In what is an excellent example of repurposing, the once-notorious Lukiškės Prison has reopened as an entertainment hub called Lukiškės Prison 2.0. and will now be hosting cultural events, festivals, concerts, day and night tours, and workshops and studios for 250 artists.
For most people, heading to prison will be the last thing you’d want to do. However, this isn’t the case when it comes to the most famous prison in Vilnius.
Lukiškės Prison, is, without doubt, one of the most notorious buildings located in the centre of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. In what is a brilliant example of repurposing, it has reopened as a cultural cluster after being closed as a prison since 2019.
The prison was built more than a century ago and has attained global recognition as a shooting location for Netflix’s Stranger Things. In a dramatic change to its previous activities, it is now hosting a wide range of activities that embrace the country’s culture alongside music concerts, festivals, and exclusive tours and this is expected to continue for at least the next two years. As part of the astonishing change of use, the prison has also been rebranded and will now be known as “Lukiškės Prison 2.0”.
The new venue was opened by the band “Solo Ansamblis,” who performed in front of more than one thousand spectators which was a welcome relief to everyone given the multiple lockdowns imposed in the country.
EGOMAŠINA concert in Lukiškės Prison. Photo by photographers team “Lunatikai“
The global pandemic has suspended the majority of cultural and entertainment events. However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel and this summer, 250 artists now have the opportunity to resume their creative pursuits and enlighten Vilnius’ citizens and visitors with a spectrum of cultural experiences.
In what is a major part of the repurposing of Lukiškės Prison, the artists have set up their workshops, studies, and creative spaces within the premises of what is now known as “Lukiškės Prison 2.0.”
Artist Jolita Vaitkute in her Lukiskes prison studio. Photo by Mantas Repecka.
One of the artists based at the prison is Jolita Vaitkutė and she has established her studio in what was the former prison canteen. According to the artist, engaging in creative activities among so many other artists feels special despite the grim past of the premises.
Jolita said, “The artists are great accelerators when it comes to converting the spaces into something unprecedented. The times when Lukiškės was just a prison are already long gone because we, the artistic community, gave a new meaning to the former spaces of imprisonment.”
Photo by Rytis Seskaitis.
The facility has started the summer season with a fully-packed cultural programme organised by “8 Days a Week,” a Lithuanian music agency, which is implementing the project “Lukiškės Prison 2.0.” The opening concert by the band “Solo Ansamblis” involved dark dancing, synthesisers, and poetry and was held on a custom-made state-of-the-art stage with over 1000 spectators. The upcoming events will include festivals, an open architecture event, movie sessions, active leisure time events, and nationally recognised shows.
“We believe culture has the power to reinforce and transform Vilnius, so we have to make some kind of a jolt to create new emotional ties with the former Prison. There is a lot Lukiškės has to offer to the city and vice versa; therefore, from now on, we will work to create the best version of the Prison instead of looking back to its past,” said Martynas Butkevičius, “8 Days a Week” Partner.
According to Mr Butkevičius, “Lukiškės Prison 2.0” will become the facilitator of music, modern art, design, and culture.
“Hundreds of artists have responded to the open invitation and have established their artist residences, studios, and workshops in Lukiškės to mutually create, co-operate, and instil life into the former Prison. Since all of us are tired from the pandemic and its consequences, now is the best time for this conversion,” added Mr Butkevičius.
“Lukiškės Prison 2.0” is open from noon till midnight every day and also offers two unique tours. The daytime tour introduces the visitors to the Prison’s history, architecture, and daily life of prisoners, while the nighttime tour, illuminated with flashlights, has been created to give an adrenaline boost for the most courageous visitors.
A cultural event in front of the prison. Photo by Mantas Repecka.
Participation in all large-scale events in “Lukiškės Prison 2.0” requires providing immunity passports. The territory also has its own testing point where visitors can undergo rapid antigen testing.
Read our article on when Netflix’s Stranger Things came to the prison to shoot some scenes for the show here.