Cultural Industry. Art in Kryvyi Rih

Culture & Science
19 October 2012, 10:00

Pollution, quarries, mines and monster-factories make one forget (for a reason) about the great number of universities and students in the city. The city also has artists trying to animate local cultural life, initiating events, public readings, concerts, and festivals. And it is the city's industrial revenues that make it possible to carry out many of these art projects


The Red Texts Literature and Art Festival is one of  Kryvyi Rih's most successful projects and is now going on its fifth year. Its organizers, literary critic and writer Olha Khvostova and poet Maksym Kabir, applied other cities’ experience in their native city. The outcome has pleased them, as the event has had a success with the locals who attend regularly paying entrance fees. Not every festival can boast such attendance. “We have both viewers and listeners, which is very important, Kabir says. “There are a lot of festivals with auditoriums filled by poets and a reader on the stage, just like in the poem by Russian poet Andrey Voznesenskiy. It is not a certain writer, but the festival itself that attracts people. So the audience is not limited to support groups; people visit the event to hear new names.”

Olha shows off her office bookcase full of local author’s works. These publications are the subjects of reviews she writes for her Book Shelf TV programme on  Kryvyi Rih's Rudana TV Channel. Rudana TV also broadcasts a television version of Red Texts. Along with writers coming to Kryvyi Rih from all over Ukraine, musicians and artists are also actively involved in the festival. Olha says the city now has more small art circles and adds that she eagerly integrates them into the festival and introduces them to each other during the event.


An underground art centre in Lviv would surely look like an industrial style art exposition in a deserted factory. But industrial Kryvyi Rih's small confectionary called Lviv Coffee Shop is the antithesis of a local environment. The shop hosted a music and poetry evening by Mariyana Nevylikovna and we visited in order to get a closer look at literary Kryvyi Rih. The coffee shop was packed with Kryvyi Rih youth who have a passion for art. The Ukrainian speaking popular city poet signed her poem collection on the first page. The book represents a medical note on poetic love-sickness, which she says can be cured by reading poems by Ukrainian authors. Nevylikovna filled in the section “medical note” with the name of a person she signed the book for.

Pandora’s Box Art Club is another art centre in the city. The club’s underground premises host various events, including literary readings, lectures, photo exhibits, and simple gatherings. “They don’t avoid delicate topics, Olha Khvostova says. “In particular, they once organized an exhibition dedicated to homosexuality, which caused a small conflict. The author of the exhibition in the next-door hall did not like his neighbour, but the conflict was settled and tolerance here is developing.” Kryvyi Rih also has a municipal exhibition hall, but artists do not like its look and dream of a more spacious contemporary art centre.


Sometimes, this city stretched along 120 km hosts unexpected creative initiatives. Olha recalls an open lecture on drawing by local artist Yuriy Zelenyi with musical illustration by musicians from the Laboratory No.9 creative group. “Yuriy was talking about something, and suddenly musicians carrying water hoses emerged and started waving with their hoses and producing some kind of cosmic sound. Then, having created an original background for what the artist was telling, they put on respirators.”

The Lit Zeppelin Internet PDF-magazine was another unexpected project. It is published by students of the Kryvyi Rih Pedagogical Institute Language Department. These self-published issues of high quality offer readers texts by local and guest-authors. The publishers said they have started to organize art events to have something to fill in their column entitled “Events”. “The festival called Temptation to Talk used to be held in our city", Iryna Roik recalls. “Maksym Kirduk, Oleksiy Chupa and Maksym Volokhan visited it, but later it closed, and the city hosted nothing but two or three concerts. So we decided to organize something ourselves.”

Now the students are organizing literary and art evenings almost every month. “Word Palette was the first event, Iryna says. “It was held in Madisan club. “Mad orange” was the first colour and represented an evening of poetic injections which helped us cure poets. Next month we held an evening of brutal poetry.” Later, students invited authors from Donetsk and Luhansk to participate in Kryvyi Rih public events and they organized the first city slam, art house concerts and even literary readings on a trolleybus.

Kryvyi Rih also publishes Symbol art almanac and the Kurier Kryvbasu literary magazine, which is famous all over the country. Hryhoriy Huseynov, the magazine's publisher, idealizes the faraway stars of cultural capitals. He distances himself from the art life of his native city, which he says “chronically lacks culture”.


Arriving in  Kryvyi Rih's Zhovtnevyi district, we saw a building that looked more like a hive full of children and teenagers. Younger kids were running towards the hall on their moderator’s call and dance singing short songs. Older children volunteer. “This is our solution for social problems, Yul Morozov, head of ШELTER+ cultural and social centre, says. “We are not targeting those who are already drug addicts or street gangsters, we are trying to work with the community in order to prevent those problems. The Children’s ШELTER is regularly visited by 150 children. 70 percent of them come from problematic or one-parent families; this is a norm for us.”

On Saturdays, young visitors can attend various programmes, including Umka (English, computers), Dumka (researches, brain games), Shustryk (aerobics, action-oriented games), Workshop of Up-to-Date Opportunities (so called university for teenagers), Rockstar Factory, as well as cinema club, football playground, gym, etc. This non-governmental organization started from children’s camps in 1996. It now offers programmes for young families too. The centre has an audio recording studio with instruments, as well as a video and theatre studio.

Children under 18 can attend classes and events for free, though families able to contribute UAH 5 to UAH 50 are encouraged to do so. Around 30 percent of parents do pay. “This is because our club is mostly visited by children lacking parental care, Morozov explains. “I have been astounded by most parents’ approach, because since the club opened only 10 of them have come to check on what their kids are doing here.”

ШELTER+ also hosts concerts and show-programmes. “In the beginning, Kryvyi Rih did not have a single site with regular live music performances, Yul recalls. “Meanwhile, we had equipment and sound control supervisors, who turned out to be in great demand. We have long been known as a musical club, though our activity is much wider.”

The centre is located in a former kindergarten which was purchased like in a fairy-tale. “I visited Moscow as a journalist and stayed at my relatives’ place. They had Canadian partners and asked me to accompany them in a walk around the city. After that walk, the Canadians talked about us with their friends whose origins were linked to the Kryvyi Rih area. Besides, they were German Mennonites, not Ukrainians. The elder generation of these settlers has warm recollections of Ukraine. They gave us money so that we could buy a building, but first they even wanted to be anonymous sponsors. Anyway, we bought the building, though it had no windows or even heating then.”

The centre is not supported by the state and even went to court against the state due to an unfounded increase in land rent. “I recently visited Belgium and Slovenia. Both countries’ budgets provide 60 to 90 percent financing for their cultural organizations. It was really hard for Europeans to understand why our state does not want to help us,” Morozov said. Maybe one day Ukraine will also understand that kulturtrager activity aimed at local community development and upbringing of personalities with wide outlook is a farsighted investment in the society’s future.

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