Research paper «factories of the imagination or cultural conversion»

New cultural venues appear in Russia

This research was made in summer 2008. Since 2008 a lot of changes occurred including the global crunch. But all these changes didn’t made this research out of date, Quite the reverse, the theme of new cultural spaces and their role in city regeneration became more actual in these new conditions. Some initiatives appeared and some of mentioned initiatives were developed since that time. We would follow up our monitoring of the new cultural spaces and creative clusters in future.

Post industrial world and cultural institutions

Traditional cultural places such as museums, theatres, libraries and concert halls have their origins in ancient times. They reached their current form during the Age of the Enlightenment in the 18th century. They were turned into temples to preserve culture from the destructive pressure of reality at the height of the industrial revolution’s in the 19th century. The hostility between the cultural and industrial existed during the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries and can be seen in romanticism, realism and the most forms of modernity.

What is the situation in the today’s era of so called post-industrialism at the turn of the 21st century? The temples of culture remain the temples. This timeless heritage is always in demand; preserved and handed down. However, the regular theme of professional discussions is the crisis of the traditional cultural institutions. We are not going to look at what caused this crisis. But, let’s have a look at what seems to us to be the key reason for it.

The post-industrial epoch is marked by the absence of the battle between industrial and cultural. The goods market has changed its quality. Relatively speaking, a big factory yields to a computer network – a new form of a production management where the intellectual component is more important than manual labour. The product has become more intellectual, individual, cultural and even spiritual. Today, markets resemble, if not a museum, then an exhibition hall where a huge number of cultural goods are presented for individual home use. There are whole libraries on one CD, concerts of the best performers, galleries of images, audio and film libraries. Culture is huge and belongs to the modern goods market.

It’s not possible anymore to reanimate the antithesis «industrial/materialistic» versus «cultural/spiritual». How do cultural institutions attract audiences? There must be uniqueness, genuineness, the qualities of being first and the only one and natural communication. We see the originals in museums accessible for us through reproductions and cliparts. We see works at the gallery for the first time, works which may soon become world famous. At performances and concerts we get involved in a live event together with the performers and the rest of the audience.

All these forms of natural communication are important sources of culture. But it’s not enough for a commercial independency. Throughout the world, most cultural institutions depend either on the state and municipal subsidies or on sponsorships, donations and grant supports. Only a few can rely on their own income. What else can influence economical effectiveness of cultural institutions? The answer is novelty.

Undoubtedly, all traditional cultural institutions deal with new products: new exhibits, exhibitions, performances and performers, thus attracting a new audience. But this novelty is defined by familiar formats.

Culture is in need of new formats

There is a demand in the contemporary world for new formats such as configurations, venues, brands etc, which don’t fit the known stereotypes. We are talking not about the outlining of new art forms, «new muses» such as cinema, television, multi media art making its first, swift and not easy to understand moves; or ones connected to technical inventions; but about the transformation of cultural institutions which are in a quest for new synthetic forms similar to the beginning of 20th century; and which actively develop frontiers and marginal fields. It’s difficult to make up something absolutely new. That is why the quest is being carried out over the ruins of the old material.

This material is provided by the ruins of the late industrial world: abandoned factories, tram depots, garages, warehouses etc. They serve as an environment for the beginning and growth of democratic and multidisciplinary venues, for creative activities and business, communication and entertainment.

Similar to the process of turning from mediaeval city-fortresses to New Time’s cities-markets, cities-plants are turned into the postindustrial, open, creative and communicational venues.

One journalist was right when he noticed that factory spaces suit contemporary art. Indeed, big factory spaces and warehouses have never better corresponded to the scale of modern installations, performances and artistic experiments. One of the most brilliant examples is the grandiose multimedia show by Peter Greenaway «The Tulse Luper Suitcases» on the site of a former Gasholder plant «Arma» last summer. The show was attended by 4000 people.

The spaces of plants and factories are essentially democratic. They are open to any public; they don’t follow the rules such as the one of the museums’ «Don’t touch»; or not the less stiff «The theatre starts from the hanger».

Visitors to former workshops and present exhibition halls or design bureaus feel like pioneers. They are captivated by an industrial heritage connected not to the far past, not like The Winter Palace and Peter the First as it was ages ago, but rather to the past of their grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers, who were the first who assimilated these places, mastered their working and engineering skills. At the same time the second life of the industrial heritage safe the abandoned buildings from destruction or half-destruction.

The similar situation was with the café-club-bookshops located in the semi-basements such as «Apshu» or «Pir-Ogi». They were inhabited by young people who stirred the pulse of the city’s informal life.

Contemporary art is interested in former factories because they are the first to get vacated in a postindustrial city. They are not developed and not expensive to buy and to rent. Very often they are located at the city centre.

Cultural institutions in the modern city

The postindustrial, information and creative age has changed the context of the cultural institutions’ existence in a modern city. The main features of modern day city life – diversity and the search for new ways of communication have always been part of the terms of reference for the culture’s. Abandoned factories and plants have become centers of contemporary arts, museums, galleries and sheltered independent artistic organisations. The integration of cultural and artistic resources in the development programmes of European cities altered their look. Today we can witness the process of cultural conversion of former industrial buildings spreading from Moscow to regions such as Krasnoyarsk, Samara, Novosibirsk, Petrozavodsk, Yekaterinburg.

Culture in Russia has always been the poor relative, but nevertheless has managed to invade new territories. For example, museum collections occupied not only The Winter Palace but nearby buildings. After the end of the Soviet era the buildings belonging to the Communist Party became cultural units. In May 1989 Samara Museum moved to the Communist Party Committee’s buildings. Now this is the location of the Contemporary art department. The Centre of contemporary art is located in the grounds of the Nizhniy Novgorod Kremlin.

