Ukrainian artists explore the world, learn new skills and promote their culture with EU support


Quarantine and isolation – the perfect moment to bring your creative ideas to life. It is also a good time to gain experience, try new things and, why not, change the world for the better.

In May, the European Commission will launch a new competition for digital cross-border distribution of performing arts works. The competition aims to make a timely and valuable contribution to a sector harshly hit by the COVID-19 crisis. Because of the difficulties experienced by applicants during the coronavirus outbreak, a number of deadlines for the creative industry have been extended.

This article explores the experiences of Ukrainian artists who took part in the i-Portunus mobility scheme - a short-term pilot project for artists and cultural professionals.

The scheme funded trips for artists from the 41 member countries of the ‘Creative Europe’ programme, and participants received between €1,500 and €3,400, depending on the length of their trip.

Dance improvisation on a former collective farm

Mariia Bakalo is from Crimea. After the annexation, she moved to Lviv where she founded her own dance improvisation studio. Thanks to i-Portunus, she did an art residency in Lunow-Stolzenhagen, Germany.

“I wanted to study abroad because, unfortunately, my field is not well developed in Ukraine. People here are not as interested in dance improvisation as I would like them to be,” says the young artist.

The young woman learnt from her friends about Rosa Ponder – an art residency in Germany, located on a former collective farm. Eager to go there, Mariia applied for i-Portunus and eventually spent three weeks in Germany:

“The residency is attended by artists from different countries, who take master classes and workshops. Our synthesis module brought together eight artists from different countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, and the USA.

Everyone had different backgrounds, perspectives on life, talents and ethics, so it was a great learning experience,” shares the young artist.

Mariia says that compared to the many art programmes and residencies that she has applied for, this one was particularly easy.

“This is a cool programme because it allows individuals to apply without being part of an institution. I applied as a freelance artist, which greatly simplifies the issue of reporting on the use of money,” the artist explains.

Performance art in three countries

Yaryna Shumska has been performing for over 14 years, and now she teaches at the Lviv Academy of Arts. Thanks to the mobility scheme, from 11 November to 1 December 2019 the performer presented her project ‘Kilogrammes of memories’ in three countries.

“To apply for this programme I had to have an invitation. As I received three invitations, I combined everything in a single three-week trip,” says Yaryna.

The first stop for Yaryna was the town of Lucian in the south of France:

“For about 20 years, a local artist has been organising an art residency in Lucian. I participated in a project called 'Art Meeting №5', in which three French artists and I each presented our own performances. I was the first artist from Ukraine there,” Yaryna recalls.

Her next stop was Cologne, Germany.

“This city has the world's largest performance archive. German artist Boris Neslioni has been collecting performance material for over 40 years, so it was a pleasure to contribute to this archive,” says Yaryna.

The final stop of Yaryna's journey was the Polish city of Torun, where she performed at the Circle of Time festival.

For Yaryna the most important outcome of her participation in i-Portunus are the new contacts she has made.

“My time abroad was inspiring, because here you are caught in a certain cycle of work and responsibilities. Being in a new environment allows you to look at the world from a different perspective,” shares Yaryna.

Art and feminism talks in Paris, Prague and Warsaw

Art curator Oksana Briukhovetska learnt about i-Portunus at the ArtGora Forum in Riga, where she presented her book, ‘The Right to Truth. Talks about Art and Feminism’.

“I applied for i-Portunus and received a two-week grant to visit Warsaw, Prague and Paris. I brought about ten copies of my book with me, and made public presentations at the three institutions with which I had collaborated on my book,” says Oksana.

Oksana’s book aims to reformat old institutional hierarchies. It touches upon many topics, such as care as opposed to competition, the value of less visible work, the abolition of privileges, gender equality, improving working conditions, and the civic participation of mothers with young children.

“While preparing my presentations for each of the three cities, I tried to present the work of Ukrainian artists, and talk about the Ukrainian context. The book includes interviews with Ukrainian artists Valentyna Petrova, Alina Kopytsya and Dana Kavelina,” Oksana says.

i-Portunus was organised by the Goethe-Institute together with Institut Français, the IZOLYATSIA foundation and the Nida Art Colony of the Vilnius Academy of Arts. As a result of three waves from April to September 2019, a total of 337 applicants participated in it and received nearly €621,000.

“However, we received ten times more applications, which shows how big the demand for such initiatives is,” says Oksana Sarzhevska-Kravchenko, director of the IZOLYATSIA foundation – one of the organisations implementing the project in Ukraine.

According to Oksana, Ukraine was in the top 10 countries in terms of number of applications, with a total of 95 candidates of which 18 were selected.

A second similar initiative is on its way, to be announced in May 2020. All projects aim to determine how best to promote the international mobility of artists. This initiative will be permanent within the framework of the ‘Creative Europe’ programme and will run from 2021 to 2027.

Information on current calls for Ukrainian artists, deadlines and application requirements can be found on the website of the Creative Europe in Ukraine.

Author: Uliana Bukatiuk

Article published by in Ukrainian and Russian