Fieldwork conference, UK

This summer staff and students from the University of Central Lancashire came to Kaunas for a week-long research project based around the theme of ‘transition’. We spend some time together engaging with the area of Šilainiai. We will be meeting again this autumn to continue our conversation in the UK.

15 November I will be speaking at the conference in Preston, which is an annual photography event called ‘Fieldwork’. This year the theme is contemporary documentary practices in photography.

You may read about the trip on their blog: https://photouclan.com/

All photographs ©PHOTOUCLAN

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ŠILAINIAI PROJECT 2017 Events

I am thrilled to announce this year’s creative actions timetable. Some dates are still to be confirmed and I am sure more events will pop up, but this looks very exciting!

MARTYNAS_01_web.jpgImage: Martynas Kliučininkas, 2017 (Šilainiai Photo school workshop)

ŠILAINIAI PROJECT 2017

16 June – Šilainiai Project happening at BeePart in Vilnius, Lithuania / Culture night

14 July – Šilainiai [PARIS] Project

15 July – Šilainiai [FORTAS] Project

July – October – Šilainiai Photo walks and workshops at schools (dates to be confirmed)

August – Šilainiai Project artist residencies and ‘Tea with the artist’ meetings (dates to be confirmed)

11 September – Šilainiai [RESEARCH] Project

4 December – 31 January 2018 – Šilainiai Photo exhibition at Šilainiai library

 

This year Šilainiai Project artist residencies are partly financed by the Lithuanian Culture Council and Šilainiai Photo project is partly financed by ‘Initiatives for Kaunas’ and the Lithuanian Culture Council. Thank you.

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#

Conferences

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.

Kaunas Photo exhibition

This summer I have been leading photography workshops in Šilainiai, that was part of Kaunas Photo festival educational programme. There will be an exhibition of my students’ work in Šilainiai library 16 September – 1 November 2016. Exhibition opening will be 6pm 16 September. Everyone welcome.

Address: Baltų pr. 81, Kaunas, Lithuania.

Opening hours: I-V 10-19, VI 10- 16, VII closed.

silainiai-photo-workshops

LT

Tryliktasis tarptautinis fotomeno festivalis KAUNAS PHOTO 2016 metų programoje tyrinėjantis šiuolaikinės fotografijos ir viešosios erdvės santykį, šalia dešimčių aukšto meninio ir estetinio lygio fotografijos parodų, susitikimų su autoriais, paskaitų, fotografijos projekcijų ir daugybės kitų renginių, visą vasarą rengė fotografijos kūrybines dirbtuves jaunimui – „Blokinė kaimynystė“, kuriose kvietė dalyvauti Šilainių, Eigulių ir Kalniečių mikrorajonuose gyvenantį jaunimą ir bendruomenę.

Rugsėjo 16 d., penktadienį, 18 val., Šilainių bibliotekoje (Baltų pr. 81) bus pristatomi pirmosios – kūrybinių dirbtuvių “Blokinė kaimynystė” grupės, vadovaujamos menininkės Evelinos Šimkutės, rezultatai – fotografijų paroda. Parodoje pristatomi šių dalyvių darbai: Indrės Urbelytės, Undinės Tumavičiūtės, Andželos Aoyama, Medos Grandskytės, Ramūno Kazakevičiaus ir Eitvydo Kinaičio. Parodą lydės fotografijų projekcijos, aptariant sukurtus darbus ir socialinių temų gaires. Ekspozicijų pristatymo metu, dalyviai bus apdovanoti kūrybinių dirbtuvių „Blokinė kaimynystė“ baigimo raštais.

Gegužės – birželio mėnesiais prasidėjusios ir iki rudens trukusios dirbtuvės buvo rengiamos siekiant ugdyti socialinę veiklą, bendruomeniškumą, kūrybiškumą, stiprinti vietos identitetą ir domėjimąsi kaimynyste, kūrybinių dirbtuvių metu Šilainių rajonuose gyvenantis jaunimas buvo supažindintas su fotografavimo kūrybinėmis strategijomis, fotoobjektyvais analizavo savo gyvenamąją aplinką, tyrinėjo aktualias blokinių rajonų temas, nuo balkonų estetikos iki automobilių statymo problematikos. Kūrybinių dirbtuvių dalyviams fotografija tapo ne vien tik išraiškos priemone gebančia analizuoti socialines temas, bet ir tam tikru įrankiu naujai komunikavimo, bendrumo, formai sukurti.

Paroda atvira lankytojams iki lapkričio 1 d.
Darbo laikas: I-V 10-19 val., VI 10- 16 val., VII nedirba.

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

Educational program “Kids on the Block”

I was invited to lead photography workshops for Kaunas Photo festival this summer. Fantastic opportunity for 13-18 year olds to develop a project and have their work exhibited in September! Registration is open until 2 June.

Field_Evelina_Simkute_2012

From Kaunas Photo website:

The thirteenth international photo art festival KAUNAS PHOTO 2016 in its program investigating relationship between contemporary photography and public space, near the tens of high artistic and aesthetic level exhibitions, meetings with authors, lectures, photographic projections and many other events, also organizes workshops for the youth – ‚Kids on the Block‘, to which are welcome to register thirteen – eighteen aged pupils from Eiguliai, Kalniečiai and Šilainiai wards.

Starting May – June and continuing till the autumn , workshops will be leaded by experienced masters of photography, who are also the inhabitants of these wards: In Kalniečiai, A. Smetona gymnasium advices will be giving photojournalist Artūras Morozovas; in Eiguliai , Vitebskas library – art critic, photographer, Vytautas Magnum University lecturer Tomas Pabedinskas; and from the third of June workshop will start in Šilainiai, it  will be lead by photo artist, ‚Šilainiai photo‘ organizer – Evelina Šimkutė.

Seeking to foster social activity, sociality, creativity, to stronger identity of the place and interest in neighborhood, during workshops the youth, living in Kalniečiai, Eiguliai and Šilainiai wards, will be introduced to creative strategy of photography, will analyze their living space by photo objective, will investigate actual themes of block wards – from the aesthetic of balconies till the problems of car parking. The workshops of photography will become not just the way of expression, in which participants will analyze social themes, also finds new ways to create  a new form of communication in community.

The result of workshops – three exhibitions of participants together with their lecturers: 15 September  – Šilainiai library, 22 September–  A. Smetona gymnasium and 29 September – Vitebskas library. Exhibitions will be accompanied by evenings of photography projections, discussing created works and social themes. Participants of “Kids on the Block” will be awarded with  graduation diploma.

Submission requirements

 Entrants must be pupils aged thirteen – eighteen, living in Eiguliai, Kalniečiai or  Šilainiai wards. According to the living ward will be collected three separate workshop groups, every  no more than 20 members.

  • Šilainiai group – leader Evelina Šimkutė, sessions will go on in Grušas art gymnasium, (the first meeting on 3 of June, 10 am.);
  • Eiguliai group – leader Tomas Pabedinskas, sessions – in Vitebskas library, (the first meeting on 27 of May, 3 pm.);
  • Kalniečiai group – leader Artūras Morozovas, sessions will go on in A. Smetona gymnasium, (the first meeting on 21 of June, 1 pm.).

Technical preparations for workshops:

Every participant must have digital camera.