Sunday, November 29, 2009

First mural planning workshops in St. Petersburg

In St. Petersburg, I am doing a very different sort of project than in Krasnoyarsk, though it is also at a school for children (quite incidentally, the school is no. 33, while the Krasnoyarsk was no. 32!). The group I am working with will be younger, all students at the school, and all deaf or hearing impaired, as this is the school's specialty. They also are not as available for as many hours per day. As opposed to the last project, which was such a quick and intense experience,we have almost 3 weeks to do the project until the presentation day scheduled Dec 10--apparently this is longer than most ArtsLink residencies, though I am starting to realize this is not a lot of time!

On my first day of the project, Tuesday Nov 24, I gave a similar presentation on public art to the one I gave in Krasnoyarsk, but this was geared more towards a school-aged audience: much shorter, and less focused on the theme of Utopia and social issues, more focused on the simple idea that public art can make an environment better and create a sense of home. I focused less on street art, and more on community murals and projects at schools. I was coming into the project with the general theme of home, or the Russian house ("doma"); Nastya, the project manager working with me in St. Petersburg, had told me in advance that Russian folklore centered around magical spirits from the home is something that interests the school.

Immediately after the presentation the teachers and students began to discuss (excitedly, in Russian and sign language) ideas for how the project will be carried out. Surprisingly, everyone seemed to arrive pretty quickly at a main idea at this first meeting: to place different windows down a long school corridor, each showing some kind of view looking either inside or outside the students' homes and schools. I was immediately excited by this ideas as it relates to so much of my other artwork, including a mural proposal I had made for my old high school, as an assignment for a mural fellowship program, that inserted fake windows on the building's exterior.

The students who had attended my lecture, mostly upper grades (ages 12-16 or so) felt strongly that the younger students should have a say in the content being seen through the windows, but that the teachers would assemble a core group of older students to work with me on all aspects of the mural. The following day (Wed) I would not come into the school at all but the teachers in different classrooms would discuss this idea with students and collect sketches of their ideas, which I would then review Thursday. Friday would be my first day working with the core mural group, and hopefully that session would yield some final sketches. We spent the rest of the day touring the school and discussing project logistics.

On that same morning I had also met Masha, who runs an organization ArtTerra, which works with artists to design playful, imaginative interior spaces and playgrounds for children. We will be collaborating with her on this project mainly in utilizing her expertise designing whole spaces and working with 3-D materials. For example, she was very excited by the idea of creating actual window frames out of wood, and knows wood carvers who can create pretty elaborate designs for them.

More on the next workshops to come...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

BBQ for my last night in Krasnoyarsk!

After tonight, I will be heading to St. Petersburg--a much bigger (and hopefully warmer!) city, to do a 3-week mural project at a school for deaf and hearing impaired kids. Very different kind of project, but after the experience in Krasnoyarsk, I am definitely ready to adapt to the demands of the situation. I will, however, really miss the experience I have had here living with such warm and generous people, and the immediate feeling of community that comes from doing something so huge and so intense with a group in such a short period of time. I do hope I will have the opportunity to come back to Krasnoyarsk for future ArtsLink or other public art projects...there were many people who interviewed me for local papers during the project, and people who came specifically to meet with us about how to continue such projects--I know the buzz has been spreading ever since Kendal Henry and Luisa Cladwell did the first ArtsLink project this past spring. I think the fact that there is no Russian equivalent to the phrase "public art" (instead they literally say "public art" in English--much like Americans do with other un-translatable art phrases like "avant-garde" I guess) is a testament to how ripe for future development the field is here, especially in smaller, less tourist-centric cities like Krasnoyarsk. I am very inspired to keep contributing to this development.

And thank you again, Ira, Slava, and the whole Ulanova family for their amazing hospitality (as demonstrated partially by this final feast, most of it cooked in my own bedroom!!):

Slava grills some chicken

Traditional Siberian river fish!

Final Krasnoyarsk Excursion

Ira's father drives us to see the Krasnoyarsk chapel and amazing views of the city!

Famous Krasnoyarsk chapel: symbol of the city!

A traditional Russian Orthodox service

Other Krasnoyarsk public art?

I met a nice Siberian young man...

...but I think he's married!

Lenin statue

Outside a photography store

More Ceremony Pics

Group shots!

Me with Ira & family
Me, Sasha, & Masha
Me, Nastya & Ivan

Nastya & Alex

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ceremony pics!

Irina Alexandra writes the Russian title page just in time for the ceremony...

Ira got a special modern dance group to perform at the ceremony, one of the highlights!! They planned their costumes and movements to provide a nice temporary visual addition to the mural...

The school director gives me a special letter of recognition and gift of limited edition Krasnoyarsk art history book

Slava also gets an award...couldn't have done this without him, and Ira of course!!!!

The biggest surprise was a portrait of me drawn by Alex and painted at the ceremony by the students. Such a wonderful gift!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Completed mural pics!

The final mural has been very well-received by students, participants, and teachers. At least Slava & Ira assure me this is the case. Though I can't always understand what people say about the mural in Russian, facial expressions and tone of voice say a lot too...

As for the ceremony: wow. It far exceeded expectations, and I don't think I can put it into words...just want to say THANK YOU again to everybody. The live dance that seemed to blend seamlessly with the mural; the speeches; the creative gifts....I have never received anything like the portrait the group made for me and spontaneously painted at the ceremony.

I hope the other young artists and I keep in touch and I want to reiterate to them that this was their project, and they can do it again! I actually told them about the American word "entrepreneurship" and how they can start their own business doing this type of work around the city.

Very touched, is all I can grateful for this experience in Krasnoyarsk!