August 28, 2023

The Artist Is Present – first contemporary art summer camp

From 14 August to 18 August, Valmiera hosted a contemporary art summer camp of the international project The Artist Is Present by the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA), during which children and youth from six Latvian schools and children and youth from Valmiera had the opportunity to work together with artists from Latvia and Norway.

The project “The Artist is Present – Contemporary Art Residencies in Schools”, which is implemented with the support of EEA grants, started at the beginning of this year, and as part of it, the artists Kristīne Brīniņa, Vika Eksta, Gundega Evelone, Anda Lāce, Eva Vēvere, Artūrs Punte and Maksims Šenteļevs worked in Latvian schools and together with students implemented contemporary art projects in Liepāja Catholic Primary School, Aglona Secondary School, Bolderāja New Primary School, Antūži Primary School, Jelgava Spīdola State Gymnasium and Strenči Primary School.

From 14 August to 18 August, children and youths from all six Latvian schools met in Valmiera – in the first contemporary art camp in Latvia. More than 10 creative workshops for children and youths between the ages of 6 and 18 took place in the concert hall “Valmiera”, the youth center “Vinda”, and in the city’s streets and parks, which were open to both the participants of the residency and to anyone interested. The youth, together with the  artists-in-residence, as well as with the project partners – five artists from the Norwegian artist collective “Tenthaus” – got to know the diverse world of contemporary art and worked on artworks that will be on display in an exhibition in Riga, Vidzeme Market, from 7 September to 8 October as part of the festival Survival Kit 14.

The artist Anda Lāce, together with youths from Antūži Elementary School, further developed the “caterpillar” idea which they began to work out during their residencies. The youths painted it bright yellow as well as moved it in a small performance together with children from Valmiera. The yellow color layer of the “caterpillar” hides reflections on oneself and the world – the belly of the caterpillar is filled with values, the good in one’s self and those around you, while the head contains problematic issues that can be transformed into good ones.

Pupils from Liepāja Catholic Elementary School, together with the choreographer and movement artist Kristīne Brīniņa, continued their work on the video installation, which will be on view at the upcoming exhibition in the fall, and, wrapping themselves in the bright nets produced by Valmiera Fiberglass, conjured up an ambitious world of the creative workshop “Support Mountain”.

During the camp, large-format maps of Bolderāja and Daugavgrīva were created by the artist Gundega Evelone and girls from Bolderāja Elementary School. Choosing color schemes, marking the topography, selecting the most important and discarding the superfluous, the young artists created their own territory planning in three days, supplementing it with special place markings, the meaning of which is understandable only to the audience of local teenagers.

The students of Strenči Elementary School, with the participation of other interested parties, under the supervision of workshop leaders Maksims Šenteļevs and Artūrs Punte, went to record sounds on Gauja rapids, processed the sound recordings and played them at the final concert of the camp. Throughout the camp, there was an artists’ sound recording studio on the stage of the Concert Hall “Valmiera”, where everyone had the opportunity to get to know how analog sound recording devices work and to see the kinetic sound object “Circus Solaris” created by the artists.

What would be the message of today’s youth to adults? During the camp, artist Vika Eksta and the students of Aglona Secondary School tried to formulate the Youth Manifesto in a visual language, creating the design of the intended exhibition space, which included the selection of photographs, modeling of the space, creation and transformation of objects. Self-portraits of Valmiera youths were made in an improvised photo studio in the make-up room of the Concert Hall “Valmiera”

The students of Jelgava Spīdola State Gymnasium together with the artist Eva Vēvere met in workshops where they studied voices, the surrounding environment, things that fill the space and the ways in which stories are told in contemporary art. During the process, the book was chosen as a starting point, through which, by transforming it, it is possible to tell a story about ourselves.

Parallel to the contemporary art camp, open creative workshops were held for three days together with artists from the Latvian and Norwegian artist collective “Tenthaus” (Matilde Balatti, Stan D’Haene, Helen Eriksen, Ebba Moi, Belen Santillán, Ida Uvaas). During them, more than 100 children and youths got to know various forms of contemporary art expression – movement, improvisation and performance, color, illustration and animation, sculpture, sound and photography. The most unusual workshop took place in the Valmiera skating rink, with youths becoming fantasy characters and playing the stories of their characters, previously recorded in the sound workshop, on the ice field. The youth recognized that this workshop was the highlight of the camp.

Throughout the week, there was a Wall of Emotions located in the park, where every passer-by had an opportunity to reproduce their inner feelings in colors, while an illustration workshop with Vivianna Maria Staņislavska took place in the Concert Hall “Valmiera” –  children created characters inspired by the drawings of the artist Māris Bišofs and brought them to life in small animations.

The camp was created in close partnership with the Latvian Fund for Nature, choosing to think about the climate, using sustainable materials, and rethinking the amount of waste produced in the organized workshops and the camp.

The Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA) sincerely thanks the camp’s team from the association Mellene, all students, parents and school staff involved, as well as the project’s cooperation partners: Municipality of Valmiera and the Latvian and the Latvian Fund for Nature project “Game On! Don’t Let Climate Change End the Game!”, and supporters: Valmiera Glass, Erica Synths, Ādažu čipsi, Selga, Gardu muti zelteris.