The roots of Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposiums reach the eighties of the 20th century. 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 Stasys 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. Gallery former director Jolanta Lebednykienė was organizer of Ceramic Symposiums from 1990 to 2016.
Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposiums have hosted 170 artists from 37 countries: Australia, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Finland, France, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, South Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, 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 famous Latvian artist Peteris Martinsons (1931–2013) to name a few have helped the growth and reputation of the symposium.
The Panevėžys Civic Art Gallery houses more than 600 pieces of chamotte ceramics, which were created during the annual ceramics symposiums. This unique and only collection of its kind in Baltic States reflects not only local and transient trends in contemporary ceramics, but also a ceramic commonality through ideas, visual peculiarities, features, and developments of form.
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.
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.
In 2015 Ceramic Art Pavilion dedicated to the works generated during Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposiums was opened.
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: „Selected works of Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposiums“ at the Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius, 1993; 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” at the Seeschlos Art Gallery, Gmunden, Austria, 1999; exhibition “Lithuanian Collection of Ceramics Generated During the Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposiums” at Arka Gallery, Vilnius, 2001; exhibition “Ceramic Collection of Panevėžys Civic Art Gallery” at the Janina Monkutė-Marks Museum-Gallery, Kėdainiai, 2003, 2013, and The Gardens of the President’s Office, Vilnius, Lithuania, 2003, 2011-2014; exhibition “Selected works of the Panevezys International Ceramic Symposiums” at the Groate Kerk St. Jacobiparochie, Het Bildt, the Netherlands, 2005 and at Lithuanian Center at the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania to the Republic of Poland, Poland, 2007; Contemporary Ceramic. Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposium Collection“ at the Daugavpils Museum of Regional History and arts“, Latvia, 2014; „Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposiums Collection“ at The Bernardinai Garden in Vilnius. 2014; the Exhibition “Collection of ceramics from the Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposiums” in the Presidential Courtyard, Vilnius, 2017–2019; Exhibition “Collection of ceramics from the Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposiums” in the National Martynas Mažvydas Library,Vilnius, 2017–2019; the Exhibition “Lithuanian Contemporary Ceramics. Collection of Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposiums“ in Latvian Railway History Museum, Riga, Latvia, 2018.
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.
In 2017 the gallery became a member of International Academy of Ceramics (IAC).
Photo: XXI Panevėžys International Ceramic Symposium, 2016.