The present time is marked with a new spiral of the conversion process, the search for new forms, new spaces for contemporary art and different kinds of informal initiatives. The spaces of former factories and plants require an artistic development not only in the form of new installations inside but also an artistic effort to mould a new kind of cultural institutions. This brings up many questions about both cultural and city developments. How should we work with these new spots? How do they influence the development of the city? How do they influence the development of creative communities? What are rules of the game at these venues? What could be their financial sources? What about their management?

The problems and drawbacks of constructing new venues

The problems in the process of the industrial past’s cultural conversion and of shifting it on the way of the creative economy can’t be solved by a single effort. Therefore, a new meaning is given to all cultural networks, associations and unions; and the most important to the well developed informal connections and collaboration experience. The time of the guild’s reticence is over. New technological chains, established connection, ideas exchanges and productive practices are necessary factors in order to put the culture on a production conveyor and make it a new industry.

There is need to overcome the lack of skills in art management. The idea that culture relates only to the eternal must be forgotten. It’s necessary to give this eternal a degree of financial stability and not to be ashamed to make a profit on it. In reality, this is not easy to fulfill since it relates to the ability to invent the new.

The management fears the natural risk and production costs of a creative process, which is a huge Russian problem; and also the lack of patience in a personal approach with innovative and artistic people. Fear of consequences – a natural Russian characteristic older than time; and the heritage of the Soviet vertical bureaucracy forced the people in charge to slow down the process and not support innovations.

The representatives of artistic professions should learn how to communicate with the authorities and be neither ashamed nor arrogant but rather, build an effective dialogue with their partners and prove that contemporary culture is important in the process of solving economic and social problems.

Creative people today are not only freelancers such as artists, writers and painters. Creative works and the ability to create are in demand in many spheres of activity: industry, business and management. Modern business strategies take into account both material and immaterial assets. The human and creative capital of a corporation is considered an important part of its financial competency. The creative approach lets us reach new and unique solutions in a swiftly changing world. The main lesson which has been taught to industry by culture on the borders of centuries is that of creativity.

Creative clusters and new cultural venues

What are the types of art venues? They are creative clusters – the community of independent non-commercial businesses such as Design Centre «Art Play», or new non-commercial cultural centres, created and supported by sponsors such as the Centre for Contemporary Culture «Garage». Sometimes it’s a combination of both of these types such as the project «FабRика».

These creative clusters, whether big or small, are located in cities and develop industrial zones in former industrial cities. They are unified by an aspiration towards changes in the economy, the society and the process of the creative abilities’ revelation of the individuals. These tasks do not belong only to the field of culture or social policy. New cultural venues, new creative clusters as a synthesis’ phenomenon help to compound free artistic research, economic formulas of successful business and solutions for social problems.

New cultural venues in Moscow
The redevelopment of the industrial sites in Moscow

Over the last few years the centre of our capital has became the heart of business and social life with numerous offices, restaurants, cafes, boutiques and nightclubs. The logic of postindustrial development forced production processes and private life to the outskirts of the city thereby leaving the centre for big business and high status cultural events. Moscow government has a programme to take all production facilities beyond the Moscow Ring Motorway. While in Europe the productions areas take up no more than 1 – 1.5% of the city centres, in Moscow it’s 15% including the railways. There are 3000 big and medium size plant facilities in the centre of Moscow. Among these are the «Kauchuk» plant in Khamovniki, the big sugar-refinery plant on Presnya, the «Rot-Front» in Zamoskvorechie, the freezing plant in Verkhniya Krasnoselskaya, the brake fluid plant on Lesnaya and many others. These industrial facilities occupy expensive land and create serious ecological problems in a city which is overburdened by the transport.

Until now the reorganisation process of the industrial areas has been driven by the building of expensive and profitable business centres. For example, the industrial zone near Paveletskaya metro station' is the «Aremkuz» plant's land. The site of a former tanning factory has been turned into the business centre Derbenevsky; 1st Kozhevnichesky lane, Kozhevnicheskaya and Letnikovskaya streets are under construction. Paveletsky district is developing rapidly and will soon become a business area. There are different plans for the reorganisation of Zil Auto Plant

Different investment companies began the process of reorganisation of industrial territories in the heart of the city by buying a controlling stake before Moscow government’s construction department started their work. The investment companies became majority shareholders. The appearance of new owners is often connected to misappropriation. The community tends to think that these sorts of activities will lead to the productions decline. The industry is considered as the prospering sign and as an actual condition of sufficient numbers of working places and social insurances. But the symbols of the industrial epoch are going to the past for ever together with a poor qualification, lack of creative labour, environmental pollution and other side effects of industrial civilization.

Instead of the proletariat, the workshops are becoming occupied by office workers and the city’s bohemia. The theme of the plants’ conversion attracts Moscow architects – last year the exhibition of architecture and design «Arkh Moscow» was focused on the reconstruction of industrial areas. Abandoned and half abandoned red brick buildings are not only interesting architectural monuments but profitable investments. The Moscow Silk Factory of Scherbakov – nowadays business centre «LeFort» (Elektrozavodskaya, 27), the Moscow cotton-printing factory (former Association of cotton-printing manufactory E.Tsingel) - now the business park «Novospassky Dvor» (Derbenevskaya nab, 7) could be given as an example of such conversions.

New cultural venues and creative clusters in Moscow

What about the culture and artistic communities? How does the conversion proceed in the capital of the country with such post-industrial features? To find the space for cultural organisations including state organizations was extremely difficult even in 1990. This was connected both to the lack of space and the withdrawal of a number of monuments from the ownership of cultural organisations to the Moscow Patriarchate. For example, the Museum of Architecture’s branch in Donskoy Monastery and many other places.

