March 6, 2023

Introductory Meetings: Artists Artūrs Punte and Maksims Šenteļevs on Visit at Strenči Primary School

On February 23 the first visit at the Strenči Primary School took place as part of the project Artist is Present – Contemporary Art Residencies in Schools. Over the course of the following weeks, sound artists Artūrs Punte and Maksims Šenteļevs will work together with the students, introducing them to the diverse world of sound, inviting them to listen to the sounds of the surrounding environment and encouraging them to consider whether sound could serve in documenting the times we live in. The artists were accompanied by Māra Žeikare, the head of the project, as well as by the art mediator Mariona Baltkalne.

A number of stops were made en route to the Strenči Primary School, the first in Valmiera town, as a summer camp is slated to be held there in August, featuring the students from the residency program as well as public events for the general public. Closer to Strenči, the group stopped by at the Strenči Psychoneurological Hospital. During the meeting with Maija Ancveriņa, a board member at the hospital, as well as music therapist Liesma Lore and chapelain Andris Reiters, the artists discussed different possibilities of collaborating in the future. These may include both making sound recordings across the territory of the hospital as well as conducting student meetings with hospital specialists as part of the Artist is Present project. Along with potentially conducting different art projects and organizing residencies in the territory of the hospital, they also discussed researching the acoustics of different hospital rooms and the effect that the way that space shapes sound has on the well-being of the patients. Following the meeting, Maija Ancveriņa led the group on a tour of the hospital buildings and the park, including the hospital’s former directorate. A chimney/ water tower designed in the early 20th century still towers over the hospital territory. It’s an industrial monument and an unusual feat of engineering in the Baltic context. The decorative water reservoir, made from bricks, was added to the boiler-house chimney, making it the only water tower/chimney hybrid in Latvia.

Finally, the group went to the Strenči Primary School. Artūrs Punte and Maksims Šenteļevs’ residency plan was discussed together with principal Dace Gaigala and other teaching staff. This included discussing, among other things, the classes that are to take part, the time to be spent on each workshop, the schedule for the next couple of weeks, as well as how to go about communicating with the students and teachers. The group learned about the technical capabilities and the students’ IT know-how during the conversation, as the artists’ workshops would feature working with technical equipment. The teachers kindly guided the group through the classrooms and the entire school premises, as well as the projects that the students had hitherto engaged in, reaching agreement as to which rooms could be used for the workshops and discussing the history of the Strenči Secondary School, including the role of photographer Dāvis Spunde (1878–1960) in documenting the events at Strenči and other parishes in the vicinity. A wall in one of the classrooms is decorated with a photo by D. Spunde, featuring the old Strenči School which burned down in 1992. Much like Spunde once documented Strenči via photos, Artūrs Punte and Maksims Šenteļevs will offer to do this via the medium of sound. The first meeting with the students is to take place in early March.