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Artscape celebrates 10 years: achievements, leadership lessons and new ambitions

Artscape celebrates 10 years: achievements, leadership lessons and new ambitions

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, “Artscape” is not celebrating a decade of time, but a decade of projects, work and change. For the past two decades, human rights, humanitarian and social impact NGOs around the world have been criticized for their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing world, their outdated communication strategies and their inability to create a lasting impact in societies. And organizations working in the field of arts and culture face a poor funding model. Art as such has become somewhat neglected from an investment point of view, as it is becoming popular worldwide to discover the value of art through the prism of other industries: science communication, visualization of digital solutions, and commercial creativity. That is why we are proud to have spent 10 years building an organization that has sought solutions and overcome great challenges in finding the media and contexts to increase access to culture and art, to empower up-and-coming artists and to change social reality.

“Artscape” was founded by theatre managers Aistė Ulubey and Kristina Savickienė with the idea of creating an innovative cultural organization that would help to unleash the potential of artists in the arts field and create social innovation. In the first years of its existence, the organisation grew in collaboration with the contemporary performing arts field, with many partnerships being established. “Artscape has provided management services and collaborated with VŠĮ Dance Theatre “Airos”, Rūta Butkus, Lora Juodakaite, B&B (Greta Grinevičiūtė, Agnietė Lisičkinaitė), VŠĮ Theatre “Labas”, VŠĮ “Teatro gatvė”, the Association of Culture Managers, and many other artists. We have also carried out visual arts projects. A couple of examples: “Oslo Space”, curated by Uliyona Odisharia, and “9 Lives of an Artist”, curated by Vaidos Stepanovaitis.

“Communication for Development – Com4Dev” training / photo by A. Eikevičiūtė

Soon after, the organization started to develop projects that responded to the lack of competencies in the field of theatre training and the management of arts and culture projects. Starting its 6th year, “Artscape” began to develop an education and competence development initiative. In order to provide performing artists with new skills to be applied in practice and to get acquainted with the latest trends, we organized the Summer Theatre School and the Applied Theatre Week together with the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre. And we developed the competencies of cultural managers in the Project Manager course organized by “Artscape”, which has over 80 “Artscape” alumni in 9 editions.

Since 2016, “Artscape” has been working with refugees and migrants arriving in Lithuania. The activities, a parsiday camp for young people led to projects released with the National Drama Theatre: “Departures – Arrivals”, “Dreamland”. Artistic activities with refugees became a regular activity of the organization and later developed into a programme of social integration and cultural education.

Although Kristina Savickienė had to take a different path, Aistė Ulubey, who stayed at the helm of “Artscape”, has never wavered in the face of difficult times for the organization in terms of the significance of “Artscape” and the perspectives it has in creating opportunities for transformation, change and learning for Lithuanian society, and for the immigrant communities in empowering themselves, their stories and their futures through the use of art and access to culture.

Workshops at the Pabradė Refugee Centre / Photo by A. Černiauskas

“Although my path has taken me elsewhere, I am very happy and proud of what Aistė and the whole “Artscape” team are doing. Art changes lives, it changes social environments, it is as necessary as air, it is even more necessary for those who have nothing – for those who have left their homes and are now stuck in refugee camps or on the border. In those ten years, I have seen how Artscape projects have made a real difference to people’s lives – both the artists and the people who have joined to create with them. ” – shares Kristina Savickienė.

Indeed, art changes lives. The New York Times has been running a series of articles for several years in which writers, artists, philosophers, and entrepreneurial thinkers answer the question “Why does art matter?” In one of the articles, David Zwirner, an art manager who works in New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong to promote professional art, writes that machines and technology improve our lives from a practical perspective, but it is art and culture that give meaning to our existence. Art has been around longer than the history of humanity. “Appreciating art is a communal experience. Art brings us together – when we go to museums, openings, concerts, films, or to the ballet or theatre. Sometimes we argue and disagree about artistic expression, but we never go to war over it. I am in favor of art and culture being the most important driver in the process of understanding each other.” – writes David Zwirner.

“Artscape” also uses art and culture to create safe spaces where people begin to understand themselves and each other better. We believe that the growth of the organization is due to finding the right environments where art can play a social role – maturing individuals and fostering communal experiences. But for an NGO to grow and thrive, it is not enough to discover an area where social change is needed. The leaders of such organizations work with limited resources in a constantly changing political and economic context. An organization only moves forward when its leaders provide the team with a clear vision and direction and illustrate it with action.

Refugee Day celebrations in Vilnius / Photo by A. Černiauskas

Ieva Šlechatvičiūtė, Head of Artscape’s Cultural Education and Social Integration Programme, reflects on the organisation’s leadership, “One of the main reasons why “Artscape” is celebrating a beautiful anniversary today is because it has a charismatic leader, a sharp mind, a fearless traveller, a true leader who is a pleasure to learn from. Everyone working together sees this example, and strives to keep the bar high so that “Artscape” continues to be a leading arts and culture organisation working in the field of social protection. At “Artscape” I am constantly learning – I feel I am getting better with every project and stronger with every challenge.”

In the last 5 years “Artscape” has participated in several conferences, shared knowledge and contributed to research in the arts. In 2017, the Social Impact Conference was organised together with the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, and the Theatre Marketing Study was carried out together with the KOG Institute and “Kūrybinės Jungtys”. In 2019, we became partners with the British Council, the national minority youth project “NAMAI” was launched, and the international programme “Baltic Theatre School” (BATS) opened its doors.

Over the past few years, “Artscape” has strengthened and refined four active and impactful programmes covering artistic production, competency development, fostering community interaction, integration and cultural education. As we celebrate our achievements over the past decade, we remember that we have great work ahead of us to create the right conditions for art to change the world. As part of our work planning, we have set out three strategic directions for the organisation for 2022-2024:

I. We will strengthen our organisational performance to be one of the few organisations in Lithuania that effectively empowers professional artists to show and install art in public and to increase its accessibility in society.

With the experience we already have in project preparation and implementation, we will be able to promote and strengthen the accessibility and enhancement of culture
in the field of cultural accessibility and accessibility, we are ready to optimize the processes of creating professional performing arts productions
through the development of artists’ competencies, cooperation and project activities

II. We will apply our experience and look for new productive solutions through professional arts for social change in Lithuania.

We will consolidate the importance of artistic activities and education as a medium of communication in contexts where communication is not possible or difficult due to linguistic or cultural differences. We will create safe spaces for self-expression, bringing communities together, and fostering social tolerance.

III. We will grow as a modern impact-driven organisation that continuously develops its organisational competencies and applies the principles of development communication in its business processes.

As an organisation, we will strive to develop the competences of our team members as well as the overall organisational competencies. We will increase Artscape’s visibility and public engagement with the organization. We will integrate the principles of development communication with a view to becoming an integral part of the global debate on the role of art in shaping social processes in human and societal life.

Lithuanian language workshops with the VA Caritas Foreigner Integration Programme / photo by A. Eikevičiūtė

NGOs face local and global challenges: the social processes shaped by climate change, criticism of government interference, and the problems of strategic planning in societies undergoing rapid transformation. Organizations capable of turning these challenges into opportunities are growing in strength. Others are declining. Recognizing opportunities requires sustained leadership, flexible teams and a clear vision for the future. With these elements continuously enriched and strengthened, we look forward to the next birthdays, marking even more work done, lessons learned and goals set!

January 7, 2022