As part of the LitPro Educational School on Urban Studies organized by the European Humanities University (EHU), students from several countries participated in a week-long program titled “City, Language, and Identity." During outdoor workshops, students expressed an interest in developing artwork based upon such themes as "Tourism," "The Interaction of Losing, Finding, and Exchanging Articles," "The Russian Pop Culture and the Community in Vilnius," "City Lyrics," and "City of Audio and Visual Rhythms." The results of the students’ efforts were displayed at the Belarusian Human Rights Center in Vilnius.
One group of students developed the idea of placing a chest of drawers labeled "Lost and Found" in a conspicuous location in the center of Vilnius, where passersby could leave found items and search for lost items. Quite unexpectedly, the chest of drawers became an impromptu message center for citizens.
Public reaction was such that some participants are planning to implement a similar initiative in Poland. Eduardo, a Spanish student involved in the lost-and-found project, said, “Some people walked right past the chest of drawers, while others would carefully inspect it and check the contents of each drawer with great interest. What we found most amazing was that people were more inclined to leave things in the chest of drawers than to take something out of it." The items most often placed in the drawers were coins and cigarette lighters, but some contributors left behind their original drawings and poems.
Another group of students decided to create a book containing photographs of a specific kind of graffiti seen on the streets of Vilnius. Under the supervision of urban sociologist Veronika Urbonaite-Barkauskiene, students from Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Hungary visited several communities in the Vilnius area (namely, Zverynas, the Old Town, Naujininkai, Naujoji Vilnia, and Antakalnis) and photographed graffiti depicting animals. From these pictures, the students created a graphic novel telling the story of a cat who arrives in Vilnius from Outer Space, seeking persons of different nationalities.
Ms. Urbonaite-Barkauskiene said, "Because different people see different things, the process of gathering graffiti images with foreign students was a great opportunity to see the city and its art through the eyes of other people." She added, "EHU emphasizes practical experience, and that’s why our workshops were devoted to ‘hands-on’ activities. This approach enabled the students to forge a close bond with the city."
Three other projects were developed: an audio-visual depiction of the atmosphere of Vilnius; a sociological study of Russian pop culture in Vilnius; and creation of a board game installed in the Old Town that informally acquainted tourists with Vilnius.
The LitPro project is supported by the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its goal is to acquaint Belarusian EHU students living in Lithuania with local Lithuanian culture and language. The 2012 Summer School “Language, City, Identity” had the greatest number of international attendees in the program’s history.
The European Humanities University, a private, nonprofit institution of higher education, is celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Founded in 1992 in Minsk, EHU was transferred to Vilnius in 2004, when the government of Belarus closed its Minsk campus. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs and encourages research in the humanities and social sciences. EHU current enrollment is approximately 2,000 students, most of whom are Belarusians.