SMALL TOWN – DIALOG
The unprecedented public interest in contemporary art led to the emergence of a cultural space known as Art Point. What is the secret of its success – is it the clever timing, when even the weather is reminding everyone that it is the holiday season, or is it the cultural hunger of the public, finally ready to accept and understand contemporary art? The fact remains that the citizens of Almaty are particularly interested in Art Point.
The idea of creating a cultural space was born a long time ago, but its fulfillment has begun after the Eurasian Cultural Alliance Public Association successfully held the Fifth Festival of Contemporary Art – ARTBAT FEST. The search for partners and sponsors began at the end of September 2014. The British Council has responded, but under the condition that the British influence would have to be obvious in the space. Therefore, it wasn’t a coincidence that the architectural design for the cultural space was created by the British-Kazakh Atomik Architecture bureau. “Famous because of their “Arman Alma-Ata” initiative, the union of two Britons and one Kazakhstani artist has definitely attracted attention, because the architecture of Art Point also needed to reflect Almaty’s original style. Furthermore, this solution has satisfied the British Council. Also, working with a new public space was kind of an experiment for architects, which turned out to be useful,” – shared Olga Veselova, director of ARTBAT FEST.
The partner was found last September, and the team of organizers began accepting applications for Art Point program in April this year: “Initially there wasn’t much demand – the creative community did not respond actively. However, we knew that the initiative is unfamiliar to the public and it is just words so far. However, as soon as people saw the result, there were tons of applications: in July the program was filled till mid-September”. The main selection criterion – a format that should fit the level set by the Eurasian Cultural Alliance Public Association and the British Council. The public’s interest was also quite high, which confirmed the relevance and the need for such a space in our city and in our country. But at the same time, as noted by Vladislav Sludskiy, the aim was not to attract the largest possible audience to the Art Point, because the goal was to achieve quality rather than quantity. After all, the cultural co-working center was designed to be a creative environment for designers, artists, musicians, actors, and SMEs. The main idea was to give them the opportunity to organize meetings, presentations, events and other activities. It all started with Igor Sludskiy, the chairman of the Eurasian Cultural Alliance Public Association, who had the idea while visiting international festivals and exhibitions – to create similar conditions for communication on the basis of contemporary art in Kazakhstan. On the global level, it’s these kinds of cultural events that allowed people to learn, communicate and to create projects together. For example, last year there was a communication platform in place of Art Point, created by the Dutch-Hungarian art group Refunc. The idea was to create an amphitheater, which held a number of events and meetings within the framework of the Fifth Festival. Later, however, the organizers have decided to create something more serious and permanent in this area. Art Point has appeared as a result of this. “Its form and content were well understood, but not what it was actually going to be filled with, because the basic idea was to create a communication platform between the creative cluster and the audience: free of charge communication for both. This raises the question, because the creative cluster in Kazakhstan is only five years old, and there was no knowing what quality of master classes, films, performances, concerts to expect,” - said Vladislav Sludskiy, festival’s art director. Olga Veselova added: “On the one hand there is an uninhabited wasteland, on the other – a very good place in the city". From the very beginning, the team of organizers was trying to include all art forms.
As time has shown, the dialogue has been established quite successfully. The creative cluster has been activated, the public is interested, and the collaboration of the creative niche representatives gradually began to grow. “A perfect example is Urban Re-Hub, which was held at the Art Point. I know that its creators – an architect and an urbanist – had been thinking about the theme of urbanization. Art Point became the starting point in the creation of the project that has attracted many interested people. There were performances as well as workshops and lectures. Moreover, art critic Yuliya Sorokina organized the Astral Nomads project, which documented Central Asian art. It might seem like a niche product, but on the other hand, people are interested in learning about the artists who live among them. We want more of this kind of initiatives, because Art Point was created for them,” – concluded Olga Veselova.
The Art Point program is already full till the end of September. It is yet unknown what will happen to the cultural space, when the weather changes and the public might find spending time on its territory uncomfortable. The team of organizers is already thinking about solutions for this problem. Of course, it would be great if we could find partners that could help make the space comfortable during the cold season. In this case, it needs help with the architectural concept. However, we already know that the next summer Art Point will definitely have a very rich program.
Art Point – a cultural space created within the framework of the contemporary art festival ARTBAT FEST, capable of operating independently of the festival. The project was launched two months before the start of the 6th ARTBAT FEST – on July 4, 2015.
Comments of representatives of the creative cluster in Almaty.
Anel Moldahmetova, Light Space Bureau’s producer of urban projects.
I believe that Art Point is very beneficial, because it is the first of its kind – an open platform that allows participants to carry out their activities. This opportunity is priceless. It stimulates the development of interesting projects, because it is suitable for people who can’t find a place, but want to hold their own event.
When I was running my own event, the theme was “Urban Projects”. I wanted to hold it in an open area, not some room, because the theme of the project was the city. In this regard, I liked the open area, which one can easily enter and exit, the atmosphere of freedom it creates, where people are relaxed.
I have seen Art Point develop. While there weren’t many people at the beginning of the summer, in July the program of activities was filled until September. Therefore, the city, and even the country need more cultural spaces like this one.
Altynay Imanbekova, architect
As an architect I’m interested in Art Point because it brings people closer to arts. It is also useful for professionals, because there aren’t such co-working areas in Almaty, where conversations and meetings of any nature can be carried out at the proper level. For example, artists and designers could meet during an interesting event, share ideas, and then meet at Art Point to work on a mutual project right there.
As a professional, I liked that while I was taking part in an event, several new projects with various architects and designers had been initiated. As a member of the public, I liked the area because it raised the level of culture in the society, however grandiose it may sound. After all, people need to start moving towards a new, modern direction.
Pavel Mokich, artist
Art Point – the first sufficiently large cultural area in Almaty. I haven’t seen anything like this before.
From my observations, this area has many master classes designed to develop arts and culture among children. There are also many programs for adults: a variety of events, performances of many experimental groups; many exhibitions are held. When you visit the platform, you realize that there aren’t any other spaces like this, where you can spend your time usefully and with pleasure. There are no such places because the main object of previous failed cultural spaces had been commerce; they exist for some time and then shut down. However, everything at the Art Point is free, you can create all you want.
Pavel Bannikov, poet and essayist
The benefit of the Art Point is that culture is claiming urban spaces. Obviously, the projects presented on the platform have different cultural significance. There are some really good projects, while others are just passable. But the fact is – it’s happening and becoming part of the city life: people are getting used to the fact that art is not just an exhibition taking place somewhere sometime. Art can be anytime, anywhere, in any space of the city. This, of course, is good. I think this is one of the main goals of Art Point, and its masterminds did a great job. It is important that the platform is influencing the overall development of urban culture. With regard to some specific events, I would like to state that a person who is far from culture might get a culture shock just by attending a museum. Therefore, nobody is dragging anybody to the cultural space by force. This is a free country and everyone goes to those events that are close to them in spirit and that they consider worthy of their time.