News, Creative missions

“Artscape” invites to an exhibition of toys created by Ukrainian children

“Artscape” invites to an exhibition of toys created by Ukrainian children

On October 24th, in the exhibition halls of the Vilnius Academy of Arts (VDA) “Titanikas,” the art agency “Artscape” invited residents of Vilnius and city guests to the opening of the exhibition “Toys That Live”.

In the unique exhibition “Toys That Live” organized by the art agency “Artscape,” 10 toys created by Ukrainian children were presented. These children, who come from the regions of Kharkiv, Luhansk, Vinnytsia, Mykolaiv, and Ternopil in Ukraine, currently live in the Kaunas district, specifically in Vilkija, within the Ukrainian community.

At the opening, visitors were greeted by the entire creative team and the artists, toy makers – the children Yaroslava, Izabella, Milana, Angelina, Kirill, and Rima, who had come from Vilkija specially for this event.

Ilmė Vyšniauskaitė / Artscape

The right to childhood joy

Toys created by Ukrainian children serve as a symbol, indicating that children from whom the right to childhood was taken away and who had to face the greatest challenges beyond a child’s comprehension can find the key to play, experimentation, and the joy of creativity.

“Every day, numerous children are forced to leave their homes and familiar surroundings due to ongoing disputes and war conflicts. According to UNHCR data, just due to the war in Ukraine, more than 1.6 million children have been forced to leave their permanent residence and their homeland. These are incredible numbers, and behind each of them is a real story,” says Raimonda Lebelionytė-Alseikienė, the integration projects manager at the “Artscape” art agency.

The “Creative Missions” program of the “Artscape” art agency, supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Lithuanian Council for Culture, aims to create a safe space for children, women, and men in migrant accommodation facilities. By regularly visiting centers and organizing art and education activities, the program seeks to demonstrate solidarity, provide support, offer emotional reinforcement, and involve residents in creative processes. This year, “Creative Missions” educators regularly visit 400 unaccompanied, vulnerable children separated from their parents from Ukraine, Iraq, Tajikistan, Belarus, Syria, and Russia, including those with restricted mobility rights. In 2023, 308 missions have already been carried out in 8 accommodation facilities.

Ilmė Vyšniauskaitė / Artscape

According to Lebelionytė-Alseikienė, it is our duty as caregivers to ensure that children’s lives do not stop and that they are welcomed and feel safe wherever they go. “Children need to keep growing, learning, creating, discovering new things. Children must be given every possible opportunity to continue being children. We at „Artscape“, together with artists and art therapists from different fields, try to create a comfortable and safe environment for vulnerable children who come to Lithuania and encourage them to play, to be curious, to create, to be naughty,” says the specialist.

Create, not destroy

“This exhibition is proof of how resilient children can be. Having seen and felt things that an adult, let alone a child, shouldn’t have to experience, they have found the strength to create these toys, many of which exude play and experimentation and have become true works of art. It’s wonderful to observe this and touch upon this greatness,” says Ieva Keliauskaitė-Mališauskė, the education coordinator at the “Artscape” art agency and curator of the exhibition.

In the Ukrainian community located in Vilkija, in the Kaunas district (KTMC), there are 100 Ukrainians, including 30 children of various ages. These people have come from various regions of Ukraine, including Kharkiv, Luhansk, Vinnytsia, Mykolaiv, and Ternopil. As part of the “Creative Missions” conducted by the “Artscape” art agency, a series of 10 sessions took place, led by educator, artist, and art therapist Greta Duobienė.

It provided a safe space for children to create, with a strong emphasis on experiencing the joy of creativity. Children were encouraged to experiment, break away from everyday life, and lose themselves in the process. Together with educator Greta, the children drew, created miniature houses, painted the walls of their sports hall, and crafted toys. Ten of these toys, such as “Saulės mergaitė,” “Guculka Ksenija,” or “Milašečka,” can be seen in the exhibition.

Ilmė Vyšniauskaitė / Artscape

Speaking about the process, G. Duobienė emphasizes the importance of letting children explore on their own. “I started educational art games with children from Ukraine in the summer of 2022 in Kulautuva. This summer of 2023, we continued the games in Vilkija with another group of children. As an artist, I think it’s important to let children try out techniques and materials they haven’t tried before, in order to get them interested and motivated to create. This year, the idea came up to go beyond a piece of paper and draw on fabric, and then turn the drawings into toys. The children really enjoyed being involved in the whole process of creating the toys. It is symbolic that against the backdrop of destruction, they are building, creating and reclaiming the joy of creation”, says the art therapist.

October 24th, the day of the exhibition opening, is the United Nations International Day. The exhibition conveys the message that every child has the right to be a child: to play, create, dream, and go to school. Through its activities, “Artscape” aims to contribute to ensuring this right by creating a safe space filled with creativity.

Ilmė Vyšniauskaitė / Artscape

The exhibition will be open until November 11th at the VDA exhibition halls “Titanikas,” located at Maironio g. 3, Vilnius. Admission is free.

More information about the exhibition can be found on the “Artscape” art agency’s Facebook page. The organizer is the “Artscape” art agency, with Ieva Keliauskaitė-Mališauskė as the curator and Greta Duobienė as the educator-artist. The participating artists include children: Yaroslava, Tamila, Izabella, Milana, Angelina, Kirill, and Rima.

Partners of the exhibition include UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), the Lithuanian Council for Culture, VDA exhibition halls “Titanikas,” and the accommodation site for the Ukrainian community at Kaunas Technology Training Center.

Special thanks to the individuals without whom this exhibition would not have happened: Alai Fychak, Dalytė Rudzevičienė, and Dr. Vidas Poškus.

October 26, 2023