project conducts an artistic, also historical and social research of Šilainiai, communicating with the people who created it and examining the collected archival material.

Works created during the residency will be presented in the exhibition. Brooke Carlson (Australia) joins performativity, materiality of drawing and will present documentation of performance shown in Šilainiai. Francis Olvez-Wilshaw (Great Britain) connects abstract sculpture with graphic. The Lake Twins (Great Britain) use drawing as their medium. Milda Gailiūtė (Lithuania) reveals landscape of Šilainiai in paintings based on photography. The landscape is also a theme for Marija Nemčenko (Lithuania/Scotland) in her screen prints. Evelina Šimkutė (Lithuania/Great Britain) transfers objects from Šilainiai.

More information:, Silainiai Project, Instagram@silainiaiproject. Partners: Public library of Kaunas municipality of Vincas Kudirka subdivision of Šilainiai, PE Arts Management Platform. Šilainiai project gives thanks to supporters of Crowdfunding platform Vanessa Kilduff, Niamh Grogan and Anonymous.

The exhibition is on view I-V, 1-7 p.m. For more information, +37061183444.


Šilainiai Project tarptautinės meno rezidencijos paroda
2016 10 31 – 11 14
Atidarymas 10 31 18:00
Projektų erdvėje ’Kabinetas’ Kaune (A. Mapu g. 20)

Lapkričio 7 d. 18:30 kviečiame į projekto vadovės Evelinos Šimkutės vedamą diskusiją su kitomis menininkų organizuojamomis kultūros decentralizacijos iniciatyvomis Lietuvoje.

Menininkės Evelinos Šimkutės kuruojamas projektas yra vienas pirmųjų, įžengusių į šį kultūriškai nuo centrinės miesto dalies atskirtą blokinių daugiaaukščių Šilainių mikrorajoną. Jame ‘couch-surfingo’ būdu 2016 metų vasarą apsistoję menininkai įgyvendino kūrinius ir mezgė ryšius su vietos bendruomene, pristatydami savo kūrybą viešai bei dalyvaudami susitikimuose viešojoje bibliotekoje Šilainiuose.

Šilainiai Project kaip į įvairių kartų vietos bendruomenę nukreipta meninė iniciatyva įsilieja į Lietuvoje ir užsienyje vis plačiau veikiančias praktikas miestų mikrorajonuose – atviras kūrybines socialines platformas, bendruomeninius ir dalyvaujamuosius menus bei kita. Tarptautinė menininkų rezidencija – viena iš daugelio Evelinos Šimkutės vykdomų veiklų Šilainiuose, kurios p(r)adeda atrasti šio paskutinio sovietmečiu Kaune išplėtoto mikrorajono kultūrinį identitetą. Projektas atlieka ir meninį, ir istorinį, socialinį Šilainių mikrorajono tyrimą, bendraujant su jį kūrusiais asmenimis ir nagrinėjant surinktą archyvinę medžiagą.

Parodoje bus pristatomi rezidencijos metu dalyvių įgyvendinti kūriniai. Brooke Carlson (Australija) jungia performatyvumą, piešinio materialumą ir pristatys video performanso Šilainiuose dokumentaciją. Francis Olvez-Wilshaw (D. Britanija) sieja abstrakčią skulptūrą su grafikos kūriniais. The Lake Twins (D. Britanija) kaip priemonę pasitelkia piešimą. Milda Gailiūtė (Lietuva) fotografija paremtuose tapybos darbuose atskleidžia Šilainių peizažą. Apie jį kalba ir Marija Nemčenko (Lietuva/Škotija), pasitelkdama šilkografiją. Evelina Šimkutė (Lietuva/D. Britanija) iš Šilainių perkelia betoninius objektus.

Daugiau informacijos:, Silainiai Project
ir Instagram @silainiaiproject. Projekto partneriai: Kauno miesto savivaldybės Vinco Kudirkos viešoji biblioteka Šilainių padalinys, VšĮ “Meno vadybos platforma”. Šilainiai Project dėkoja Crowdfunding platformos rėmėjams Vanessa Kilduff, Niamh Grogan ir Anonymous.

Paroda veikia I-V, 13-19 val. Papildoma informacija: info@arthesis, +37061183444.

Exhibition from the sculpture series ‘Objects’

Evelina Šimkutė / Exhibition from the sculpture series ‘Objects’

Opening / 22nd August / 7 p.m.
Discussion with the author / 30th August / 6 pm. Participating: Evelina Šimkutė, Jurijus Dobriakovas, dr. Aušra Trakšelytė, Vaida Stepanovaitė.

‘Objects’ fits in various discourses – cultural, urbanistic, architectural, historical and others. The author researches her native Šilainiai micro-district that has dramatically changed. This research is imbued with personal and more extensive experience of a historical epoch as well. Abandoned children’s’ playgrounds, almost seized by nature, are brought back to their original physical form through sculpture. By stopping the decay and also highlighting it, a new relationship with the familiar surroundings is being created. Copies of public objects handmade from stainless steel and concrete can be seen at this enclosed project space. Both these and originals often do not serve their direct function but mark a change of reality, memories and place.

The creative work of Evelina Šimkutė (b. 1985) acts in the field of visual art and curatorial practice and is based on the research of space and time. In 2012 an author graduated from the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. ‘Objects’ in Kabinetas project space is the first personal exhibition in Lithuania of the artist,currently working between London and Kaunas. The author is also leading two socio-cultural projects based on the practice of de-centralization: ’Šilainiai Photo’ ( and ‘Šilainiai Project’ ( in the micro-district of Šilainiai, Kaunas. The final exhibition of the latter project will take place at Kabinetas on 31st October – 14th November, 2016.

More about the author: Evelina Simkute,

‘Objects’ will be on view 22nd – 31st of August, Monday to Friday 1-7 p.m. (A. Mapu st. 20, Kaunas). For special appointments and other information please contact +37061183444,

Evelina Šimkutė / Objects
Photography / Rūta Stepanovaitė

Šilainiai Project

Silainiai Project logo

Šilainiai Project artist residency talk series ‘Tea with the Artist’

23 July – Arata Mori (Japan) 14:00

27 July – Brooke Carlson (Australia) 18:00

5 August – Francis Olvez-Wilshaw (England) 18:00

18 August – Milda Gailiūtė (Šilainiai) 18:00

24 August – The Lake Twins (England) 18:00

ADDRESS: Šilainiai Library – Baltų pr. 81, Kaunas, Lithuania.

Project Exhibition October 31 – November 14 2016 in project space ‘Kabinetas’, Mapu g. 20 Kaunas, Lithuania.


Šilainiai Artist In Residence, Šilainiai microdistrict, Kaunas, Lithuania

Artist mini-residency program set up by the local artist Evelina Simkute.

International artists stay with a host family in Šilainiai up to two weeks and make works in public spaces. There are opportunities to work with local schools/ community groups and exhibit works in local venues. At the moment the residency is by invitation only.