How did the pandemic affect the development of art, and how can you personally help it? Katia Taylor, an art expert and the founder of Port.Agency, told UP.Zhyttia about the changes, plans and search for new formats.
About the consequences of pandemic in the cultural sector
We, the cultural community, believed that we are already used to the state of turbulence and to our sector being unstable and complex.
But at some point, we, nevertheless, became lax. Therefore, the quarantine compelled us to be more active, spurred us, surprisingly enough. Now I know that it was for the better, but when it all began, everybody was scared.
Many organizations have altogether found themselves on the brink of ceasing to exist, while others had to change the formats they were used to. The quarantine and its economic consequences transformed the approach to social business and its organization.
When all that happened, I have already had a past experience in working with House of Europe: we developed a professional exchange program to help Ukrainian social entrepreneurs gain new experience during a group trip to one of the EU states.
As soon as I came back from the first trip of this kind, to Latvia, the borders were closed and the implementation of this large-scale program hung in the air.
About Hack the Culture hatathon
At that moment, we were invited to participate in an online hatathon, Hack the Culture – a contest of artistic concepts and ideas from House of Europe and the Goethe-Institut. It was called “hatathon”, because all its participants had to stay home [“hata” means “house” in Ukrainian]. The organizers were able to raise interest among the audience and impart activity into the sector.
The contest featured the total of over 1000 participants from 60 teams. Everybody could offer their project, and after experts determined the best three among all teams, we at Port.agency have suddenly found ourselves among these three. The whole thing took place in the online format, and the foundation awarded prizes to the contest’s finalists to support their organizations during the pandemic.
About Supermarket of Culture
We won with the project “Hypermarket of Culture”, a platform where everybody could provide support for artistes or cultural establishments and at the same time buy something interesting for themselves.
We had a prototype, the “elder brother”: “Supermarket of Culture”, which by that time has been operational for three weeks. The author of this idea is Olha Bezkhmelnytsina, a Ukrainian film producer and a friend of mine.
She came to us with an idea, and our team has developed it into a full-fledged marketplace. There, you can purchase online or offline art lectures, tickets to the rehearsal of DakhyBrakhy, a personal tour guided by Oleksandr Roitburd, Director of Odesa Museum of Arts, or a singing lesson from Jamala. We donate the proceeds from sale to the funding of a particular project or institution.
During the strict quarantine, all offers had to be in the online format, but now, we are adding offline events as well, little by little.
What the supermarket offers
Presently, the most popular among out lots is a tour of Vernadsky Library including a visit to its futuristic roof. We also offer a personal tour of Odesa Museum of Arts with Oleksandr Roitburd – for example, for companies interested in development of their employees. This is a unique offer, because Oleksandr will guide only one tour. We constantly update our offers and add new ones.
In total, we were already able to raise almost 100,000 hryvnias for support of cultural establishments and projects. This amount is, surely, not that big, but it is used to solve concrete, important problems. For example, we purchased a saxophone for Lysenko Children’s Music School in Znamianka, and for them, this help was truly big.
We designated this project as a social experiment, and it is fair to say that in this respect, it was the one hundred percent success. But as a business project, it still needs to be improved, and that’s what we are working on right now.
About further development plans
After Hypermarket of Culture became a finalist of the hatathon, we submitted it for another grant from House of Europe, this time available to 20 hatathon finalists, and won again. In general, our agency works more with businesses than with grant programs. But it was also one of the points we had to revise during the quarantine. Thanks to this grant, we are now improving and expanding our project, and soon, will present Supermarket of Culture.
Of course, it will offer more opportunities and interesting lots, but that’s not the only important thing. We are trying to help cultural establishments across Ukraine with digitalization and search for new formats during the pandemic. It is important for us that regional museums, establishments and festivals learn about Hypermarket and the opportunity to use it as a platform to tell about themselves and receive funding.
We will provide them with free offline and online consultations from digitalization specialists. We are already developing a series of educational webinars with sectoral specialists: Olesia Ostrovska-Liuta, Director of Mystetskyi Arsenal; Oleksandra Kovalchuk, Assistant Director of Odesa Museum of Arts; and others. We will tell you about how to modernize your institution in the conditions of crisis.
Our goal is to become the biggest platform in the country selling art-related services. Later on, we will enable users to register there themselves, so that everybody could present their product. Of course, all offers will be moderated by experts. Thanks to our project, small regional museums and galleries will realize that they can cover a much broader audience, appreciate the importance of developing the digital area and start working on it.
About what’s going to happen in the sector next
Presently, our agency is working on the project of a large sculpture park in the Lviv Oblast, PARK3020. Recently, we and Vogue magazine opened A Hundred Days of Loneliness exhibition devoted to the quarantine.
When working on the exhibition, we asked artistes how they coped with quarantine-related restrictions. But the restrictions haven’t been lifted yet, and the quarantine continues. Therefore, planning something in advance is hard today. One thing is clear, though: it is extremely important for cultural institutions and businesses today to be flexible and able to quickly get adapted to possible changes or to another crisis.
To view offers from Supermarket of Culture and provide support to cultural institutions or artistes, visit the project’s website.
The interview was conducted in Kooperativ workspace.