The first case of the state development of industrial areas became the National Centre for Contemporary Art (NCCA) founded by the Ministry of Culture in 1992. The centre is located in a small building of a lighting equipment factory. At that moment the factory was still officially functioning but in fact only for the renting out of its premises. Now, all the premises of the plant belong to the NCCA; and are rented out for artistic events excluding visual art as it contradicts the concept of the Centre. The main events of the NCCA are the Annual Russian national award for contemporary visual arts Innovation since 2005 and «Qui Vive?», Moscow International Biennale for Young Art since 2008. The partners of NCCA are the Moscow Contemporary Art Center WINZAVOD, project «FабRика», ART_Strelka Cultural Center and several others. Despite the difficult situation in the regions NCCA has opened branches in Yekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, Nizhniy Novgorod, Samara, Sent-Petersburg and, most recently, Kronshtad. NCCA branches are independent organisations, coordinated into the network and financed by the Head Office in Moscow. The regional NCCA usually reside in dilapidated historical buildings: Nizhniy Novgorod’s branch is located in the former Arsenal building in the Kremlin grounds; Kaliningrad – in the tower-redan «Kronprince»; Yekaterinburg – at the former school where A.V. Lunacharsky read his lectures.

The development process of the city’s areas into the cultural industries in Moscow was similar to the one in London - former factories, industrial zones, garages etc. Industries left these premises. Innovative people started to look for a way to satisfy the needs of the city’s inhabitants. At first it was squat projects: Furmanny lane, Petlyura’s house on Strastnoy boulevard, Centre of Contemporary Art on Polyanka, the network of OGI clubs; and then Centre of Contemporary Art on Zoologicheskaya street and others.

Today the best known venues are Design Centre ArtPlay, Cultural Centre Art_Strelka, Moscow Contemporary Art Center WINZAVOD, Project «FабRика» and the former Gasholders Plant «Arma». Recently, a new Centre of contemporary culture was opened on the site of Melnikov’s garages.

Garage, Fabrika and others

One of the oldest creative clusters, Design Centre ArtPlay, has become history. It was closed in July 2008. The building will be demolished. Instead, there will be a new office complex. Design Centre ArtPlay was a unique space and located near Sadovoe Koltso on part of the site of the former factory «Krasnaya Roza». A red brick building constructed in 1905, it was a typical industrial facility from the beginning of the 20th century.

ArtPlay’s history started in 2003. The Centre united well known architects, designers and artists. This was a place for designed furniture and interior design shops. The cluster’s organizers presented themselves as «The biggest association of independent professional companies successfully working in the field of building and reconstruction of architectural facilities and interior design». The space consisted of cafes, restaurants and a multifunctional venue for exhibitions, seminars, conferences, fashion show and disco. ArtPlay was one of the most popular places for spending free time in Moscow.

In April 2008 the Centre announced its new project which will be realized on the site of the plant «Manometr» on the Yauza river.

This is planned to not be only an office building but a space for professional communication for artists, architects, designers, decorators and clients, for all those who love contemporary art. Small-scale art companies and independent artists will be able to rent small spaces such as 18 Sq. meters for offices and workshops. Offices or negotiating rooms will be available for hourly rent. Design Centre «ArtPlay on the Yauza» will be working around the clock since a progressive and postindustrial city never goes to sleep. Undoubtedly, the new centre will become a popular contemporary venue taking into account the shortage of exhibition and presentation spaces, and will be used for master-classes, conferences, festivals and parties.

Many abandoned industrial facilities are situated in the neighborhood of Design Centre «ArtPlay on the Yauza». And it’s very likely that next to the Centre a new community with clubs, restaurants, exhibition halls and workshops will grow like the well known WINZAVOD.

ArtStrelkaCultural Centre Art_Strelka was started in the former garages of the confectionery factory «Krasny Oktyabr» on the bank of the Barsenevskay in October 2004. Strelka means a spit. The river-side is located on an island leading to a spit. The proximity of the Kremlin and various cultural locations make this place unique. The structure of the cluster is very simple: there are many galleries, which organise their own exhibitions. Some of them have existed since the foundation of Art_Strelka, some are newer. What differentiates Art_Strelka as a cluster from other galleries is that Art_Strelka’s galleries had existed before but the process of centralisation raised them to a new professional level.

Moscow Contemporary Art Center WINZAVOD is located in Syromyatnikov district, 5 minutes from Kurskaya metro station. It is a complex of industrial facilities from the 19th century consisting of ancient workshops, tasting laboratories, lofts and wine cellars. It is approximately 20 000 Sq. meters. The entrance is accessible both from Sadovoe Kolzo and the Yauza embankment.

The premises of the ancient brewery «Moskovskaya Bavaria» (later, a wine factory) contain two big exhibition halls, well known Moscow galleries, design-studios, artists’ workshops, bookshops, designer and music shops. There is also an open venue for concerts, festivals and presentations. As an art cluster WINZAVOD organises the concerts of the city’s best artists. Its new artistic environment attracts a wide audience. There are regular festivals and education programmes in the fields of contemporary arts, cinematography, architecture and design.

Project «FабRика» was launched at the end of 2004 as a new space for presenting cultural events and a place for creative people. It’s located in the grounds of the still functioning Factory of Technical Papers near Baumanskaya metro station.

Fa6rikaThe factory itself is in private property and located in an industrial zone. The project’s partners are Dance Agency Tsekh, KinоteatrDoc and various contemporary artists and designers. At first the project’s programme was primarily focused on the performing arts. Now it’s widened and contains parallel programmes in the fields of contemporary art and theatre.

The aims of the Project are to create a new independent venue for the presentation of contemporary art, to transform the neighborhood into a cultural zone, to enhance the prestige of the Factory and attract investors and new partners. The target audience of the cluster are curators, galleries, experts in different cultural spheres, «sophisticated» young public and tourists.

The complex of the former plant «Arma» is located in Nizhny Susalny lane and is a monument to the industrial architecture of the mid 19th century. At present it includes Denis Simachev’s show room, Denis Simachev’s Club, Bar «Lyuba», Yakut-gallery and the Gasgolder club. The cluster is unique due to the combining of open access and closed VIP spaces. 

