My Vilnius introduces you to people for whom the city has become the place they call home. It’s all about the ordinary lives of extraordinary people and vice versa. These stories cover their favourite hidden gems and sights, as well as detours and discoveries in life.
Austė and Kristijonas set an example of how you can turn a passion project into an actual gallery despite having a busy life. For that, you need a dash of grit, a vision you strongly believe in and an innate desire to share with others. Combining all these ingredients, the couple have recently opened an indoor art space, 8 Akys ir Ausys, in the new town of Vilnius.
VP: Tell us a bit about yourself—how did it all start?
Austė & Kristijonas: For Auste, the start was using her home walls as canvas and for Kristijonas, it was street art. The beginning stages also included an art camp in Žemaitija back in 2006-9, which was initiated, curated and developed by Bronius Grušas.
Surrounded by the smell of oil paints, poetry books and Saulius Mykolaitis’ music, all mixed together, creating a one-of-a-kind experience in our youth. During which, when Kristijonas and I returned from our trip to Barcelona, we taught children painting and mosaics at the camp.
Already back then, we tended to experiment and enjoyed sharing our experiences. That magical sense of togetherness and creative atmosphere at the camp contributed to our perception and sensitivity to the visuals and the people we met.
Curiosity about the world and the awakening of the imagination accompanies us from a very early age. Ever since then, wherever life has taken us, we’ve remained open and positive. This way, we have found ourselves where we should have been—among people who share a flair for life.
Originally, we are from Vilnius. So, we used to spend a lot of time in art spaces and galleries here. The habit continues up to this day, just that now we take our children together. When travelling, we always try to get to know the local art scene—visit museums, galleries or discover non-traditional spots.
Austė, who graduated from law and mediation, started as a volunteer, and has been working for several years at a cultural event in Lithuania: the Vilnius International Film Festival “Kino pavasaris”. It’s no secret we love movies, especially their unique experience in cinema and the whole atmosphere of film festivals. Kristijonas is a graphic designer who has worked in creative agencies for a long time. Today, he is part of the Vinted team.
We have been together for more than 12 years, and we have learnt a lot during that time. We actualise and give meaning to these experiences as well as our hobbies in the form of a new activity: our newly-opened independent Gallery 8 EYES AND EARS.
One of Austė’s greatest strengths is communication with people and creative writing, so she devotes time to our image-shaping and communication. Kristijonas creates the gallery’s visual identity, together with exhibition design and technical execution.
Our children are also part of the process, from helping to hammer a tiny nail or two to being dedicated participants of all our exhibitions and events. As they watch everything up close, they get acquainted with various forms of arts and mediums. Most importantly, the little ones see that you can gradually implement your ideas if you believe in them, actively pursue and share with others.
VP: Have you always wanted to run a gallery?
Austė: For a long time, we carried this same thought with us and continuously dreamt about it. Yet, while building up life for ourselves and doing creative work, we fulfilled ourselves perfectly. So, finding a specific physical place and coming up with its activity started off rather spontaneously.
When raising our second child, I was pushing a baby stroller one day, and suddenly, I saw a space that was just the right place. From then, with its development, we took everything gradually, step by step every day. We didn’t have a precise plan. But we were open and empathetic during the process.
After the gallery’s door first opened, we realised how people lack “different” spaces where you feel welcomed. With opening our venue, we’ve aspired to fill this niche. Since we live in Naujamiestis ourselves, we also wanted to bring more culture closer to our home. This is a family gallery where life boils, and everything is real here.
When you share with others, what you get back multiplies. And it’s just pure fun doing what we do! We strive to make art and sincere conversations accessible to everyone whenever it is needed the most.
VP: I love the name of the gallery and its concept. Can you share with us how you came up with both of them?
Austė & Kristijonas: Naming our gallery was quite a challenge. We had written many words, phrases, sentences that we thought would have described our place. But they all seemed so vague. So we decided to revisit our roots once again, our values, and at the stage of our lives, we are currently at.
Our son and daughter have always travelled, observed art and experienced life with us. And the way our children perceive all of these sensations is through listening with their ears and watching with their eyes. All in all, through 8 EYES AND EARS, to be precise.
So the concept evolved from our personal take and perspective. We are open and inviting people. It was clear that we wanted to share the space with the community and people around us. That’s why Gallery 8 EYES AND EARS is a place filled with emotions and experiences.
All visitors are welcome, and it’s either us or the artists or both who meet and greet people. We try to create value for the community by presenting art in all of its shapes and make it accessible to all—children, seniors, locally, and internationally.
VP: How would you describe the exhibitions and type of art that can be found at your gallery?
Austė & Kristijonas: Together with the artists, we create inclusive and experiential exhibitions or events. We present both the young generation of contemporary artists as well as well-established artists. Despite being only 19m² in size, the space is very transformative.
Due to the limited size, we make the most of every centimetre of it. When no room is left inside, we then expand onto the rooftop or the inner yard. This expansion gives room for concerts, poetry readings, community gatherings and educational events.
VP: What are your three go-to spots in Vilnius?
Austė & Kristijonas: When talking about the community that surrounds us, we have quite a few gems here in our neighbourhood of Naujamiestis (en. New town). The first and closest thing to us is Donde Tacos. A place that always comforts your belly.
Naujamiestis has a lot of artisan cafés like Backstage Cafe, 16i Cafe, Taste Map Coffee Roasters and Crooked Nose & Coffee Stories. So we are always just a few steps away from a great cup of coffee or a freshly roasted bag of coffee beans.
A small secret kept nearby us is a supposed to be built Naujamiestis church that was never realized, situated on the corner of Vytenio and Vivulskio streets. It was created by a famous Lithuanian architect, Antanas Vivulskis, but the project was stopped by the Soviets. The project was turned into an administrative building. There is a small monument for the author in the shape of a never-built church.
Urban is the word that describes life in Naujamiestis. And so, we seek a retreat in some of the greener spots in Vilnius. Our favourite nature oasis is Sapiegos Park in Antakalnis. Both kids love the playgrounds there. During the warmer months, there is a pop-up public library where we read books in the shade of tall trees.
Not to mention the communal place-restaurant Miesto Laboratorija where you feel at home. We often visit a café called Taste Map, which is a perfect spot to enjoy a slow cup of coffee. And our best friends live in the same neighbourhood, Antakalnis, too. So usually, the park becomes our primary meeting spot.
Vingis Park is also lovely, lush and large size-wise. There, we have our secret place. It’s the sleeping lion’s sculpture, symbolizing peace and dedicated to war heroes. Our family also likes visiting Skalvija film theatre; visiting the sculpture by Ksenija Jaroševaitė 23 psalmė at MO garden, and sipping on a freshly squeezed juice at Jelena’s stand in Halė’s market.
VP: Where can we find you in the digital sphere?