Development of City Crafts Program (2002 – 2020)

Vilnius Fine Crafts, Ethnographical Trades and Fairs Program commenced in 2002 following the decision of Vilnius City Council aimed to preserve and revitalise historic intangible city craftsmanship traditions of Vilnius. The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguard of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was ratified in Lithuania in 2005. The Program became a good example of implementing the Convention and quality progress of cultural services for citizens and guests.

Crafts galleries-workshops joined the network of cultural centres in Vilnius Old Town. Participants of the Program developed numerous educational programs, practical trainings and exhibitions in the course of twenty years. These activities strengthen cultural traditions, encourage cultural awareness of the citizens, especially children and youth, and improve culture of tourism.

1st stage. 2002 – 2005

14 premises were rented with easy lease by the Municipality for the implementation of the Program in 2002-2005. Participants of the tender for premises presented their professional CVs, activity plans and recommendations, undertook to implement demonstrations of crafts with traditional equipment and materials. Majority of leased premises were in poor physical state; they had to be renovated from municipal and tenants’ funds. Some of the tenants invested quite a lot of their private money, therefore they started activity after 1 – 3 years only. All tenants/participants of the Program had to follow special conditions: use not less than 20% of premises’ square for crafts demonstration (not less than 3 hours a day); exposition of crafts items and organisation of exhibitions. The Agency initiated and helped to prepare information stands (in Lithuanian and English) about the history of the relevant crafts. The Municipality gave the 875 Euros subsidy for each gallery for the establishment of working places, materials and equipment.

2nd stage. 2006 – 2009

Association of Vilnius Fine Crafts was established in 2006 in order to develop common projects and protect business interests. The achievements of the Program were evaluated well and the Municipality rented 5 more premises in 2006 – 2007. The soft lease was prolonged for 10 more years for participants who invested substantial money into their premises renovation. The rent price was lowered to symbolic 1 LTL (0,30 Euros)/sq. m. for all participants of the Program. The Agency initiated participation of craftsmen/participants of the Program in the traditional city fairs – St. Casimir, St. Bartholomew, “European Nations” and “Capitals Days” since 2007. Practical training of crafts started, and later became the obligatory condition to all Program members. The traditional St. Casimir’s craftsmen procession with historic flags was recreated with the help of historians, Centre of Vilnius Ethnic Culture and Academy of Arts in 2008. Special projects „Create Vilnius together“, „Vilnius – European Capital of Culture“, „Cultural Night“ were financially by municipality support and implemented in 2009. Historical guilds’ flags, medieval clothes, tents and decorations were recreated with the help of this support. Historical materials about city crafts were collected, theorical practical educations for children and adults started in 2009. It was decided to present the practical crafts training in all galleries-workshops for free each first Wednesday of the month. The common task of the Agency and the Association of Vilnius Fine Crafts was the quality development of the Program and participation in city’s, national and foreign fairs.

3rd stage. 2010 – 2014

Craftsmen were affected by the economic decline of 2008-2010. Educational activities and participation in public events were not profitable, though public interest grew, cultural awareness and creativity was rising. Educational activities (projects, publications and exhibitions) dominated during 2010-2014. A mobile exhibition “Research and promotion of Vilnius traditional crafts” was travelling through Vilnius and other Lithuanian schools. Cooperation with academic institutions started. The project “Innovative models for practical trainings of students” financed by EU and the Government of Lithuania was implemented in 2010-2012. 12 different training models for different types of crafts were created and implemented in 7 galleries-workshops.
The Agency together with craftsmen and 15 partners from 11 Europeans countries took part in the EU INTERREG IVC Project “INOCRAFTS: Innovation of Crafts sector” in 2012-2014. The experience of Vilnius Fine Crafts, Ethnographical Trades and Fairs Program was selected as one of exemplary case studies and presented in Florence, Barcelona, Burgos, Reims and Bistrica. 14 participants of the Program have got Certificates of the National Heritage in 2010-2013. In co-operation with Vilnius Tourism Information Centre more than 200 practical trainings were organised for tourists in 2014. Craftsmen galleries developed new social initiatives – educational activities for elderly, in hospitals and social institutions for disabled persons since 2013. Few disabled persons were employed in craftsmen galleries-workshops.

4th stage. 2015 – 2020

Crafts’ educational and practical training activities were continued and developed. Vilnius Municipality started to increase the rent prices in 2017. Prices of materials used for practical trainings also increased, so, craftsmen organised less of free educations and trainings. One third of participants started to implement applied research, collection of data and recreation of authentic heritage crafts items. This professional activity stimulated creative interpretation of old crafts in the context of modern culture. The program “Innovative models for practical trainings of students” was amended in 2017. Students have practical trainings in 6 galleries-workshops once per year. Jewellers, ceramics, textile craftsmen trained several pupils of each field who already work independently in Vilnius. Trainings for foreign students who came under ERASMUS program started. 6 galleries-workshops take part in the national educational program “Cultural Pass” since 2018; number of children who took part in education exercises increased (more than 500 children in 2019).
The European Artistic Crafts Days (EACD) initiated by the French National Council of Crafts (INMA) took part in Vilnius each year since 2015. 14 Vilnius’ crafts galleries-workshops, participants of the Program were most active partners of EACD. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, EACD had to be cancelled in 2020, but 5 short films about craftsmen and their practises were created and e-promoted instead traditional EACD events. St. Bartholomew Fair celebrated for the 9th time in 2020 showcases reconstructed crafts, arts and guild traditions of the Late Medieval and the Renaissance periods. The backbone of the Fair participants consists of the Program members. The Fair is considered as one of the most interesting and publicly attractive cultural events of the capital. It’s recognised as a living Lithuanian national heritage.


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