CCC-Moscow «Garage» is an outstanding project on the list of Moscow artistic spaces. This is not a creative cluster butGarage a model of developing the industrial territories. The Centre of Contemporary Culture «Garage» is a non-commercial project created with the support of Roman Abramovich. The founder and director of the Centre is Darya Zhukova. The centre’s International coordinator is Molly Dent-Brocklehurst, former head of the Larry Gagosian’s Gallery in London. One of the Tate’s directors, Nicolas Serota, is on the board of trustees. The interior design was developed by Jamie Fobert, the famous English architect.

The centre is located in the architectural monument of 1926-27, in the former Bakhtemiev’s bus fleet of architect Konstantin Melnikov and engineer Vladimir Shukhov. At some point the dramatic features of Bakhtemiev’s bus fleet inspired photographer-constructivist Alexey Rodchenko to make a series of the garage’s photos. Thus, in the first years of this industrial space’s existence the bus fleet served as a source for an artistic inspiration. Melnikov turned a bus fleet into a Temple of Modernism. The temple’s striking façade portals on Obraztsov’s street are accomplished in a monumental style and reminds us of the Greek colonnades.

The «Total Installation» exhibition of the world famous Ilya and Emilya Kabakov opened this new Moscow exhibition space on the 15th September 2008, thereby starting a retrospective of their works in their home town.

The Centre of Contemporary Culture’s size is 8.5 thousand Sq. meters. This is the biggest exhibition centre in Moscow.


Typology and specifics of new Moscow venues and clusters

The form of the industrial zones’ development can vary. It could be of the state, budget projects or projects supported by sponsors as a single independent organisation, like Garage, or the creative clusters of independent artistic companies which are gathered under one roof and have common financial and substantial structures. From this point of view, Design Centre ArtPlay in its past and future has the most appropriate model of European creative clusters.

New Moscow cultural venues vary both in the matter of subjects and management. How do they differ from similar structures in Europe?

Moscow venues were created without state support. The majority of the clusters are private initiatives of the space’s owners. Partly excluded from this is the Project «FабRика» which is supported by the Ford Foundation. While the techno parks - the innovation centres in science have the state’s support, innovations in the artistic fields are supported by businessmen and philanthropists. Why are programmes in the cultural sphere not included in the scheme of the state’s interests? This is the question both for the authorities and cultural managers. What needs to be present inthe development of creative industries so that they can attract state support? How can they introduce the of the creative industries’ development programmes to the state and make them support it?

The regeneration of these abandoned territories is an important result of the work of the Moscow clusters. There is nothing unique about it. The world experience in the cities’ development by the means of culture, creative industries and creative clusters relies on the «cluster effect». From the another perspective. the result is even more impressive taking into account the disorganized and corrupt approach in the process of developing the city’s sites.

Undoubtedly, new Moscow art venues are extremely popular and in demand. Any new initiative is greeted with enthusiasm, given the current situation of a lack of modern cultural establishments or places for creative experiments. At present such venues as the Project «FабRика», WINZAVOD and others don’t compete with each other but rather express their interest in the fact of the new spaces appearance which could be used for the contemporary art initiatives. The environment density is much thicker in comparison to similar venues in Europe and the world.

The activities of Moscow clusters are characterized by their involvement in all the significant artistic events of recent years. For example, the Moscow biennale took place in both the venues of Contemporary Art Center WINZAVOD and the Project «FабRика». New Moscow cultural spaces are primarily centres of contemporary art. Their mission is to introduce contemporary art to the public. This makes them different from the similar cultural centres in Europe.

Russian Regions
Factories of the future – the city as a new art space

This development of former industrial facilities has been reflected in the regions. The low level of the density of the creative environment and the low consumer market have led to the emergence of shopping and entertainment centres instead of centres of contemporary art. For example this happened with the site of the textile factory in Ivanovo. The lack of initiative in the field of contemporary culture and art is compensated for by a large degree of public enthusiasm, especially among young people who are not spoilt by a large number of contemporary art events when compared to the Moscow public.

The authors of this work tried to monitor cultural initiatives in the regions and discovered some very interesting undertakings which are believed to be soon turned into the projects of the development of new creative clusters and cultural venues.

The most important conclusion is: the different initiatives exceeding the format of traditional cultural institutions and usual places of existence of contemporary art is the most crucial component of the cultural conversion. In order to move into «a new house», creative companies, entrepreneurs and cultural workers should get used to the city’s environment, try new spaces, go onto the streets and have a closer look at the citizens and the realities of modern life.

One of the most successful projects is «Illuminatory» (Portholes), conducted by the Yekaterinburg Foundation «Artpolitika». The artists occupied Koltsovo airport and for a while turned it into the main centre of contemporary art in the city. Young artists, rappers, traceurs and graffiti lovers organised a festival in the film studio «Bashkorstan» located in the historical part of Ufa.

The authors of the project are certain that «the growth of the interest towards contemporary art in Russia over last ten years and an adequate place Russia is taking place in the field of social cultural projects. There is growing interest toward contemporary art spaces». The programme of the festival consists of graffiti installations created in front of the public by the best groups of the region, performances by the best rappers of the region – rap battles, video installation presented by International Festival of Video Art «Outvideo», Yekaterinburg, breakdancing and parkour events.

Similar processes are taking place at the other end of the country. The director of Non-commercial partnership Createrra, Vladivostok, Svetlana Rusnak says «We are all dreaming about Vladivostok becoming an art city, like a magnet attracting creative people and providing new possibilities for self-realization in art, business and municipal management». An annual land-art festival on Russky Island will play a significant part in the process of building new cultural spaces. Non-commercial partnership Createrra plans to create an art cluster on Mallionka and organize an annual competition of social and cultural projects. The competition aims to support creative initiatives which change the city spaces and the quality of life and events aimed at making this space unique.

