Misc / Recommended events
Introducing Nida Art Colony 2011
Since opening in March 2011, Nida Art Colony on the Curonian Spit, Lithuania, is confidently establishing itself as a new artist-residency centre and venue for cultural events in the eastern Baltic Sea region. Already it has hosted a series of artist-residencies, made their call already for more in autumn-winter, and is a gathering point for several trans-disciplinary art research and education events. Contextual background and recent events in May plus this summer are linked further below.

A new subdivision of Vilnius Academy of Arts, the centre is run by a small team, with artistic director Vytautas Michelkevičius & administrator Linas Ramanauskas, who is also running Neringa FM from the colony. The executive director Rasa Antanavičiūtė is more based in Vilnius, and reconstruction of the former storage houses was made with support from EEA and Norway Grants.

As a renovation and extension of the Academy's summer atelier and studios, its location on the Curonian Spit, which is a peninsular dividing the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea, has attracted artists, writers and art students for over 150 years, especially for its natural inspiration and peacefulness. According to the description on Nida Art Colony's website: "In the year 2000, the Curonian Spit was included into the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of the most beautiful and unique cultural landscapes of Europe. The Curonian Spit is a National park with sand dunes and pitch pine forests as characteristic features of its landscape (pictures). Nida settlement is the administrative centre of Neringa. A century ago it had a high reputation within the artistic world: there was an active Art Colony established by German artists-expressionists in the 2nd half of the 19th century-the beginning of the 20th century. Artists like Max Pechstein and Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, writers like the Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann, composers and actors prized its landscape and ambience".

The overall objective of the NAC project is to improve and develop the quality of art and design education in Lithuania and to implement innovations in the field of art education by promoting international cooperation.

These aims have been exemplified this year so far in the first large gathering held at the start of May: Interformat Symposium, co-curated by Vytautas Michelkevičius, Jodi Rose (familiar to Pixelache Helsinki for her Singing Bridges & Transit Lounges), and Mindaugas Gapševičius (Migrating Art Academy). Pixelache was an associated partner to the T-R-A-C-E-S networking project, and our 2010 Festival, witnessed by Vytautas on his visit that year, was cited as an inspiration for many of the themes/approaches in the Interformat gathering. To further this exchange, I (Andrew Paterson) attended the symposium as Pixelache's representative.

The international gathering from 3rd-6th May 2011 was a "non-stop event shifting from performance to lecture to basketball game to sauna broadcast to performative discussion to artists guided site/sight/seeing to discursive dinner to role play to interactive buffet to screening to imaginary cartography to workshop to tea ritual to slow reading to sonic massage to knowledge sharing to book launch to critical sauna to guided orientation to conceptual sentiments". The rich and eclectic programme is detailed PDF for download, pooled photo documentations and also an edited video summary to see some of what happened. It was a thoroughly enjoyable series of days and nights, with an interesting mix of people participating. I especially appreciated the experiments and risks involved sharing practice (listening and drifting between art & 'craft’, food, leisure and ideas) and the various way of valuing and looking after/to each other, reminding us what we need to do for the future. As one of the T-R-A-C-E-S outcomes of the symposium, a collated gathering of texts, exercises and stories (edition) by many of the participants was made in parallel.

Throughout the summer months, Nida Art Colony is used as a pedagogical unit by the Vilnius Academy of Arts, as well as for art & education projects by other organisers. A rather special example in July is the latest iteration of Migrating Art Academies project curated by Mindaugas Gapševičius. A synthesis of mobility, art and sciences, this 4-day laboratory event "aims to bring together more than 10 European art universities and other cultural organisations to set rules for a cooperation model which will offer emerging artists professional knowledge and feasible mobility. The proposed network of cultural organisations offers a low-budget model for artistic collaboration and tutoring based on 'CouchSurfing', the practice of moving from one friend’s house to another and sleeping in whatever spare space is available". Representatives from Lithuania, Norway, the United Kingdom, Estonia, France, Germany, Finland, Poland, Sweden and Belgium are all taking part in the project.

Another highlight later in the summer will be the arrival of the M.A.R.I.N. (Media Art Research Interdisciplinary Network) project to the Curorian Spit shores. Familiar to those who have been following their navigations around the Baltic Sea region, and this year, Pixelache Helsinki Festival's environmental sensors workshop, M.A.R.I.N. is "an initiative integrating artistic and scientific practices in researching cultural and environmental ecosystems", that in its first three years is focusing as a "mobile residency and workshop program looking at marine environments, sustainable mobility, and various methods & technologies for field work". In their 2011 programme, the August-long fieldwork residency invite encouraged proposals that deal with mapping, not only marine biology, but also everyday practices at and around the Sea ranging from farming to transport, leisure to fisheries. The August group will arrive at Nida Art Colony for the last week of the month (21st-31st).

Sound like a good place to go? Find out for yourself, make a visit, apply for a residency (next deadline: 15 October 2011, for February – May 2012 residencies), or you can even rent the facilities: It is possible as an organisation or curator to make cultural or educational events at its premises (including accommodating participants).