Living Walls is an ongoing project by Kaunas Municipality that aims to connect building owners with street artists – just like tinder, but for street art lovers! Some of the drawings end up on the apartment blocks, others on abandoned factories, yet others on garages and fences. However, such projects require a lot of planning, coordination, compromises. Therefore…
“We received a request from street artists to have more spaces where they could express their ideas, so we found two walls in Kaunas where artists could create legally and freely,” Aušrinė Vaščėgaitė, manager of communication projects at the Kaunas City Municipality Public Relations Department, said. One of these walls in Kalniečiai Park was decorated by a group of artists with the first drawings on July 18, during the Graffiti Jam event (another wall is waiting for everyone who wants to create or give it a try, at Europos Avenue in Aleksotas). Participants from Kaunas, Vilnius, Klaipėda, and Druskininkai started their work on a hot Saturday morning and put the finishing touches late in the evening; therefore many Kalniečiai Park visitors were able to see the birth of murals. Looking at the space brought to life for a new purpose, positive emotions and sincere curiosity were reflected in the faces of Kaunas residents and guests of all ages.
During the street art event, the murals were made by Trexus, Karolis Grubis-Dėžutė, Pijus Šematulskis-Duona, Vytautas Stakutis-Trafik, Artur Shirin-Ettoja, Pijus Čeikauskas-Pidžinas, Gabrielis Žvirblis-Gzparrow, Ramūnas On, Martnas Auž, Spray Way team and Povilas Kupčinskas-Povas on fire. They were accompanied by vinyl-spinning DJs, playful children, happy dogs and organizers and partners of the event who sought to ensure the smooth running of the event, including Timotiejus Norvila-Morfai who was pleased to advise the participants if necessary.
Visiting the event at different times, one could notice that there were always plenty of interested passers-by. A group of older, charmingly dressed women was happy that the drawings would bring colour to space where the children’s playground adjoins. Many interested park visitors said they would be glad to see similar works on the walls of their residential buildings. The artists involved also spoke positively of the initiative. P. Kupčinskas, who used a Fumage technique to create a drawing from the ashes, soot, and fire marks, said that he had long seen this wall as a potential space for street art. “I think that the drawings will decorate the park, and at the same time, this wall is an opportunity for young artists to improve themselves in a comfortable environment,” participant of Graffiti Jam shared his thoughts.
Another artist also considered the Living Walls program to be a significant step forward in fostering Kaunas street art and urged to create more similar projects, organize artist residencies and exhibitions. Although the drawings born during the event were undoubtedly the focus, I was also fascinated by the free atmosphere of Graffiti Jam – no signs, flyers, or stands; no one solemnly proclaimed the importance of the organizers’ contribution to this project, it was dominated by relaxation and sincerity. I think that people’s appetite for free, non-binding events is only growing, so it’s always fun to participate in one.
The general Graffiti Jam theme was a park, but all participants visualized it individually, not necessarily through direct associations. “I decided to immortalize the paradox when you are in nature, but you are not enjoying being there and then and, instead, are neck-deep in social networks, trying to show what awesome time you’re having,” Martynas Auž shared his thoughts on the idea of his drawing. A subtle satire of virtual life has become one of the many motifs that have decorated the wall of the Kaunas Park building complex. From stylized faces to flock of crows, from a grenade decorated with plant-based motifs to a thoughtful gorilla; from a car parked in the grass for too long to a fragmented break-dancer, a fun world, multicoloured clouds, moose, frog and bird, and, of course, inscriptions so characteristic of graffiti – a full page might not be enough to list all of the artworks. However, this collage of ideas and visual signs, fascinating with its artistic individualism, is best seen live. It is hard to guess how long will these artworks remain on the wall because at any time other artists can paint over the former designs and create something new.
Albertas, who lives near Kalniečiai Park, was worried about the fate of the murals. The man who will soon be celebrating his seventieth birthday gladly shared his interpretations, admired the process and results of the artists’ work, and said that he hoped these drawings would remain here for a long time to come. However, the unrecorded temporality of the murals is also kind of interesting.
“The distinctive feature of street art is that you never know when will it’s life come to an end. I believe that in this case, the process itself and the opportunity to see the final result is important,” A. Vaščėgaitė said. Changes in the space open for murals can also reflect the flows of topics relevant to artists, their changes, and the development of technical skills. Although it is not difficult to understand the desire to preserve images we like, at the same time, it would be nice if high-quality drawings were to constantly change each other in Kalniečiai Park. In this way, this place would turn from an abandoned characterless wall into a space of constant artistic dialogue.
Article by Justė Vyšniauskaitė for Kaunas Full of Culture magazine, August 2020 (read the full issue here)
Photos by Kipras Štreimikis