A young bear stands behind a tree and wonders – should I run? I stood as frozen as a pillar of salt, so there was no need for the bear to flee. It eventually lost interest, and I could slowly back away.
Jelgava Art School (JMS) was founded more than 35 years ago, and the priority of the school has always been and will be – educating the society. The school is proud of its students as well as the exhibitions of the most talented Latvian artists‘ works held in the school gallery.
JMS educators are always looking forward with a mindful and sensitive view, planning the development of the school step by step.
Collages "Bear portraits" made by JMS 4-5th grade students can be seen at the exhibition. The task was to draw a stylized portrait of a bear using markers and to create a sweater or other clothing from pieces of fabric.
Materials used: PVA glue or glue pencil, textiles, markers.
Big bears in the photo corner – a collaboration of students.
The exhibition features 26 photographs taken by Estonian photographers that reveal the life of the brown bear, Ursus arctos (also called “bear” in the exhibition texts), in the wild in Estonia. The selected works uniquely unveil the bears’ way of life and natural behaviour in the wild, allowing us to better understand and become more knowledgeable about the animal.
The photographs are accompanied by the photographers’ observations as well as by comments by specialists from the Latvian National Museum of Natural History and the Latvian State Forest Research Institute “Silava” (LSFRI Silava).
Most of the pictures were taken by experienced nature photographers, nature guides, and hunters; special recognition goes to Ingmar Muusikus, Kalmer Lehepuu, Remo Savisaar, Tarmo Mikussaar and Sven Začek. The photos were shot following a responsible and ethical code of conduct, i.e. they were taken from either hides or at safe distances to avoid putting both people and animals at immediate or potential risk. The exhibition also includes photos taken by camera traps.
In Latvia, the bear is no longer just a visitor to the north-eastern borderlands. After a hundred years, the species has returned and is now gradually gaining a foothold in the local fauna. The exhibition features video footage from 2021, as captured by LSFRI Silava researchers, of a mother bear and four cubs, proving beyond doubt that cubs are being born in the territory of Latvia.
The exhibition invites you to consider whether and how humans have changed over these hundred years. As the bears return, public education must increasingly become a priority so as to dispel myths, reduce the risks of mismanagement, ensure the protection of the species, and ensure the sustainable coexistence of people and bears. In cooperation with the Nature Conservation Agency, the exhibition provides information on recommended behaviour when encountering bears in the wild, as well as lets visitors learn about the sad story of a young bear who had been habituated to humans.
The exhibition is complemented by LSFRI Silava information on brown bear protection, monitoring and occurrence, as well as FAQs regarding bears and recommendations for amateur nature photographers. Photos of field work give a glimpse into the bear researchers’ lives. Anyone can report bear tracks and other evidence of bears in the wild. To ensure that your information is scientifically viable, the exhibition offers advice on how to correctly prepare the data you’ve collected.
A highlighted feature of the exhibition are the winners of the “Our Neighbour – The Brown Bear” photo competition, which took place in Estonia and Latvia in 2022.
The authors of the exhibition emphasise that in Estonia, public awareness and knowledge of wild bears is still at a much higher level than in Latvia.
Exhibition organisers: the Latvian National Museum of Natural History, in collaboration with the Latvian State Forest Research Institute “Silava”, the Nature Conservation Agency and Jelgava Art School.
Special thanks to the Estonian environmental NGO "Animal of the Year" (MTÜ Aasta loom), and personally, to Helen Arusoo.