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Meet Iryna Kanishcheva of Iryna Kanishcheva (kanishcheva.com)

Today we’d like to introduce you to Iryna Kanishcheva.

Iryna, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Six years ago when I was working in the pharmaceutical sector in Ukraine, I had no idea that I would soon be initiating the first urban art project in North Florida that would change the look of downtown Gainesville for years. Moving to the United States changed my life in ways that I couldn’t imagine, and my passion for street art and photography has grown deeper through my experiences here.

It all began in 2013 when I independently organized my first solo exhibition. I wanted to show our community photographs of street artworks that were ephemeral in nature and not routinely featured in galleries. Since then, I’ve exhibited my photographs nine additional times at places such as the Historic Thomas Center in Gainesville, FL, the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, FL, the America House Kyiv in Ukraine, and I recently had a solo show titled LAYERS, held at the Gary R. Libby gallery adjacent to the School of Art + Art History at University of Florida. Today, street art is featured in gallery spaces and is becoming appropriated more and more by contemporary culture.

When I moved to Gainesville, FL, as I normally do when I travel, I tried to find some murals and was disappointed: there is no urban art scene. It was weird to me that in the city with University of Florida (one of the biggest in the USA) and such young population (the average age about 27) this relevant art form is not developed. I decided to try to bring something new to this city… I wrote a detailed proposal, with examples of similar events, my own photographs from around the world, approximate budget, and all the benefits…

I got permissions for all the walls, found a sponsor and the City of Gainesville helped me to produce my first urban art event. That’s how I became a curator. Then I was invited to help to organize similar events in other places.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has never been a smooth road. First of all, when I started my first mural project, I just moved to the USA and my English was really basic. I struggled a lot writing hundreds of emails and giving presentations. There is also a difference between cultures. While Americans always nice and take their time to give compliments before getting to the point, I am more direct and have no time for long introductions. Thus, some people may percept me as a rude person, but I am not, just too busy 🙂 To get used to this took me a while. Further, work with people is always stressful. It is hard to build a team that you can trust.

The most difficult part is finding a good reliable sponsor that would not let you down during the project and doesn’t take advantage of you in the end. Often, the name of the curator/urban art consultant, which is technically the core of a project, disappears from the website upon ending the contract or even not mentioned at all. However, it is all experience and next time you know what to expect and what to demand.

Iryna Kanishcheva (kanishcheva.com) – independent curator, urban art consultant, and street art photographer – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am an independent curator, urban art consultant, and street art photographer. In the past three years, I’ve been involved in 13 different art projects and have been awarded three times. I founded and curated 352walls, otherwise known as the Gainesville Urban Art Initiative. I was a co-founder and co-curator for one of the biggest mural projects in the world, ArtUnitedUs (Kyiv, Ukraine), well known for art productions such as our mural in Chernobyl and the (unofficial) tallest mural in Europe.

For Art (Re)public in Jacksonville, FL I worked as Urban Art Consultant and gathered some of the best street artists in the world. My latest achievement has been becoming a Creative Partner for the Basel House Mural Festival in Wynwood, Miami for Art Basel 2017, well-known hub for street art. At present, I’m now curating the Grove Street Neighborhood mural project In Gainesville, FL, which brings together local artists and residents and features the work of regional and national artists. I’m also consulting for other urban art events, such as UF Performing Arts Gala 2018. Entitled A Night in the City, this event is dedicated to NYC where graffiti is an important component.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Succes it is what makes you happy. It can be money and recognition, friends and family, traveling and meeting new people, events, and hobbies, and your lovely second half, of course. In my opinion, success means different things for each identity depending on their background and cultural baggage. For me, it is all listed above. 🙂

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