Forums or agoras – places where, two thousand years ago, people could find not only bread or circuses, they went there for a wise conversation and the knowledge of something new – existed in every developed polis of antiquity. Such popular cultural places reappeared in the modern millennia and immediately gained insane popularity. Opinion has found out how many cultural magnets are in Ukraine and whether they can become an alternative to museums, theaters, night clubs and concert halls.
“The third places” are part of the urban space that is neither home (“the first place”) nor work (“the second place”). “The third place” in its nature is “free” to visit, it forms and develops its own community, promotes the development of culture, democratic values and civil society. Unlike in theaters and museums, the visitor here is not just a stranger-observer. He has to be actively involved in the process of some topic’s discussion or to take part in event.
Coworkings, hubs, anti-cafés, libraries, galleries and cultural centers – all these physical spaces are united by the concept of “impact place” or “the third place”. There are more than a hundred of such environments in Ukraine. The lion’s share of which is in Kyiv. However, in the regions, there are unique objects that have become true triggers of modern culture in just a few years. About a small share of them we’ll tell you here, at Opinion.
Paul Celan Literaturzentrum / Celan Literature Center
It’s almost the smallest “third place”, but one of the most important in Western Ukraine. On the main street of Chernivtsi – Olga Kobilyanska Street, there is Celan center. Every day, numerous delegations from Romania, Austria, Germany, etc. pay their visit there. Celan Literature Center is a public association of experts in the literary heritage of Bukovina and cultural management of the city. They devote their activity to the multinational and multilingual literature of the region.
The place is an assembly point for collecting, studying and presenting forgotten or omitted on ideological reasons, literature of Bukovyna. It was the place where Serhiy Zhadan presented his collection of verses “Templars” and artist Oleksandr Roytburd had a personal exhibition. Also, here, the local intellectuals meet just to drink coffee and read poetry.
Civic restaurant Urban Space 100
In 2014, the first public restaurant in Ukraine was opened in Ivano-Frankivsk. Its patrons became 100 active inhabitants of the city. They invented the format of the place that would be a successful example of community unification around a common idea. Till today, one hundreds of owners have the exclusive right to decide where to send money earned by the civic restaurant, it means to choose a project to finance: 27 thousand UAH for the development of excursions for ATO veterans, 50 thousand for the repair of the children’s library or 60 thousand for “Dribnota” – an association of indifferent parents and interested progressive teachers that creates autonomous educational projects, filling the year with modular interactive training.
“It would be cool to share a cost of restaurant creation, and give away its income for good things” – it sounded somehow like this. And it’s not a legend, it’s a solid fact. For instance, Urban Space as a space format appeared a little bit earlier, it happened after the place which was visited by the designer team of “Warm City.” “In Bratislava we’ve seen a coffee-shop and decided to make a similar format in Ivano-Frankivsk,” tells project coordinator Yulia Lyakhovich.
This idea was intercepted two years ago, in Odesa an analogue was created – urban space 4City. It consists of restaurant and a coworking lecture room.
A huge amphitheater in the heart of Odessa was in its decline and resembled squat for homeless or criminals. However, volunteers took up the job and literally in one year turned the neglected space into a modern urban space for a few thousand visitors. During two seasons, theater goers had more than 700 events, 2/3 of which were free: creative gatherings with writers, musicians, film shows of auteur films and master classes. For one summer weekend Green Theater was visited by around 16 thousand Odesa-citizens and guests of the city. It’s three times more than the match of the local football club “Chernomorets”.
“We formed our program according to the principles of urgency and tried to invite the most interesting Ukrainian artists. We also aimed to educate the public on the fact that mass events can be useful, cultural, affordable for everyone and inspiring spectators for creative work,” Eugene Lvov Program Director of the Green Theater said.
While other regions have focused on culture, most popular urban space from Kharkiv – “Spalah” has altered the perspective to IT. The founders started with computer courses, later they created a big coworking, and later they opened educational hub in Dnipro. Now, on their payroll there are 36 teachers that give away computer literacy to everyone who wants to. And there are lots of them, only during the last year one and a half thousand specialists graduated from “school”.
For many programmers, this space is no longer their “third place”, but “the first” (home) and “the second” (work), because, in addition to the daily lectures of “IT specialists” from all around the world, there you can rest on sofas or prepare your own food on shared kitchen.
In Dnipro, an experimental public space called “Stage” was created. Wooden construction was built in the neglected part of Shevchenko Park, in place where previously had been the amphitheater. In addition to the stage itself, there is a place with a screen for cinema shows, lectures, seating and ground for workshops and exhibitions. This is a bright example of not how the place gathered people, but how citizens united around the space.
“Stage” is a public space. But can we use it? But how can you use the public space that will be an independent cultural platform, open to absolutely everyone? We will experiment for at least 100 days. I hope, we’ll find some answers and get the experience. The main idea is for “Stage” to become a place where everyone could organize the event on the event on their own – a cinema show, lecture, workshop, exhibition, concert, party or rave,” – program curator Katya Rusetska told us.
This place became favorite one for thousands of inhabitants of the Dnieper. “Stage” was attacked by vandals and local authorities don’t care about public space in the park. So the experiment is still too far from its finish and volunteers still have a lot of work to do.
In summer 2013, in a year far, far away, CoMMuna was opened; it is one of the very first public spaces in Ukrainan regions. “The third place” appeared on the main square of the city – Rynok. That’s why inside of those spacious halls there are not only citizens but also tourists that always need to print out tickets somewhere, connect to the Internet and spend several hours taking part in an interesting event.
Curators admit that 5 years ago Ukrainians did not understand how it works: To pay for a time and not for a specific service. Now several dozen of people are on their duty at coworking and their educational and cultural lectures are attended by hundreds of listeners. Thus, “Commune” had to open branches. Now, in Lviv, there are around ten places like this, however, the view of the town hall from panorama windows unlikely can be surpassed by anything.
Nowadays in Ukraine there are around one hundred of coworkings, anti-cafés and other open spaces. Some of them aim at earnings and focus only on profitability indicators, others – exist on the bare enthusiasm of active citizens. Anyway, every place like this, on the map of our cities is a solid brick in the wall of modern Ukrainian culture.
Text: Konstyantyn Rul