In the fall of 2007, Susan Katz, the director of CEC Arts Link in St. Petersburg, Russia wrote to me to ask if I would be interested in coming to St. Petersburg to head a week long seminar in public art projects for the Pro Arte students. I didn't think twice and I said "yes!" Then I asked, "so when will it be?" and she replied, "December". That's when it hit me: Russia? December? Public Art? I'm a wimp when it comes to cold and I have no problem admitting it. I grew up in the warmth of Brazil and facing winter in New York is already a challenge which I barely make it alive every year. But winter in Russia? I was frightened. My immediate question was: "Any chance we can do this in Spring perhaps?". Susan's response was short and clear: "No, not really..." Me: "OK... cool. I'll see you in December then (gasp). I'm so excited!" (gasp)
This would be my second collaboration with CEC Arts Link, an international arts organization which supports the exchange of artists and art programs between the United States and Eastern and Central Europe. My first collaboration happened in the summer of 2007 when I was invited by Kendal Henry, an artist, curator, a frequent collaborator with CEC, and now a good friend, to work in a public art project in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. This experience was so amazing, I had to dive in again, although it meant enduring the real terror: the Russian winter.
After two days of lectures, the Pro Arte students had about three days to come up with their ideas for the public art piece, then install them on the last day of the seminar. Here is the outline of the assignment:
Conceive, produce and install a public art piece for the streets of St. Petersburg.
1. The piece should not exceed the size of 30 cubic centimeters.
2. The piece should be made in multiples of at least ten.
3. The piece should be inexpensive to produce and easy to install
4. The piece, when installed should disrupt and engage the viewers.
Considering many of the students had full-time jobs or classes during the day, this was truly a challenging task. They worked very hard to produce their pieces in time. For the remaining sessions, they presented their ideas and we all critiqued the pieces and we had very intense discussions. Our interpreter Olga Berg did an amazing job translating everybody and she was one of the main reasons for the success of the seminar. Thank you, Olga!
So on the last evening, we all went out to the cold street and installed the pieces. It was an exciting moment for everybody. Here they are...