The European Capital of Culture 2022 – Kaunas!

Kaunas2022

Image: judges visiting Šilainiai Project last month. Artwork by local artists Lukas Šiupsinskas (sculpture) and Tadas Šimkus (drawings).

Kaunas has been declared the European Capital of Culture for 2022. 

At this point I would very much like to thank the most resilient, hardworking home team, my creative colleagues and everyone who supported Šilainiai Project through it’s first couple of years. It has been a surreal experience and I cannot wait to start this new chapter for the project.

Next five years the activities in Šilainiai will continue and expand into other neighborhoods. I am very pleased that Šilainiai Project was one of the inspirations for ‘Fluxus Labs’ that are part of Kaunas 2022 programme.

“The Fluxus Lab, involving both local inhabitants and international cultural workers, are state of the art of creative participatory neighbourhood development.” – The Selection Panel’s report Final report, available: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/creative-europe/sites/creative-europe/files/ecoc-2022-lithuania-selection-report_en.pdf

This is a huge challenge and an immense opportunity, that can only be achieved by working together. So let’s start a conversation: https://www.facebook.com/FluxusLabs/

 

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ARTICLE IN ESTONIAN URBANISTS´ REVIEW U

KAUNAS – PRESERVING, REDEFINING, REVIVING LITHUANIA’S FORMER CAPITAL

by WILL MAWHOOD

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: http://www.urban.ee/issue/en/19#

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.

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

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.

Publications

Evelinos Šimkutės Šilainiai – balta drobė kūrybai. Kaunas pilnas kultūros. December 2016. Online: http://pilnas.kaunas.lt/2016/12/14/evelinos-simkutes-silainiai-balta-drobe-kurybai/

Audronė Meškauskaitė, Gyvenimą keičiantis menas. 2016 11 24 – 2016 12 07. Nemunas, Nr. 20 (980) Online: http://www.nemunas.net/archyvas/20%20mazesnis%20.pdf

Vaida Stepanovaitė, Decentralizacijos projektų patirtys Lietuvoje. 2016 11 25. Online: http://literaturairmenas.lt/2016-11-25-nr-3591/3625-daile/5588-vaida-stepanovaite-decentralizacijos-projektu-patirtys-lietuvoje

Pokalbis apie kultūros decentralizaciją Lietuvoje. 2016 11 21. Online: http://www.letmekoo.lt/author/vaida-stepanovaite/pokalbis-apie-kulturos-decentralizacija-lietuvoje/

Neringa Krikščiūnaitė, Kitoks Šilainių veidas2016 11 25.  Online: http://literaturairmenas.lt/2016-11-25-nr-3591/3625-daile/5587-neringa-kriksciunaite-kitoks-silainiu-veidas

Šilainiai driokstelėjo: forto tuneliuose – kaukianti sirena ir menininkų projektas. 2016 10 15. Online: http://kauno.diena.lt/naujienos/kaunas/menas-ir-pramogos/silainiai-driokstelejo-forto-tuneliuose-kaukianti-sirena-ir-menininku-projektas-776600

Evelina Šimkutė: „Šilainių fasadas tėra viena dėlionės dalis“. 2016 09 28. Online:http://kamane.lt/Kamanes-tekstai/Kinas-ir-fotografija/Evelina-Simkute-Silainiu-fasadas-tera-viena-deliones-dalis;

Tyrimų laukas – Šilainių mikrorajonas. 2016 09 19. Online: http://kauno.diena.lt/naujienos/kaunas/menas-ir-pramogos/tyrimu-laukas-silainiu-mikrorajonas-771776

A sleeping district of poets and painters: redefining Kaunas’s Šilainiai. Deep Baltic Blog. 2016 10 31. Online: https://deepbaltic.com/2016/10/31/a-sleeping-district-of-poets-and-painters-redefining-kaunass-silainiai/

Evelina Šimkutė: „Kūryboje ir darbuose Šilainiai visada buvo su manimi“. 2016 08 31. Online: http://kalbasilainiai.lt/evelina-simkute-kuryboje-ir-darbuose-silainiai-visada-buvo-su-manimi/

Daugiaaukščių Šilainių istorija domina net japonus ir australus. 2016 08 28. Online:http://kultura.lrytas.lt/meno-pulsas/daugiaauksciu-silainiu-istorija-domina-net-japonus-ir-australus.htm?utm_source=lrExtraLinks&utm_campaign=Copy&utm_medium=Copy;

Kaip miegamasis rajonas virsta kultūriniu židiniu. 2016 08 09. Online: http://www.15min.lt/kultura/naujiena/asmenybe/kaip-miegamasis-rajonas-virsta-kulturiniu-zidiniu-285-666627;

Kokie yra tikrieji Šilainiai? 2016 08 05. Online: http://klaipeda.diena.lt/naujienos/kaunas/menas-ir-pramogos/kokie-yra-tikrieji-silainiai-763975

Evelina Šimkutė: „Šilainių ilgesys išaugino idėją surengti rajono nuotraukų parodą“. 2015 10 22. Online: https://www.silainiubustas.lt/index.php/puslapiai/kalba-silainiai/naujienos/ evelina-simkute-silainiu-ilgesys-isaugino-ideja-surengti-rajono-nuotrauku-paroda/336770

 

Šilainiai Project: exhibition of international art residency

the-lake-twins_silainiai-project

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: silainiaiproject.com, 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 info@arthesis.lt, +37061183444.

LT

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: silainiaiproject.com, 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.