May 8, 2023

Students’ reflections on the project “The Artist is Present – Contemporary Art Residencies in Schools” Riga Bolderaja New Primary School (artist – Gundega Evelone)

On 17 April, artist Gundega Evelone visited Riga’s Bolderaja New Primary School to continue working with students on an art project – an installation of concrete objects “Bolderaja Hieroglyphs”. In this series of classes, each student creates their own art object – a concrete cast of Bolderaja’s signs, meaningful to them – developing the artwork from an idea and sketch to its physical realisation and placement in the Bolderaja environment. The artist’s classes are included in the Design and Technology lessons.

In conversations with Māra Žeikari, the director of the project “The Artist is Present – Contemporary Art Residencies in Schools”, students from the 7th and 8th grades of the Riga Bolderaja New Primary School admitted that before meeting the artist Gundega Evelonis they had not met other Latvian artists in person, and most of them had no knowledge of the artists either. They point out that in visual arts at school they learn more about drawing techniques and less about artists. In some cases, they have been to the Latvian National Museum of Art or other museums, and some have been to exhibitions in other countries. Some pupils have also been to art or music school for a while, learned drawing and continue to do it in their everyday life, for example, drawing on paper or digitally on their phones.
When asked what value the project and the artist Gundega can bring to them, students mentioned innovation, the opportunity for students to learn new things and expand their knowledge of art, team building and creativity. On the one hand, the pupils find Gundega’s lessons more interesting than other lessons, but on the other hand, the artist’s creativity, which she also unleashes in the pupils, can help them to develop an interest in other subjects. The pupils like the calm and friendly atmosphere of the artist’s classes, the different and varied ways of working together, learning new things and not being bored. The fact that what they are creating now is something lasting, such as the use of concrete in art, is also valuable for the students. This allows them to create works of art that can be seen by others later on. Another pupil said that the way in which the artist engages the pupils, not only by talking to everyone together, but also by talking to each one individually, is very appealing. The classes are an opportunity to gain confidence, joy, calm, concentration and improvisation. The disadvantage of the project classes is that the students have to stay longer after other lessons, they would prefer to attend them during the day. At the same time, if the project were to last longer and the artist were to return to the school in the autumn, the young people would be more willing to attend her classes. It would also allow students who are not currently taking part in the classes to get to know art.

Most of the young people interviewed had taken part in a walk around Bolderaja with the artist during the residency. Their favourite places in Bolderaja were the quarry, the promenade by the river with a new cycle path, the bridge, the square near the Lats shopping centre. In these places, students play volleyball, spend time with their families, meet friends, swing and play “wheelbarrows”. However, young people pointed to the frequent presence of people under the influence of alcohol, including in public transport, smells and litter, as well as the noise from ships, which can be heard even at night, as disadvantages of Bolderāja.

Thank you Elza, Ričard, Edgar, Melānija, Emīlij, Maksim, Samanta, Evelina and Robin for sharing your insights into Gundegas’ classes at Bolderaja New Primary School! Thank you to teacher Lolita Maderniece and art mediator Lana Zujeva. The pupils were interviewed by the project manager Māra Žeikare and the process was photographed by Lita Millere.