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Published: 12 september 2019 13:56

Street art in Vilnius continues to transform post-industrial quarter into thought-provoking open-air gallery

Artist Eglė Žvirblytė and her new mural for the Open Gallery, Vilnius
Go Vilnius / Artist Eglė Žvirblytė and her new mural for the Open Gallery, Vilnius

The city of Vilnius continues to integrate street art into its cityscape by expanding the Open Gallery with 9 new murals. The Dutch artist duo TELMO MIEL, along with an up-and-coming Lithuanian artist Eglė Žvirblytė, is highlighting the latest addition to the open-air, round-the-clock open gallery.

Open Gallery is a long-term interdisciplinary project, situated in the post-industrial Naujamiestis district. Aimed at reinvigorating the formerly decaying neighbourhood with art, the Open Gallery showcases murals, installations, and sculptures, hosts performances and non-commercial cinema.

The Naujamiestis-based gallery plays a vital role in reinvigorating the formerly abandoned spaces in the city, says one of the founders of the urban art gallery, Živilė Diawara.

“The idea behind the Open Gallery is to show how art can help transform entire industrial quarters, as everything – from the roofs to the walls – can act as platforms for creators,” said Diawara. “Often, the artist’s task is to express transformation, revival, all kinds of freedom. By creating their art here, the artists completely change the face of a former Soviet industrial territory. Compared to what was here before, the change is enormous. When we first started developing our projects here, I told my friends that only art could save this place. They were laughing, but it is happening.”

Diawara and the team behind Open Gallery are also responsible for LOFTAS, a former radio factory-turned-arts venue, where concerts, performances, conferences, and festivals are organized all year round. One of the highlights of LOFTAS‘s year, innercity music and arts festival LOFTAS FEST, will take place on September 13th-14th.

Next to the already mentioned Eglė Žvirblytė and TELMO MIEL, another 7 artists are contributing to the new addition to the Open Gallery. When all of the 9 artworks are added to the gallery, it will contain 34 art pieces in total. The gallery displays a range of styles and techniques, from graffiti-style art to genre-bending abstract works.

TELMO MIEL, the Dutch artist duo of Telmo Pieper and Miel Krutzmann, talked about their artwork for the Open Gallery:

“As the city is reviving the area, we were asked to create an art piece that would speak of this process of change. To do so, we decided to do a mural of a modern boy with a classic crown on his head. It shows how the next generation is leading the charge into the future.”

Egle Žvirblytė, a young Lithuanian artist who already exhibited her work in the galleries of New York, Miami, London, Tokyo, and Melbourne, among other cities, uses art to explore themes of humanism, mindfulness, identity, and female power.

After years of studying, living and working abroad, the artist was excited to create a large scale artwork in her hometown.

“While I was making a sketch for the mural, I asked myself: ‘What do I want to say to the place that I come from?’” commented Žvirblytė. “So I looked at myself growing up here, thinking about all the personal walls I had to break through: the anxieties I had, the mistakes I made, the fears I’ve conquered. In the end, the lesson is that it's only our own ideas that limit us. So my artwork says: go ahead and make all the mistakes you want to make! That's the only way to grow.”

The spread of street art in the Lithuanian capital doesn‘t stop with the Open Gallery, too. New murals are steadily appearing around the city, with the ‚independent artist republic‘ of Užupis, a centrally located district, the Stoties neighborhood, and the before-mentioned Naujamiestis at the forefront of the change.

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