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Acknowledgement by Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania
Acknowledgement by Lithuanian Association of Landscape Architects
Open-air museum EUROPOS PARKAS in the River Neris valley
Report of Gintaras Karosas in a seminar to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the European Landscape Convention
Europos Parkas stretches across the right wooded valley of the River Neris, in the northern part of Vilnius District. Here, the landscape is prevailed by a deep terrace sandy valley and a rolling sandy level. The landscape is distinguished by a picturesque waviness and hills, the relief falling from 30 meters (116.0–146.6). Here, you can find growing trees and bushes that are so typical to Lithuania: pines, spruce, birches, oaks, aspens, walnut trees, etc. The soil consists of moraine clay loam, clay sunken in the water or clay loan and mixed sand.
The landscape of an open-air museum is an example of creative activities of the nature (forest) and the man, an example of harmonious formation with the artistic meaning. Europos Parkas is a valuable ensemble of the world’s art and nature, adjusted to the recreation of people, providing aesthetic education to the society and developing personality of culture. The landscape could be described as a symbiosis of the nature, the art and the man. The aim of the open-air museum is an evolutionary landscape formation process leading to a sustainable and professional result, a high artistic level and aesthetics. The landscape as a whole is continuously enriched with works of art, thus creating always new and awe-inspiring aesthetic quality.
The landscape stands out by its unique history – its roots go back to the desire of a young, 19-year-old artist to create a space near Vilnius, which would express the geographical centre of Europe in the language of art and become the identity of a modern Lithuania. The artist chose the creation of this landscape as his life credo.
Europos Parkas is created on a sensual basis. Its author watches the landscape every day, goes into its essence, genesis, structure and visual aspects, knows its plastic, understands its processes and respects the history of change. Instead of the formal result, these methods help to achieve the actual quality of landscape, the harmonious consonance between works of art and the environment and among works of art as such. The author takes long-term actions by living in the landscape and for the landscape.
Europos Parkas is situated in 55 ha of forest. It is a home for around 120 works of fine arts created by Lithuanian and foreign artists, including the well-know creators from around the world. Before Europos Parkas, the landscape consisted of a rather unremarkable shabby forest, where one part of the territory was swampy, the other sandy and dry.
The landscape of Europos Parkas is a one-piece, sustainable choreography of individual parts, with a wide range of means of expression that is able to satisfy the man’s desire for knowledge and to encourage the man’s spiritual development. These objectives have been achieved with a help of rearrangement methods. The landscape has been formed as a massive sculptural relief to provide the artistic landscape with the impression of musicality and surprise, and allow the audience to experience the joy of discovery.
Time signs are also important. We have preserved imprints of cultural activities engaged by people from the past in this territory: fragments of foundations of homesteads, stones marking boundaries, etc.
The landscape of Europos Parkas is very aesthetic. The qualitative dimension is being created by using the type of formation chosen as well as applying principles of constant improvement, levelling and renewal. Every year, new exhibits are added to the set of fine arts. It is not a mere presentation or exhibition of one piece of art. The prime aim is to plant it in the natural environment. The artistic variety is revealed through many forms and materials, creative landscaping solutions presupposing a subtle relation between a work of fine arts and the spectator.
We first transform the areas with the lowest aesthetic quality and/or unremarkable expression. In the evolution of the landscape of Europos Parkas, certain areas that stood out with the highest artistic quality were later overtaken by other spaces in the park. In the end, it was returned to the refinement of individual parts of the formerly formed landscape. Individual spaces of Europos Parkas are in a peculiar competition the result of which determines the aesthetic level of the whole complex. We are going towards our goals by thoughtful and honest nurturance of the natural environment, its idiosyncrasy and nature rather than by radical rearrangement of the landscape, as it sometimes happens.
Landscape conversation works have been performed, earth in washes where erosion of the soil occurs has been reinforced. The complex visiting rules provide for environmental care: it is not allowed to smoke, make bonfires, operate cars, etc. in the territory.
The fostering and nurturing of the natural environment of the landscape has had positive impact on its ecologic state. Most of the infrastructure solutions in Europos Parkas are ecologic. When building new works of art or adjusting the environment to visiting, the focus is on environmentally friendly materials and technologies. The majority of the roads and paths in Europos Parkas are not paved. They are sown with grass, thus calling attention to the nature, creating the sense of disengagement and preventing erosion.
Management and planning works include the implementation of new works of art, adaptation of the environment to works of art and the creation of recreational infrastructure. To this end, green paths are built; benches, information signs and other objects are designed so that they are suitable for recreation and harmoniously grow into the natural environment. The building of the educational centre has grown into the environment of Europos Parkas so much that some visitors call it simply a grass hill or a rock, others see it as a gigantic sculpture the lines and forms of which are so close to the nature and the roof is covered by a grass floor.