The initiatives in regions in the field of creating new cultural venues and developing industrial zones by culture and art have been responded by the authorities. For example, in Krasnoyarsk a new programme «Creative city» is planned to set off next year. There is a hope that with the support of the region authorities the similar process will go faster.

Let’s look at some of the situations in the different cities in Russia. Sent-Petersburg should be the first in the list as this city was a pioneer in the process of the creative industries’ development and claims to be the cultural capital of Russia.


In 2001-2003 there was a new project directed on the development of the creative industries in the city and supported by European commission programme TACIS. The centre of the creative industries’ development under the direction of Dmitry Milkov was established in the frames of this project. The activities of the centre contributed to the process of organisation of theoretical and practical - through the education programmes - bases for the «cultural conversion» processes.

The oldest Art centre Pushkinskaya 10 is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2009. At the end of the soviet era one of the buildings in the city centre was in a state of reconstruction. In 1989 it was squatted by artists and musicians such as Boris Grebenschikov, Sergey Kurekhin, Anton Adasinky (Derevo) and others. After the reconstruction deputy Yuly Rybakov stood up for the building in local Gorodskaya Duma. The inhabitants obtained the juridical status «The Centre of Undergound Culture in Sent-Petersburg». Today the juridical status of the centre (de+jure) doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, the centre remains at the heart of the city’s artistic life. The centre consists of the Museum of Non-conformist art, the only one in Russia, galleries, clubs, 40 personal workshops of underground artists, rehearsal spaces for many bands including those of Boris Grebenshikov, Igor Shevchuk, Vyacheslav Butusov and others.

The centre of contemporary art of S.Kurekhin emerged in the former cinema «Priboy» on Vasilievsky Ostrov. The building belonged to the Committee of culture and was handed over to Kurekhin’s widow Anastasya for the organisation of SKIF Festival (Sergey Kuryokhin International Festival) in 2005. There are also plans to use the the centre for other contemporary art forms. Along with the SKIF festival, which has successfully taken place since 2005, there are cinema programmes.

Open studio «Nepokorennye». Artists Ivan Pluschev and Ilya Gaponov and art critic Anastasia Shavlokhova were given one floor in one of the buildings of the former missile plant as a private initiative of producer Eduard Pichugin. 12 artists’ workhops, show and meeting rooms were established. 3 workshops have permanent owners; the others are given to different artists for their projects. Any artist can bring their portfolio and a description of their project and, if approved, have a workshop for 3 months and then be replaced by another artist. There are also exhibitions, lectures and concerts.

The project «Start» is aimed at young artists from the regions and helps them to make their debut project.

The festival «Videozakhvat» was dedicated to the transformation of the human image and had a big impact.

New participants often find a way to the studio on their own. For example, the festival of quick drawings and the photographic festival. The organizers met through the internet social networking site «Vkontakte» and came up with a new project.

Etaji The LOFT project «Etazhi» was opened on the premises of Smolninsky Baking Factory on Ligovsky Porspekt in summer 2007. The project became popular very quickly. Loft – a renovated space in the attic of an abandoned industrial building. The project started with a gallery and bar on the 5th floor and then spread 4 floors down.

Brothers Savely and Egor Antipenko, architects and the project’s ideologists, were thinking about what to leave rather than to what to build while developing the factory’s space. They decided not to replace a narrow staircase with a lift: Loft was considered also as a space amusement site. The Loft’s interiors combine fashionable lights from Holland with antique furniture from Arkhangelsk; a factory reel is used as a table.

There is a photo gallery on the 1st floor and in the yard. Young photographers can place their works on the PhotoWall. The space of 700 sq. meters on the second floor is used for exhibitions, presentations and fashion shows. In particular, the exhibition «The Memory of the Fields» was organised together with the studio «Nepokorennye». On the 3rd floor there is a hostel for artists, a show room for designers from Russia and Baltic States; in the project – the vegetarian restaurant «Green room». On the 4th floor there are administration offices and the gallery «Formula»; on the 5th – the Arkhipenko brothers’ studio. There is a plan to develop the roof on the 6th floor with a beautiful view of Saint-Petersburg.

The LOFT project «Etazhi» is a big and complex space and is perceived as lively and positive. Savely Arkhipenko says that in a place where spice-cakes were being baked for so long, it couldn’t be otherwise.

At the moment, the reconstruction of Apraskin Dvor is one of the biggest investment projects in Saint-Petersburg. Apraskin Dvor is an ancient architectural ensemble. The celebration of its 250th anniversary took place in 2004. The aims of the projects are: the development of the area, restoration of its social significance and the establishment of a multi functional city centre with a pedestrian zone. The size is 14 Ha. 57 commercial organisations are located on 152 thousand sq. meters. The land will be transferred to private property. The British architect, Chris Wilkinson, won the tender for a new reconstruction project. Norman Foster also took part in the competition. The company which won the tender for this project is Oleg Deripaska’s «Glavstroy – Saint-Petersburg».

The commercial space will take a dominant role. The cultural space will be located inside and include a concert hall with 1000-1500 seats, an exhibition hall of 300-500 sq.m, clubs, children playgrounds, small fashion and souvenirs shops etc. The independent centre of sociological research is carrying out research on potential residents of the place.

This is an interesting and potentially useful example of how business can let culture play an important part in a big innovative project. After the reconstruction Apraskin Dvor is expected to become a space for creative industries in Russia and will be able to introduce the possibilities of the arts to the authorities and business.

Moscow region – from Sepukhov to Kolomna

The Moscow region is a unique territory. The proximity of Moscow has a huge impact on Moscow regional cities. Their citizens tend to work and spend their leisure time in Moscow. Many of the cities have a genuine look of the provinces and differ enormously from Russia’s big regional centres.

Some of Moscow regional cities became centres of rock culture even in the Soviet time. This was connected to the fact that many Russian rock groups were not allowed to perform in the capital and were left outside the Moscow Ring Road. At present a new generation of rock movement have started off in cities like Serpukhov.

