St. Petersburg is a city full of public art – from sculptures to mosaics to murals. Everywhere you turn, there are the signatures of artists old and new. New projects are being formed all the time to serve a variety of purposes, including charity events to help local NGOs. One such project, which has already had two showings, one in the fall, and the most recent this past Earth Day, has been popular enough that it will likely become a regular event. For this, five organizations collaborated to organize unique exhibitions and auctions for 30 local artists in support of children with disabilities. These weren’t normal exhibitions though. They both required artists to work on the spot while engaging with the public, and to part with their creations by the end of the day.
The first event, called “Good Home,” took place on September 4, 2011 on New Holland Island in St. Petersburg. The major sponsor was a local business called “Vdomedom” (Russian for in the house is a house), which sells large cardboard houses that can then be cut, painted, decorated, and otherwise customized by children and their parents to provide play space for children.
This business provided several of these cardboard houses to the event, which the artists and the community then painted together. A local organization, Step Forward, which has run a boarding house for disabled children for the past seven years, helped organize the event and invited the children they support to assist the artists.
At this most recent event, an entire cardboard city, designed by local eco-designer, Svetlana Zhigarev, was built. Mrs. Zhigarev lead volunteers to construct massive sculptures of cars, houses, a yellow submarine, animals, trees, furniture, toys, and even a dj-station with records.
The project filled the space of a 1300-square-foot gallery and took about a month to prepare. The children from Step Forward painted the cardboard city as they wished and also prepared crafts and painted t-shirts to sell to the public in an “art market” section of the cardboard city. Thus, the event was called the “Good Home Charity Art Market.” A local musical guest performed and then the houses were auctioned a finale to the day’s festivities.
These events required a massive amount of organization finding financial support, suppliers, site locations, food providers, photographers, and, of course, artists! The 30 local artists involved came from diverse backgrounds spanning the arts. Each artist was free to paint anything they wished. Irena Kuksenaite, a well-known model, actress, and artist, and owner of the Formula Gallery, depicted the cartoon character, Pink Panther, as the painter of her pink Vdomedom house.
Natasha Floksy, a graffiti artist that has gone beyond the streets to creating a children’s book for Ipad, painted her house with colorful, joyous characters. She also donated paintings to each event to be auctioned as well.
Victor Tikhomirov, a local film director, painted a mama bear and baby bear holding a balloon. Each side of the house is an extension of a forest filled with bees and giant mushroom. In the sky, angels fly.
At the end of the day, the houses were auctioned, with each house selling quickly. All the funds raised were given to Step Forward. Over 34,000 rubles (or about $1,200) was raised that day, inspiring the organizers to set up another event for the spring. The “Good Home” events have been more than fundraisers for charity. These were opportunities to see the history and diversity of contemporary art in St. Petersburg from old to new. Now, all across the city, there are children playing in the painted cardboard houses of these artists. Hopefully, many of them will be inspired to pick up a paintbrush and keep the legacy of art in St. Petersburg going.