The first to succumb to an invasion of artists was the open port territory in Andrejsala, a district rich in vividly picturesque industrial buildings and plants so appealing to the artistic eye. It didn't take long for the Naive Art Museum, countless studios of young artists, architects and photographers as well as the headquarters of other creative groups to settle down here. Andrejsala is a popular venue of festivals and other social gatherings; the construction of the building of a contemporary art museum is scheduled for foreseeable future.
In the south end of Andrejsala, the former two-storey office building of the herring grading plant facing the Swedbank administrative building houses the A. Rezidences artists' residence and exhibition space in one - a place that offers visiting artists an opportunity to exhibit the works created during their stay.
The whole of Andrejsala is scattered with artists' studios, both open to the public and strictly private. The Peahen silk screening and painting studio is the 'creative island within island' opened by Patrīcija Brekte, an active participant of local and international exhibitions of graphic art and painting, as well as art symposia. The studio often opens its doors to representatives of other creative professions; it is here that the backgrounds, details and main characters of the Woman and the Wind animation film (2010) were developed in the watercolour technique (www.peahen.eu).
Within spitting distance from Peahen, the painter Ritums Ivanovs has set up his studio; it is quite possibly exactly here, in Andrejsala, that his paintings sold at the prestigious Sotheby's auction house were created in a completely individual painting manner: his works remind of a picture on a tatty screen or a photograph made from a scratched negative. According to the artist, the whole thing has nothing to do with industrial environment: the general picture in Andrejsala is quite peaceful and relaxed, and where else in Riga would you see such an expanse of free sky?! (www.ritumsivanovs.com).
Cinema is among the things which are born under the free sky of Andrejsala: the film director Aija Bley whose filmography has been growing in size since 1992 in the genres of documentary, animation and drama feature film, has set up her Bley Film Studio; its speciality is commissioned informative films, documentaries and TV programmes (www.bley.lv). Whether film and theatre really live hand in hand, that's a matter of opinion; one thing, however, is clear: they do peacefully co-exist within the territory of this creative island. A former electric shop - the part that used to serve as shower rooms for the Andrejsala workers - is now home to the Teatr Sna (Dream Theatre) creative theatre group that uses every possible art form in their productions:
From literature, dance and movement, to video, photography, music and painting
Some of the most extravagant, eccentric and exciting islanders/Andrejsalites are definitely the artist Kārlis Ādminis and his colleagues who work at the garage that is now the workshop/gallery of the Komutators creative group: Ādminis' installations, silver casts and objects were featured at his latest solo exhibition in 2010. His 2007 freakbike and 2008 Muscle-Powered Mechanisms shows also ran to great acclaim (web.me.com/komutators).
The HES freakbike workshop is an equally intriguing venue: it is here that kinetic energy-powered sculptures which also double as an ordinary bike are built from old bicycle parts, scrap metal, cut-off metal pipes and any other junk. The HES people are free spirits who never take offence when their creations are referred to as freakbikes, derided or even loathed. HES is not giving up on reinventing the proverbial wheel (in this case - bike) and have even founded the Riders of the Apocalypse association of freak-bicyclists (www.freakbike.lv).
Andrejsala is also home to RIJADA, one of the best-known Latvian design brands - an open arena to designers, artists and creative experts from Latvia and whole of Europe. The RIJADA design projects are defined by diversity of materials and personal approach and singularity of concept; RIJADA sees its mission in successful communication with the general public - educating, informing and developing an understanding of design-orientated thinking (www.rijada.lv).
Meanwhile the Angel Glass Design brand of glass and crystal design is represented at the Paris Maison&Object, the world's most famous interior design exhibition, with their new Nothern Lights glassware collection. Olive, lavender and aquamarine provide an excellent contrast to black or white; the ascetic black-and-white highlights and flatters the tones of the northern lights. The new line is a nice addition to the permanent Black&White collection, spicing it up a bit with some colour (www.angel.lv).
Andrejsala boasts a number of institutions that have earned the status of a museum. The NOASS centre for contemporary art and culture founded the Latvian Naive Art Museum, housed in an Andrejsala warehouse building. The core of the museum holdings has been amassed from donations and private collections loaned to the museum for an indefinite time; some of the works are purchases. In all, the collection comprises 179 masterpieces of naive art, overflowing with good-natured humour, naively masked erotic fantasy, permeated with religious or mystic motifs, childlike simplicity and touching inaccuracies. This 'intelligent simple-mindedness' is actually on view for a very short time: the museum's season only lasts from May through September (www.noass.lv).
The forthcoming Museum of Contemporary Art, a future project yet to be built, has already cut out a place for itself in the museum scene and architectural profile of the Latvian capital. Designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas as a conversion of the city's first power plant, the new structure will envelop the old building like an insect melted into a piece of amber; the multi-functional edifice will serve as a centre for contemporary culture and education (www.camriga.lv).
The life in Andrejsala never stands still; every year, its calendar is marked for countless events. Andrejsala plays host to the Homo Alibi International Experimental Theatre Festival featuring guest performances by artists of puppet and object theatre companies at the Floating Workshop, as well as to the [moment] festival, a unique event that brings together fashion, art and music, all interacting in a single performance and providing talented Latvian and international artists with a platform for realising their latest ideas (www.moment.com.lv).
The fact that Andrejsala is neither a static, nor an isolated and lonely island populated by young wannabes, is confirmed every now and then by news of some Andrejsalite or another getting a nomination for a prestigious art award, exhibiting at an international art show or taking part in an international joint art project.
Keywords: Riga, Latvia, Andrejsala, Creative Quarters