New cultural or leisure-like centres, like the «Liga» centre in Kolomna, arose out of the need to overcome a cultural and infrastructural vacuum. These initiatives can’t be considered as new cultural spaces or called innovative but are the precedents of combining culture and business and the self-organisation of informal creative youth groups.


There are many abandoned places such as industrial zones, schools and colleges located on the outskirts. Many abandoned municipal buildings have not been put up for sale. Despite this, the city authorities claim there is a lack of space. Therefore, the Pioneers House was suggested as the Art centre of the South Moscow region.

Club «U Kulemy» is located in a former mechanical plant. It was started by Sergey Kulema two years ago. As a musician he understands very well the difficulties facing young musicians. There are two concerts a month. This is the only place in the region where young musicians perform for free and the youth can listen to live music for a small charge. Sometimes well known bands from Moscow and nearby regions are invited to play in the club. Sergey Kulema says that the club maintains normal relationships with the authorities, or more precisely there are no relationships. Sergey is ready to start collaborating with them. However no response has come from the city.

The Art centre of the South Moscow region. This slightly clumsy title reflects an attempt to create a cluster in 2007. In the plans there were a club, a book shop and a publishing centre (one newspaper was issued), a designer shop which had already existed in the shopping centre. The process came to a halt at the point of registration. The idea gathered together 30 young people, artists, rock-musicians, designers and journalists. The authorities didn’t want to support this initiative. It was obvious that the plans of a new youth association didn’t meet the authorities’ ideas about youth activities. No one wanted to get into a disagreement with the city.

Promzona is an industrial district located on the edge of Serpukhov . This is a joint project between the company «Roatep» and the city administration. The OAO «Roatep» (the plants produces the radar systems of the anti-aircraft missiles and artillery complex, control systems for ship decoying systems, prelauch control systems.) The Promzona includes a club for concerts and discos, a restaurant, bowling alley and hotel. The club is located in the defence plant and is one of the most popular places in the city.


Cultural Centre «Liga» is located in the grounds of Kolomna’s Kremlin. The building, which was originally Barseniev’s monastery room, and later turned into a communial house, was renovated by the young people of Kolomna’s between 1988 and 1991.

«Liga» was founded with the public funds and became not only the cultural centre but a symbol of the passing of the 80s. Liga was opened in 1991. In April 2001 «Liga» started the restoration of another destroyed building in the city’s historical part; The gallery «Liga» (Lazhechnikova str.5) was launched in March 2002. Kolomna artist Pavel Zelenezky developed the architectural view of the building façade and trimmed it with decorative forging. The interior designer is Vitaly Khitrov.

The building belongs to the municipality. Kolomna’s Kremlin is a federal monument. The various types of activities are conducted by different juridical organisations. In fact the head of all «holdings» is local business man Vitaly Khitrov.

At present there is a gallery of contemporary art and an art salon with a display of souvenirs and pieces of art forЛига fashionable interior design. In the building there are also: tourist agency «Liga-tour» for Kolomna’s excursions and international travel services; the publishing house «Liga» and art-café «Nameki». The concert hall (Lazhchnikova, 5a) is part of the same architecture complex. The space is used by the Chamber Theatre «Piligrim» and for regular theatrical and musical programmes.

Cultural Centre «Liga» has its own fireplace room which is used for celebrations, banquets and business meetings; for honey and honey wine tasting. There is a wide choice of souvenirs and printed products available in the Centre’s kiosks.

The charity foundation «Kolomna Kremlin» was registered in 2005. An entrepreneurs’ club was launched as an initiative of the foundation in 2007.

The Centre’s infrastructure is used for the centre’s programme and rented out to different organisations for seminars and other activities.

The Centre’s visitors are mainly tourists of the local tourist agency Liga. The Centre is popular due to its participation in the organisation of the city’s celebrations (the project Ledyanoy Dom). However it’s a rather expensive place. Vitaly Khitrov keeps the high standard and there’s an appropriate pricing policy.

The Centre collaborates with the authorities in the field of municipal projects. The project Ledyanoy Dom was included in the cultural programme of the European ice skating championships held in Kolomna. The ministry of culture of the Moscow regions keeps ignoring the Centre.

«Liga» and Charity Foundation have managed to bring together the business structures which actively participate in cultural projects. They have managed to concentrate efforts and sources on the Kremlin reconstruction and to improve the image of the territory. The active and creative work of the Centre’s members have brought the centre to the status of the true cultural leader in Kolomna and allowed them to leave far behind the municipal organisations in the same sector.



The centre of the city has a lot of abandoned and destroyed buildings and many industrial facilities and buildings from the 19-20th centuries are in a very poor condition. These belong to partly business organisations and partly to municipal organisations. There is also the whole spectrum of creative organisations: 5 private galleries, 2 non-commercial galleries, TV-studios, magazines, advertisement companies, event agencies, architects’ workshops and musical groups. The biggest regional project is the Shiryavo’s biennale of contemporary art. It was started in August 1999. Since then it’s been held every other August in a village, Shiryaevo, in the district of Samara. Each biennale is dedicated to one a different theme.

Art-café «Bumazhnaya Luna» was launched in Samara 4 years ago. Then theСамара organizers decided to extend it in line with the idea of creative clusters. At present the Centre of contemporary culture «Elevator» project is being developed in the premises of the former flour grinding plant and the granary towers in the city centre. The building is a private property. The plant’s owners agreed to cover the costs of primary reconstructions of part of the site. The young architect has outlined the format of a new cluster. The cluster will include a hotel for artistic residences, restaurant, bar, book shop and multifunctional venues for exhibitions and concerts. The rest of the territory will be used by creative businesses. The towers which were used for grain draining now will be used for art events.

Another initiative in Samara is the Cultural Centre «Art-Propoganda» project. The Centre is located in the former «Dom Prosveshenia» in the city centre. The Centre will include an exhibition area, concert hall and café. The organizers’ priorities are focused on a programme of photography and contemporary dance.


