Milda Okunyte arrived in Preston alone from Kaunas, in Lithuania, last autumn to develop her lifelong interest in art through undertaking a degree course in Illustration at UCLan.
She died in a road traffic accident in March 2015. She was 20 years old.
Now, friends of Milda have organised an exhibition of her work at The Big Mill, a new art gallery for Preston, located in Primrose Hill, just off London Road.
Ian Ferguson, who met Milda shortly after she arrived in Preston, said: “Her imagination, her sense of humour, her love of life and her willingness to see not only the best that was, but that could be, in everyone around her, ensured that, in six short months, she changed many lives forever.
“Tragically, Milda is no longer with us, but her legacy, her art, lives on”.
In a play on her name Milda often signed her work ‘Mad Mill’ and the exhibition her paintings, drawings, poems and photographs ‘Mad Mill at Big Mill’ can be seen until July 17.
Jude Dornan, who knew Milda through events she attended at the Beautiful Planet cafe, said “Milda made friends wherever she went.
“When we’ve organised events to remember her these people have met, often for the first time, and even though Milda is no longer with us, she is still bringing people together and changing people’s lives.”
Steve Wilkin, lecturer in illustration at UClan, said: “From the moment staff at UCLan saw her portfolio we knew Milda was a talent.
“She was in some ways a complete creative, equally interested in music, poetry, film, performance, drawing, painting and digital art.
“At the end of her first term we asked the students to illustrate where they would like to be in ten years time.
“On reviewing the work she produced we discovered Milda wanted to be right here in Preston, with the like-minded people she had met, meeting, talking, playing music and making art.”
Helen Entwistle, a fellow lecturer at UCLan, said: “Milda was full of creativity and such a positive influence on her classmates. A real free spirit who loved to make art, be it painting an intricate figurative study or creating a surreal imaginary world. Milda was never short of ideas, enthusiasm or talent.”
“We will miss her dearly.”
Mike Green, Curator at Big Mill, said: “This will be the first exhibition at Big Mill, and the fact it is the work of Milda that will start our monthly exhibition program is meaningful.
“Big Mill is about creativity having more of a platform in Preston. Unfortunately I never knew Milda but from talking to her friends and seeing her work it is clear she was loved and had passion for her art.”
Big Mill is open Monday to Friday up to 5pm and Saturday until 3pm. For information on how to find
For more information visit www.bigmill.co.uk