Former Penal Institution Turned Into Art and Creativity Center in Almaty

NUR-SULTAN – A new art residence opened in a building with a rich history in Almaty. Aimed at developing the domestic creative economy, the new residence transformed a former penal building into a cultural space for young creators, reported Kazinform on June 6. 

The new residence contributes to the development of the creative economy’s infrastructure in Almaty. Photo credit: Inform.kz.

The building was previously known as a penitentiary insulator on Seifullin street. However, its history goes back to the 19th century when its territory served as a staging post of Verny (present day Almaty) as a fort. The building itself was built by Japanese war prisoners in 1954. For the last 30 years, it has been privately owned. 

“We were provided with this building in order to launch an art residence. The truth is that many artists suffer from not having space where they could work, experiment and communicate with other artists. There is the Artists’ Union but we needed new infrastructure. Six months ago, together with artists, we began to settle in this space and make renovations. This is just the beginning. We have an architectural project in mind but it all depends on whether the city will support us, whether there will be any partners, sponsors and patrons of art,” said founder of the project Dina Baitasova.

Founder of the art residence Dina Baitasova.

The new art residence will host exhibitions, workshops, educational courses, photo sessions and events of contemporary art. There are three exhibition halls with laboratories of experimental sound and a recording studio. The workshops and courses will be open for artists, students and schoolchildren and will cover sculptures, installations, costumes, as well as courses in 3D technique, photography, videography and fashion.

Thus, by offering multiple opportunities for growth and improvement and fostering a safe creative environment for exchanging knowledge and inspiration, the residence seeks to fulfill its objective to allow the artists to immerse themselves in their work and use all available tools in the process. 

The creative space is also designed to serve as a common ground for collaboration and dialogue between Kazakh and foreign artists. Baitasova shared the residence’s plans to work with Kazakh ministries and embassies to attract foreign artists and represent their works related to Kazakhstan at the residence.

Today, the art residence showcases the works of 10 Kazakh artists, including painter Kanat Bukezhanov and sculptor Georgy Tryakin-Bukharov. The paintings and installations represent different takes on poststructuralism and postmodernism and pay homage to notable Kazakh contemporary artists, while still giving the visitors space for self-interpretation. The entrance to the residency is free of charge and the doors are open to the public on the weekends. 

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