Our train left Saint Petersburg at 06:32 last Monday for Petrozavodsk. Every time I take a train I am reminded of how much I enjoy traveling by rail. Trains and thinking seem to go hand-in-hand. I had a few drawings left to make for the exhibition and I managed to finish them between looking outside and practising my Russian. The buildings of Saint Petersburg quickly faded and were replaced by dense forests. Flooded forests. It seems that beavers have been taking advantage of the melt water. Busily creating a network of water trails, pools, dams and lodges. There is nothing quite like a train trip to help you process. Draw. Look outside. Think. Practice my few Russian words. “Do you speak English?” is my newest addition to my Russian vocabulary (it has already proved useful). After three stops and five hours our train pulled into the station at Petrozavodsk. We were met on the platform by Varvara, the point person for the residency and exhibition. I have been in contact with her over the past five months and it was lovely to finally meet her in person. She gave us a tour of the city as she drove us to our apartment. Showing us grocery stores, points of interest and briefly explaining the history of the city and the area. Petrozavodsk is a creative centre and has many museums, theatres, galleries and public art. We also drove past the lake which is still mainly frozen with thick ice. The apartment is located in a large 9-10 story building. Most of the people that live here are in the arts as well: musicians, artists and dancers. Our apartment is nice and bright and has its own kitchen, washing machine and a shower that looks like it is from the future. The highlight is that our windows look down onto the neighbourhood zoo!
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we worked on installing the Cetology exhibition at the Vyhod Media Centre. Between four of us we matted and framed all the drawings and installed most of the pieces during the first day. The big (and time consuming) installation that I am creating involves sewing 3,300 paper triangles onto pieces of nylon thread. The next two days were spent stringing. From waking up to going to sleep: each day was full of triangles. We finished at the end of the third day. I am grateful for all the help I had with installing and setting up and I am impressed by the fantastic team that works at the Media Centre!
We were also invited to go with the Media Centre team to an art opening at the City Gallery. It was a double opening for both a traveling retrospective exhibition of a well known 20th Century female painter from Russia and also the first solo exhibition for a young artist from Petrozavodsk (now living and teaching in Saint Petersburg). I enjoy going to art openings abroad because they always surprise me how universal they are. It is easy to feel connected to people that also love art because there is this shared interest.
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Twenty-thirty years from now you will look back on these words of wonder, diligence, and collaboration, and they will form the beginnings of your autobiography. And they will be a compass to so many others.