The project of launching a new museum on the territory of the former river-boat station in Perm is a bright and successful example of new areas’ development by contemporary art. Undoubtedly, it’s more like an attempt to export contemporary art from the capital to the provinces. Nevertheless, the process of integration of a new organisation in the city’s environment might well change city life, especially when the project is fully realized.

Now the exhibition centre is located on the premises of the former river-boat station on the Kama river’s side. The exhibition «Russian-Poor» was launched on the 25th of September by Marat Gelman, a Moscow gallery owner. The building was constructed before the war in the style of the Stalin’s baroque: columns, pilasters, the stucco decorations and etc. The view from the windows is over the river. Marat Gelman says that there are not art spaces in Perm; «but the station’ ranges are so attractive and that the building is created for artistic life».

Why «Russian-Poor»? Basic or «poor» materials are the key concept of the exhibition. Such approach reveaПермьls and demonstrates the main qualities of Russian contemporary art – genuine and profound, leading away from the edge of beauty towards a real genius. The form, the dialogue with the history, the social responsibility and the aspiration to discover beauty in the simplest things are outlined in this research. Among the exhibition’s objects are unique works of cardboard, old planks of wood, rubber, steel, coal, glass, polyethylene and soap. This virtuoso work with such atypical materials was highly rated by the world cultural community. 36 works of well known artists were included in the exhibition in Prikamje’s capital. Among them are Nikolay Polissky, Olga and Alexander Florenskie, Valery Koshlyakov, Dmitry Gutov, Anatoly Osmolovsky, Aleksandr Brodsky, Petr Bely, Vladimir Arkhipov and many others. Many of them read lectures and ran master classes.

The composition of Nikolay Polissky and peasants of Nikola Lenivez’s village was placed in front of the building. After Perm, the «Russian-Poor» exhibition will be shown in the State Russian Museum in Sent-Petersburg, then in Moscow, Milan and New-York before it returns to Perm.

The building has a second life and has been equipped to the highest standard

There, Senator Sergey Gordeev plans to launch the State museum of contemporary art not only for exhibitions but as a cultural centre and creative workshop.


In the city there are many bankrupt factories and abandoned buildings on municipal property. There are also office blocks and new constructions sites as office spaces are in high demand.

The Independent creative sector of the city is demonstrated by the organisations working in graphic design, ceramics, fashion design, soft toys etc. They all are in need of premises and communications; and are not in contact with business representatives interested in providing art spaces.

Creative organisations inclined towards collaboration.

«Nash teatr» is located in the basement of an apartment house in the one of Krasnoyarsk’s dormitory districts. Initiually it was supposed to be a rehearsal studio for an amateur group of «social theatre». At present this is a place for rock festivals, folk concerts, solo concerts of authors from Krasnoyarsk and other Russian regions. Gradually, «Nash tear» has built their own audience of a mix of different generations.

«Dom Kino» is located in the renovated building of the old cinema constructed in the 1950s. «Dom Kino» shows a programme of classic Russian and international movies, unlike many others entertainment centres which are focused on the distribution of cash films. The complex is used for the organisation of different festivals, concerts and artistic meetings. «Dom Kino» cooperates with youth art organisations, for example, with the youth club «Radiotekhnik».

The centre of cultural historic and museum is considered a venue for art experiments; a place for gathering the initiatives of young people. They try to collaborate with other cultural organisations.

The reconstruction of the Regional Museum’s depository and its transformation to the exhibition space in the frames of «The origin of life on the Earth» s theme

A new museum’s building is situated on Kalinin’s street. Recently, it was the city outskirts. Nowadays it becomes the big motorway line connecting the city centre with the cottages’ district in North-West. The idea is to plan a new exposition not like a regular exhibition but like a multi functional cultural and leisure centre for different social and age groups.

Novosibirsk – science or art city?

Novosibirsk has a population of 1.5 million people. It is spread over 500 sq. km, half the size of Moscow and has extremely large spaces. The industrial facilities take up 40% in the city’s scale. Many of them are turned into trading centres and storehouses. First of all Novosibirsk was developed as an industrial centre. The industrial facilities were located next to the living districts and along the transport’s main road. During the war the evacuated defense facilities were placed in the city. Right in the centre such plants as Instrumental plant of Lenin, the electric vacuum plant, Elektrosila and others emerged. Later it became clear that the city’s central part must be freed from the industrial facilities. The reconstruction plan of 1994 proposed to move the most of the plants and factories to the outskirts. According to a new plan of the city’s general development from 2007 all industries must be moved out of the city. New living spaces and businesses are supposed to be located in the vacated areas. These areas are close to the centre’s main lines or metro stations, have electric capacities and developed communications; and very attractive to the developers and companies. For examples, the vacated plant Severyanka is on sell for 40-50 thousands rubles for a sq. meter.

The agency «Open Siberia» is focused on the creation of new cultural venues. The executive director Tatiana Tkachenko thinks that the best potential areas for it are 6-7 former plants in the city centre, 15 000 sq. meters: 4 floors of the Mill, «Severyanka»’ plant, workshops of the electro vacuum and «Elektroagregat» plants, a water-tower and the others. They are in private property, rented out or sold for trading centres, storehouses or land. There are much more buildings in the outskirts of the city or in the less interesting districts. Moreover, the construction of office centres has grown significantly for the last 2 – 3 years. In the experts’ opinion the process is close to the overproduction in the field of Class A buildings. The biggest part of them remains empty. There is no deficit of small spaces - small offices are also rented out. The leasing price is quite high – 1000 rubles for a sq. meter; 300 rubles for a sq. meter in the storehouses.

