Albania is located on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas between Montenegro to the north and Greece to the south. It was a vital crossroads in ancient times, a highly developed province of the Roman Empire. Ancient sites abound. In the middle ages, the area was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. It first became independent in 1912. After WWII, it became a Socialist republic which dissolved in 1991 when the Republic of Albania was established.
Until recently Albania was an isolated totalitarian society where it was against the law to travel, inside or outside of the country. The resulting static, rural society is undergoing rapid transformation bringing a surge of population to towns and cities. Civic, economic, and cultural development is exploding. It is a nation blessed with incredible natural beauty, from the "Albanian Riviera" to the majestic mountain ranges, fertile valleys and powerful rivers which are now being harnessed for power generation. It is a fascinating culture with a growing arts sector.
Genc Permeti, Professor at the Tirana Academy of Art, Ann Shostrom and John Bowman initiated the idea of transforming decommissioned cold war weapons into art, inviting Albanian and American artists to participate in the project "Service to Public Areas." The Albanian Defense Ministry is cooperating with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Recreation to develop areas for public use. The artists traveled to arsenals and military bases throughout the country in search of materials.
The resulting installations, "Pavilion" and "Flowers," were constructed using the star shaped tailfins of mortar shells welded into spheres and domes. These components were mounted on steel pipes and installed in a public park in Shkodra, a large and vibrant city on the Adriatic coast near the border with Montenegro. More pieces are planned. Other artists include Americans Helen O'Leary and Ward Shelley, and Albanians Ardian Isufi, Genc Mulliqi, and Artan Peqini. These collaborative works are an example of cooperation and creative repurposing, transforming residue from a confrontational past into peaceful designs.
Genc Permeti, Helen Oleary, Director Daniel Karanxha, Ann Shostrom, John Bowman, and Albanian Defense Personnel at a military decommissioning facility near Elbasan, Albania
John Bowman, Helen OLeary, Ward Shelley, and Ann Shostrom at an Albanian Naval facility in Porto Palermo, Albania