March 26, 2023

Jelgava Through My Eyes – Students Take Artist Eva Vēvere on Tour Through City

On March 22 artist Eva Vēvere and art mediator Evelīna Andžāne visited the Jelgava Spīdola State Gymnasium as part of the project “Artist is Present – Contemporary Art Residencies in Schools”. This was their fourth visit, and it took the form of a field trip called “Jelgava Through My Eyes” that the students had curated themselves. Grade 10 and Grade 11 students were tasked, separately, to create a route for the trip that would include the following stops: a place where differences meet; a place that corresponds to social norms or an order imposed by the society; a dead zone or a place without any energy; as well as a place that the students consider “their own” and where they like to be. The artist and the mediator became tourists, and this time particular importance was accorded to what the students think about their city. They told stories about the places they identify with or where they see a potential for realizing their ideas in the future, while less attention was paid to classic tourist routes and sights.
One can note with pleasure that most of the students were interested in sharing their thoughts about processes in the city and the things which they find are lacking and they’d want to change. Both of the classes felicitously picked the same place where they thought a great idea had been put to practice. It was the only open-air art gallery in Jelgava, located on a small, almost unnoticeable side street near the Jelgava Scientific Library. Asked whether they’d want to exhibit their own work in a similar format, the majority answered in the affirmative, as the choice of place is not obvious and it’s nice to stay there and look at art. Grade 11 chose a surprising location for the dead zone or the place without energy, namely the Rainis Park with its long-inactive fountain. The students said they’d want for park infrastructure to be improved in Jelgava and the environment to be less depressing; they’d like for the fitness equipment to be fixed, and the park benches to no longer serve as beds for homeless people. Meanwhile Grade 10 students thought it’s a pleasant place, one where you can rest in summer and observe the people as you are having a meal. One of the places where differences meet was the intersection between the Cathedral of the Immaculate Virgin Mary and the Hesburger fast food restaurant across the street. The students had observed people dropping by Hesburger after going to church, and they found this to be in tune with human nature. The sections in between stops were valuable and brought everyone together. Eva and Evelīna conversed with the students, who opined about their preferred clothes to fetch second hand clothes, about the lack of a movie theater in Jelgava, and the city’s jolly traditions, from the milk carton regatta to the sand and ice sculpture festivals. They strongly suggested not leaving Jelgava before trying Jelgava’s signature “Vēja zirdziņš” cake at the Silva cafe. Both groups chose the Melno Cepurīšu Balerija bar/culture spot as the place they frequent and they feel they belong to. It’s a place with welcoming staff and owner, who told the students more about the culture, rules and the history of the bar. Concluding the trip with girls from Grade 10, the artist Eva and mediator Evelīna had the chance to have lunch together at Balerija, and the girls stressed that this is almost the only single place where young people can spend their time eating good food at a good price in an atmosphere that speaks to them or while listening to a concert of their favorite alternative artist. It was a pleasure to see that the students were well-prepared to discuss both the pros and cons of their city. They likewise said they’d want the city to give more thought to activities suited for people their age as well as pay more attention to cleanliness – for this reason, some of them go to Ozolnieki (a village near Jelgava) in the summer to go swim in the lake and walk the forest paths.
Eva Vēvere’s next visit to Jelgava is slated for March 28. She and the students are to discuss their experiences so far as well as come up with a plan for the next workshops.