Saturday, August 28, 2010

The value of Handicrafts and Culture

 still Friday 20th Yelabuga;

At the hotel here was a massive  press conference/ discussion, with many people attending the Spassky fair which was setting up in the Shishkin gardens.

We were as usual after so many photo calls, running late. Taking our seats, Olga struggling to answer our questions and hear the speeches to translate.

 Around the table speakers were discussing how to preserve handicrafts, and how my working in partnership with the museums and cultural bodies, history could be bought forward to create more tourism for the area. But the museums are central to this process, and the handicrafts are seen as important, they have not been replaced by the equivalent of our nessies made in china to be sold in tartan tat shops. I believe the debate went into localised specific details of distribution, price setting and so on. It appears to me that these large discussion groups are fairly common place and certainly include everyone, makers, artists, up to the minister of culture. Can you Imagine Fiona Hyslop MP climbing down from the upper echelons sitting down in Inverness with artists and crafts workers to talk out the future of crafts?

 The gulf we have between the creatives and the descision makers appears insurmountable, yet here in Russia peoples voices are heard in a calm, intelligent, democratic descussion. Meanwhile the non-Russian speaking ‘children’ were getting fidgety so we made entertainment with pen & paper, sketching each other and swopping drawings with the charismatic artist Anotoli sat near us, he showed us his portfolio and a book about his life and considerable catalogue of diverse work. ( some of his work was exhibited at the Hotel )
( photo by Alex, or Luda )
 He appeared to be somewhat anarchic, making occasional heckling noises to the speakers, he stood up at one point and gave someone important a talking to for boasting about buying artwrk for his wife instead of making real changes to support artists and provide them a decent state funding lively hood, his suggestion being that  the state should purchace a couple fo pieces of artwork a year  off each artist and maker to build solid public collections and give artists the freedom to work. It may seem a ridiculous dream from a UK perspective where everything is catergorised, judged and given a price tag, but here remember ‘Artists are a gift from God’.

Another walk down town, more photos with us in our hats clutching our goodies, another lovely supper more vodka and more toasts. The mood joyful..this day in particular had been a fairy tale.

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