The city’s creative independent organisations are 4 independent theatres, 5 private galleries, 4-5 enterprises, «Siberian Jazz Laboratory», 15-20 music groups, 34 dance schools, 24 art workshops, 254 architectural studios (50 of them are small associations and the rest belong to the big project sand construction organisations and shops), 198 web-design studios (30 of them are specialized only on web-design), 205 event-agencies and 101 PR agencies. The most of them have the premises deficiency. The performing art is in need of venues (the engagements) but are not ready to organize their events independently.

«Open Siberia» is in the process of negotiating with the owners interested in renting out or selling their spaces but so far with no sucess. Some of the organisations might be interested in using some of their workshops for their PR but are suspicious about the clusters or the art centres’ ideas.

There is no project which could be turned into the cluster by simply moving it to a new space. There is a strong architectural community centred around an architects’ club (the main events are festivals of design and «Zolotaya kapitel»). There is a group of photographers who plan to open a photo centre with a gallery, school and photo tours services. A new independent theatre could be a part of the cluster with other enterprises and theatres. But the festival of independent theatres «Sibalterra» was closed due to the financial difficulties. Among non state theatre events there is also the festival of solo performances which is still unrecognized by the general public. There is a strong programme of rock music, jazz and dance; the jazz festival restarts in the autumn; the programme of the city’s debates and public lectures «Kukhya»; the programme of documentary films «Vstrechi v Sibiry»; 2 independent film clubs; 2 production centres. But all the aforementioned projects are not obvious participants of the clusters. One small initiative should be mentioned: creative agency «Ura», the redaction of «Bolshoy Gorod» magazine, an agency of event-tourism and art gallery «No Soap» rented the building in the city’s centre on equal conditions. They plan to use the gallery space for cultural projects and events. They moved in May.

Karelia – museums and clubs


Onezhsky tractor plant is the most attractive site for development. It’s located in the city centre. At present the plant is bankrupt and has not been handed over to anyone yet. There is also a mica factory transformed into the business incubator. The big deficit of the buildings is caused by the high rent cost.

«Komart club» was opened in 2006. This is a place for concerts, exhibitions and discussions in the centre of the city. At first the club was planned as a real club with a bar and a restaurant and different programmes. But the initial plans were changed as the club wasn’t on private property and was initiated by the state.

Within a short period of time the club has managed to gather young creative people, become a fashionable spot in the city and attracted the attention of experts from Karelia (state philarmony, conservatory, art school, the faculties of design, theatres, museums and others) and other Russian regions. Among them are NCCA, ProArte, Dance Agency Tsekh, Kannon Dance jazz-moder school and many others.

The «Komart club» project was implemented by the Foundation of the creative industries development and cultural tourism and became the starting point for the development process of the vast cultural resources of Petrozavodsk.

The project has 3 main directions: research activities (the organisation of competitions, the process of discovering new authors, collecting an internet catalogue of contemporary artists in Karelia; educational activities (conducting master-classes, lectures, presentations focused on the different theoretical and practical aspects of different contemporary art forms); festivals organisation (organisation of cultural events representing young Karelian artists; the presentation of contemporary art works form Russia and abroad and the introduction of examples of different art forms.)

One of the most important events of the club is the festival of Karelia’s contemporary art «Vykhodka». The festival’s priority is the creation of synthetic, marginal art forms, temporary art groups in the field of video arts: video poetry, video dance, video performance; in the field of contemporary dance – new musical material; fashion & theatre; combined projects of musicians, dancers and media artists and other similar collaborations.


Belomorsk is located on an historical part of the Russian Pomorye. The historical and cultural heritage features Belomor Petroglify, Pomor culture, epos Kalevala, North wood architecture, Peter the First’s «Osudareva» road, Solovki (monastery and Gulag) and the Belomorsky-Baltiysky Kanal. This is a typical post-soviet territory in crisis.

The project «The Museum of Beloe more» aims to create a complex combining artistic, natural science and local history museums on the premises of the former cinema in the city centre provided by the authorities for the project. Belomorsk is a transit point on the way to Solovki. A hovercraft services between Beloromsk and Solovki was launched in 2006 and is used by the 40% of the tourists to the region. The main idea of the project is that science and art are two independent and at the same time undivided parts of the entire and persistent process of perception, comprehension, development and alteration of the world by a man. The museum’ exposition plans to combine contemporary art works made of glass of Karelia’s and Nord Countries’s artists with photo-video documents, artefacts, computer and video installations. Glass is to be the main exhibition’s material since it combines the polar characteristics of water as fluidity and rigidity, transparency and colour; and symbolises the fragility of The Earth’s ecosystem. Apart from the exhibition the museum «Beloe more» plans to have a Tourist Information Cente, a space for seminars, conferences and concerts, a recording studio, ceramic and glass workshops and a souvenir shop.

Instead of the conclusion

The collected information here is not a completed research but rather the first stage of this research. It’s no long time left before new clusters and cultural venues appear in the former plants. The only question left is who will be first?

The authors:

Elena Zelentsova
Nikolay Gladkikh

With the participation of Ksenya Pushkina

Special thanks to our partners in Russian regions for their assistance in preparing the materials:

- Cultural Initiatives Centre, Karelia, and personally to Elena Sologub (Petrozavodsk)

- «Open Siberia» Agency and personally to Tatiana Tkachenko (Novosibirsk)

- Art-Policy Foundation and personally to Nailya Allakhverdieva (Yekaterinburg)

- Mikhail and Lyudmila Savchenko (Samara)

- Creative Industiries Development Centre and personally to Dmitry Milkov (Sant Petersburg)

- Non-commercial partnerships «Creative city» and personally to Svetlana Rusnak (Vladivostok)

- Agency «Creative City» and personally to Olga Trofimova and Vadim Maryasov (Krasnoyarsk)

The research was made in the frames of the Dance Agency Tsekh’s project supported by the European Union as a part of IBPP – Support to EU-Russia Cultural Co-operation Initiatives Programme

An English translation was made by Tatyana Gordeeva (Dance Agency «Tsekh»). Special thanks to Paul Webb for his assistance in preparing an English version of the research.

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