Nida Art Colony / Neringa, Lithuania

Nida Art Colony / Neringa, Lithuania

for visual artists of all fields, designers, architects, art critics,
cultural managers, scientists and researchers, as well as for students

Colony life, space interferences and island love

Nida Art Colony is beautifully located at the midpoint of the Curonian Spit – an elongated island, which is a popular holiday resort – the Lagoon towards the Lithuanian mainland on one side, and the Baltic Sea on the other. Charmingly, the streets are lined by sandy grounds and well kept Scots Pine forests.
Europe’s second largest dune can be
climbed within a ten-minute walk, and from there the border to the Russian enclave Kaliningrad is in sight.
Not only the sundial seems perennial – also the high erected lighthouse does;
At least in the dark, when shining its mighty signals in time: ONE – TWO – PAUSE.
As it gently was explained to me in a starry night.

The Vilnius Academy of Arts purchased the property in Nida, a small town on the Baltic peninsula of Neringa, nature reserve and recreation area, more than ten years ago. The aim was to host its students for a retreat and creative collaboration, and also to run temporary residency programmes for national and international emerging as well as established artists and thinkers.
Thematically encouraged topics for critical reflection are e.g. remoteness, tourism, art research as artistic practice, site specificity and how to avoid it, and sustainability in life and arts.
About four years ago,
the impressive building with its facilities to accommodate up to 60 persons, was finished.
Well, the reconstruction is not yet totally completed, as the third section is still
a construction site – prospectively ready for its intended use by the end of 2015. Then up to 75 people can stay there at once.
Since March 2011, Nida Art Colony already is in operation – and what operation! …young and dynamic, just as smart and solid.
The Academy made a clever move with dividing the direction of its subdivision into artistic and executive head, and therewith having two brilliant brains in the lead: Rasa Antanavičiūtė and Vytautas Michelkevičius.

Its fabulous organisation skills and hospitality, the vigorous crew just demonstrated lately with being host of the ResArtis (Worldwide Network of Artist Residencies) Regional Meeting 2014 in Vilnius and Nida – welcoming 94 participants from 28 countries.
Certainly, also the future will hold great challenges, only regarding the upcoming Venice Biennale. The new version of the art project ‘Museum’ by Dainius Liškevičius will represent Lithuania in the Venice Biennale 2015, which will be organised by the Nida Art Colony of Vilnius Academy of Arts team.

But, what is it?… What makes the COLONY LIFE?

For sure, it is about the creative exploration of the surroundings, plus the adaptation to another pace, slightly slower than in the capital Vilnius.

Like taking the time to watch birds… and reflect on the ‘hobby’ of ornithology, its close connection with technology and devices, the required traveling and the peers of birdwatchers. So do the current Artists-in-residence, Rūta Junevičiūtė (LT) and Nicholas Matranga (USA/DE), explaining about their joint project ‘Č’.

Ditto, another current Artist-in-residence, Madrid-born Virginia de Diego, is mainly working with sand. In Nida, she realises a photo-archeological project titled ‘Clear the Path!’.
With sneaking into her artistic work and into her studio, the impression meets both, the space/field is larger than it first looks.
Altogether five light and spacious artist studios are available, pretty 65 sqm on two-storeys, each including an own kitchen and bathroom.
Appealing three-dimensional graphics of the apartments can be found online.

Right: Živilė Etevičiūtė, Artists-in-residency Curator, is taking care of the needs of NAC residents.
Left: A small library provides the residents with thematic literature. A publications list also is available online.

Maybe colony life also means to take a little risk, to err and wander around… on obscure paths in the dark. In other words, to agree with a very special opportunity Nida Art Colony was offering: A night walk with a notably peculiar guide.

Not knowing before that the guide is Estonian – very sympathetic, but reticent. He was just carrying a wooden box on a handle with him, some kind of an old-fashioned suitcase. So it was a silent march on moon-lit tracks… until stopping by the sundial on top of the dune; the enormous monument pointing up to the sky.
The young Estonian positioned straight towards it, knelt down and bent over his wooden case. Strange, crackling sounds in varying sequences broke the silence. Single tones became sonority, Morse code like. A voice whispered: ‘Space interferences – he’s collecting space interferences.’
Ah, all right, no clue what those things sound like, but why not: SPACE INTERFERENCES.

The next morning, Taavi Suisalu ungrudgingly tells about his experiences being a former resident of the colony himself. He set up this project in 2013, working on the agenda’s topic of ‘Critical Tourism’How exactly these sounds were produced – practically only two plates, connected with a wire and a battery, inside an empty box, found at flee market – shall not be revealed. More about Taavi’s ‘Diy Nightseeing Tours’ is to be found on his homepage.

Enough on colony life and space interferences! – How about ISLAND LOVE?

Life on an island, within an art colony, can definitely lead to personal interferences.
But also, and fortunately, there is the potential of connecting people, of magical bonding and even finding eternal love. Well, maybe too much inhalation of fresh Baltic air, but surely this is what a couple falling for each other is seeking for, isn’t it?
At least, when walking down the aisle, heading towards the altar for exchanging the vows… So, this particular wedding took place end of September in Berlin, and

Linas Ramanauskas, Producer/ Administrator at NAC, as well as the good soul of the house – as he is the only one permanently there, was invited. Not only to be a special guest, but also to take care of the music.
Because: Linas is moreover running the radio station NERINGA FM. It is broadcasting from the peninsula, focussing on good music and good news, as he says.

That music has an intrinsic positive and strongly connective power, the team of NAC knows quite well.
To implement the focus of the ResArtis Meeting on Central Asia, the Caucasus and Russia music-wise, the ‘Trans-Oriental Party’ was the best strategy, for sure. Exotic and unfamiliar songs were eurythmically danced away like alphabets – thanks to the DJ set by Jurij Dobriakov, that needs to be mentioned appreciatively.

Thanks a lot to all of you for these great experiences and: geriausi linkėjimai ateičiai!
More info on the Nida Art Colony homepage, on Facebook and Vimeo.

Photos: A.M.; Interview with:
Rasa Antanavičiūtė, Executive Director, Dr. Vytautas Michelkevičius, Artistic Director,
Živilė Etevičiūtė, Artists-in-residency Curator, and Linas Ramanauskas, Producer/Administrator, of Nida Art Colony of the Vilnius Academy of Arts,
Vilnius and Nida, Lithuania, 2nd – 5th October 2014.