The Panevėžys Civic Art Gallery houses about 600 pieces of chamotte ceramics, which were created during the annual ceramics symposiums. This unique and only collection of its kind in Lithuania reflects not only local and transient trends in contemporary ceramics, but also a ceramic commonality through ideas, visual peculiarities, features, and developments of form.
Ceramic seminars for local artists started at the Panevėžys Glass Factory in 1983. One of the instigators of these events was Alvydas Pakarklis, a ceramist, who was able to foresee and realize the potential of the ceramic facility at the factory. He undertook a number of technical experiments with the approval of the factory management and with special support by former director S. Stoškus. The potential of the kiln due to the available temperature (1380 deg. C.) and interior dimensions (height: 1.8 m., floor space: 12 sq. m., and volume: 20 cu. m.) was ideal for executing monumental outdoor ceramic sculpture. Since that time the Glass factory has hosted groups of artists to use its materials and technical equipment during the month of July.
In 1989 foreign artists were invited for the first time and the event was labeled a symposium. In 1990 the Panevėžys Civic Art Gallery undertook responsibility for the planning and organization of the symposiums in co-operation with the Glass factory (later AB “Panevėžio Stiklas”), and from 2006 with the ceramics company UAB “Midenė”. The symposiums have become an annual international event whose reputation keeps growing. The eighteenth past symposiums have hosted 149 artists from 32 countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Finland, France, Hungary, Holland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the USA. The invited artists were offered to create not only pieces for interior but outdoor sculpture as well. On the recommendation of art critics, the selection committee strives to invite original and unique artists from all over the world. Because it is possible to execute pieces that would be difficult in a conventional studio, the number of applicants usually exceeds the number that can be accommodated. New ideas and advice provided by ceramists Rimas VisGirda (USA) and Peteris Martinsons (Latvia) to name a few have helped the growth and reputation of the symposium.
The international center of ceramics being both of cultural and educational importance is beginning to take shape in Panevėžys as in addition to the unique ceramic collection the gallery has accumulated over 3000 books, publications and slides on world ceramics, and the annual symposiums have become a real university for artists to learn new things, share practical experience and exchange unusually multitudinous informational materials.
Besides, during the symposiums the international theoretical conferences are held with participation of the symposium-attending artists and invited art writers, so valuable theoretical summing-up is made. Ceramics conscious people from various cities of Lithuania come to the conferences as well as to the concluding exhibition at the Gallery to see all the works generated during the symposium.
The Gallery makes attempts to constantly form and preserve the field of cultural tension and gravitation both in accumulating art works and presenting the collection to wider audiences The gallery strives not only to show collections but also to initiate or join projects with other exhibition centers in Lithuania and abroad. In this sense, one should mention the projects like Baltic Ceramics’96 in co-operation with the Wellington B. Gray Gallery of the USA East Carolina University in Greenville; “Hidden Pleasures: Lithuanian Style” for NCECA’97 (National Council Education Ceramic Arts, USA, Las Vegas) – the Exhibition of Lithuanian Ceramics, exhibited at Horn Performing Arts Center at the Community College of Southern Nevada and at the Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius, 1997; exhibition “Lithuanian Ceramics”, Seeschlos Art Gallery, Gmunden, Austria, 1999; exhibition “Lithuanian Collection of Ceramics Generated During the Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposiums”, Arka Gallery, Vilnius, 2001; exhibition “Ceramic Collection of Panevėžys Civic Art Gallery” at the Janina Monkutė-Marks Museum-Gallery, Kėdainiai, and in the inside park of the President’s Office, 2003; exhibition “Selected works of the Panevezys International Ceramic Symposiums”, Groate Kerk St. Jacobiparochie, Het Bildt, the Netherlands, 2005, and in the „Lithuanian Center“ of the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania to the Republic of Poland, 2007.
The film titled “Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposium” was presented at the First International Film on Ceramics Festival “Keramos”, Montpellier, France, 1998. The video films “The Thirteenth” (2001), “Mecca of Ceramics” (2002) and “Portraits” (2004) (director/cameraman Jonas Čergelis) were awarded gold medals at the National Amateur Film Festivals (documentaries’ category).
The publicity of the symposium as well as the analysis in Lithuanian as well as in foreign (Australia, Germany, Greece, France, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, USA, etc.) publications devoted to ceramics are the result of the purposeful organizational and methodological activities in this sphere. The symposium organizers have a vision for the development of an international ceramic center that would operate year round. The vision includes the construction of a separate building to exhibit and house the ceramic collection generated by the symposiums and collected by the Gallery.