Management and planning works have only positive effect on the ecologic and cultural value of the landscape. The park is always maintained, sanitation cuttings performed, low-value vegetation cleared.
Europos Parkas is a public open-air museum where visitors are welcomed all year round. Culturally, the landscape of Europos Parkas is of high importance: specialists consider it one of the most expressive open-air spaces of modern art in the world. Every year, the park is visited by 40–60 thousand guests from Lithuania and abroad. Famous art expert Amy Dempsey, in her travel book “Destination Art” where the world’s most important art destinations are presented, introduces Eurpos Parkas as a place which makes Lithuania worth visiting. A survey of art experts conducted by British daily newspaper The Independent ranked Europos Parkas as the 30th best museum in the world among such museums as the Hermitage, the Louvre Museum, the Centre Pompidou and many others.
The society, including pupils, the local community, employees of other organisations and companies, has been involved in the formation of the territorial complex in the landscape of Europos Parkas. We are organising educational events where the public can not only contribute to the landscaping in Europos Parkas, but also hear and discuss about its creation. The Skirgiškės community settled in the neighbourhood in cooperation with the museum has held over ten events in Europos Parkas and carried out different social initiatives (“Give Your Angel to Lithuania”, “The Largest Flag” competition, etc.), organises voluntary landscaping works on an annual basis, etc.
Public Institution EUROPOS PARKAS is one of the first non-profit non-governmental (NGO) organisations in Lithuania. It was established at the beginning of 1993 once the legal framework for NGOs had been created. Unfortunately, Lithuania still has not solved the financing of NGO museums. The landscape of Europos Parkas is created using proceeds from ticket and service sales, with a help of our sponsors.
Information on works carried out in Europos Parkas is presented in national and regional press, television, radio, in various events and public presentations of new works of art. We are also engaged in “share your experience” measures – national and EU/EC-funded projects. It is worth mentioning such international projects as Outdoor Sculpture Parks: Building Bridges To Contemporary Art Education In Schools (partners: NMAC fund (Spain), Arte in Erba (Italy), Yorkshire Sculpture Park (United Kingdom) and BSR Museums co-operation (partners: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Denmark), Kiasma Museum of Modern Art (Finland), MONA museum (Estonia), Wanĺs Foundation (Sweden), Yorkshire Sculpture Park (United Kingdom).
The landscape formation also involves other artists whose works are exhibited in Europos Parkas. Over a hundred artists have participated in 12 annual international symposiums, plainairs, conferences and other events held in Europos Parkas. Artists are invited to express their opinion on the localisation of works of fine arts, they are involved in discussions about other landscape-related issues.
We believe that the participation of the society in the landscape formation has increased their awareness and comprehension. The power of Europos Parkas as an example of is highly important. It has given impulses to create and/or maintain new landscapes. The history of the creation of Europos Parkas is also an example of how an unknown godforsaken forest may turn into a world-class landscape which identifies modern Lithuania. All of this can be done by consistent and honest work as well as cooperation of different society groups (artists, local community, sponsors, etc.).
Artists who participated in events held in Europos Parkas have changed their view on the importance of landscape, they have discovered new inspirations. American sculptor Myrna Orsini was so affected by the example of Europos Parkas that she started creating a sculpture park Monarch in her country. Some artists have offered their town municipalities to establish public art parks, others are forming their living or creative environment to make it more artistic.
People come from all over the world to Lithuania just for the landscape of Europos Parkas. The work results have also a positive impact on municipalities of Vilnius City and Vilnius District. More and more local and foreign tourists visit these municipalities to see the landscape of Europos Parkas, thus increasing their prestige and budget. Tourists use accommodation, catering, tourism, entertainment and other services in Vilnius City and District. This not only supplements the national budget with taxes paid for such services, but also creates and/or helps to preserve jobs. On average, Europos Parkas has 18 employees to improve the social environment and welfare of people (Vilnius District has a high unemployment rate). We have also inspired initiatives to create other parks, such as Žalgiris, Grūtas, Vilnoja, etc., in Lithuania.
We intend to maintain the continuity of landscape management and improvement measures in Europos Parkas and to carry out maintenance works in the complex. We are committed to do it by the mission of our institution which is creating the landscape – an open air museum. (To create the top-quality, efficient, always improving and renewing geographical centre of Europe strengthened by the language of art, an open-air museum of contemporary and modern art, where works created by the most famous artists are a part of the artistically formed landscape, which serves for aesthetic education of the society, and contributes to the development of cultural tourism in the country and the creation of a positive image).
Artists of the landscape of Europos Parkas,
President of Public Institution EUROPOS PARKAS
19 October 2012