Iryna Kanischeva: Stranger in a strange land
When Iryna Kanishcheva came from France to Gainesville with her husband in February of 2013, she had no idea what the future would bring.
"I struggled with boredom and loneliness. I used to have a very good career in the pharmaceutical industry in Ukraine," Iryna said. "I progressed from Pharmacist to Sales Manager very fast and really enjoyed my work."
Finding work in her profession in Gainesville was complicated by her limited knowledge of English. "It is really hard to find any job without knowing, understanding a new language," Iryna said. "I spent two years studying English by myself along with attending plenty of classes and conversation groups."
I was thinking about what Iryna had said while we were sitting on the patio of the Downtown Gainesville Starbucks. "Your entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiasm helped you to run the Gainesville Urban Art project," I said, trying to follow the leap Ms. Kanishcheva engineered on her own initiative from being in the pharmaceutical field to being curator of Gainesville's Urban Art Project. I continued, "It is interesting how you relied on such a different set of parameters to move yourself forward and into the world we call Gainesville," I said.
"My what?" Iryna asked, not understanding the term entrepreneurial. "That is a new word for me," she said, ready to learn another new English word.
So this adventure of creating an art project became Iryna's Odyssey: The story of a Ukranian â€“wife with a young child, woman with two postgraduate degreesâ€“relocated from France with no idea that her love for photography and passion for urban art would lead to a new occupation of contributing to Gainesville's outdoor imagery by enlisting artists from the region and from around the world to exhibit their work on buildings, facades, and unique structures throughout Gainesville.
Eight months after her arrival, the Display Gallery exhibited Iryna's documentary photography of European Street Art in a solo exhibition. During the 352walls week in November of 2015, Ms. Kanishcheva photos from different cities, states and countries of the work of internationally famous artists were exhibited at the Historic Thomas Center with a reception attended by the artists, who were invited to be a part of 352walls in Gainesville.
"Visiting Art Basel in Miami in 2014 and seeing all the great murals in the Wynwood District of Miami, I would never believe I could organize an event of this kind in less than one year," Iryna said. "While living in Europe, I saw a lot of mural projects and tried to document everything I was impressed by. I continued looking for murals here, after relocating to Florida."
"There are several good projects like the Hollywood Downtown Mural Project, the Sarasota Going Vertical project, St. Petersburg murals, the RAW project in Jose de Diego Middle School in Miami, and of course Wynwood Walls Miami. They became good examples of how public space can be transformed. I used my own photography portfolios to tell different organizations about all the benefits of the project," she added.
"In Europe and France artists are highly sought to share their ideas as impressions on the vacant walls of the city," Iryna said explaining the underlying idea of 352 walls.
"As I travelled Gainesville I discovered many empty, bare walls that could be transformed with talent, artistic eye, expressions, perspectives of artists," Iryna said.
Internationally famous artists were invited by Iryna to come to Gainesville, and she selected eight of the best muralist in the world with different styles and techniques. Ms. Kanishcheva then added 10 local artists to begin painting the town.
The difficult part for Iryna in this new workplace was overcoming language barriers, meeting new people for the first time, and convincing them their buildings or property was perfectly suited for public viewing of paintings.
Visit Gainesville recognized the value of the 352walls project and agreed to become a sponsor of the event. The City of Gainesville Cultural Affairs Department also helped to produce the event. For 352walls, Iryna was awarded a 2015 Public Art Award, which is presented annually to an individual or entity who has exhibited powerful and meaningful public art works in Gainesville, Alachua County.
Iryna saw her painting Gainesville dream come to life with the first mural completed last June by renowned Italian artist 2501, who travels with his partner G.Matta. Gainesville was their first stop on a 40-day road trip across the USA and the first mural in the Gainesville project: Glimpse of America. A part of the Gainesville project is a documentary planned to be showcased at Miami's International Art Fair.
"This collaboration is important for Gainesville." Iryna said. "This is an opportunity to be included with Miami, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Rochester, Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans and Las Vegas â€“ the best art destinations â€“ that also participate," Iryna said. "It is a chance to let the world know about Gainesville. To be a part of this documentary can open doors for new projects to beautify our town and to increase tourism," Iryna continued.
"We are very happy with the result and have received very good feedback," said Ms. Kanishcheva. "The kick-off week is over, but 352Walls is a multi-year project. We are waiting for some more great internationally famous artists in January, then February, then April... We will continue looking for talented local artists through "call to artists" next year," Iryna said with a satisfied look of accomplishment.
"Now, I feel like every dream and passion can be a reality if you really want it," Gainesville's Urban Art Curator said. "I worked on this project for half of the year being totally unpaid, spending all my time, without being sure things would work out. It was very happy time. I met a lot of amazing people and made many friends, also my English was improved while writing thousands of emails and giving presentations."
Iryna might still feel somewhat like a stranger in Gainesville, but she has stamped her identity onto the Gainesville artistic map with 18 murals already created by 8international artists and 13 local artists. In 2016, watch Gainesville's walls for further developments.
"she has stamped her identity onto the Gainesville artistic map with 18 murals already created by 8 international artists and 13 local artists. In 2016, watch Gainesville's walls for further developments."
All images by Iryna Kanisheva. FOLLOW THIS LINK for the complete Gainseville Urban Art/WALL352 story.