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Mara Pelecis began recording pieces for Souvenirs in the 90s, interviewing both her father and her mother about his time in Vietnam. The first photographs and films were exhibited as part of an art installation titled Tour at the Latvian Museum of War in 2002. The shock of her father’s suicide only two months later led her on a journey to learn how others have “survived the peace”.
As a Master’s graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Pelecis has an extensive exhibition history and recognition includes a Fulbright Fellowship, Latvian Ministry of Culture Fellowship, Latvian Capital Culture Fund Grant, Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and three Jerome Foundation Grants. Her debut feature documentary titled “Between Latvias” received Best Local Feature in 2004 at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International Film Festival and has been used in workshops and classrooms across North America and in Latvia. Pelecis has also created commissioned shorts screened at fundraisers for the Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund since 2005, with keynote speakers including Sen. John McCain, Thomas Friedman, and Tom Brokaw. Currently, she is working on a documentary webisode series about Latvian music created in diaspora during the cold war. This summer, Pelecis will be in Latvia on a Jerome grant to study a rare dialect of Latvian, towards future work based on her grandfather’s published book alongside her grandmother’s journals, about World War II in Eastern Europe.