Meet the Millenials Behind Lviv’s Cultural Transformation
13 May, 2018

24, 29, 27, and 34 – these are the ages of some of the directors of Lviv’s cultural institutions. They have come here to transform cultural centers and museums into contemporary, multifunctional institutions.

Hromadske went to find out how these young people are leading the city’s cultural centers, their plans for reform and the phenomenon of Lviv millennials.  

Lviv Organ Hall – the city’s new brand

Ivan Ostapovych and Taras Demko work at the Lviv Organ Hall. The duo began working here in October 2017, when Ostapovych became the director. Demko works as his deputy.

“This city has great potential,” Demko says. “Here we can establish a dialogue with our male and female listeners. We saw that we could work in another dimension, make use of our marketing achievements.”

The guys had already worked together previously to set up the “Collegium Musicum Lviv” music agency. In 2014, they organized the “Bach Music Days” festival.

“When it’s the weekend, we have two concerts a day. For people who have nowhere to go, the only place is the Organ Hall,” Demko says to Hromadske.

The directors want to turn the hall into one of Lviv’s key spots for cultural recreation. The previous director held the position for almost 30 years. Today, Ostapovych and Demko are trying to change the way the concert hall operates.  

One change is reducing the level of formality in the office etiquette. Demko recalls how in the past, the hall’s directors would be referred to formally, using their patronymics.

Photo credit: Olena Zashko/HROMADSKE

“I don’t really like that,” he says, “We want to create a casual atmosphere, so that when you cough, someone will hand you a cough sweet.”

Their goal is to become more open, not only for the audiences, but for the musicians too. Now any organist can come to the hall and play on one of the largest organs in Ukraine.  

The premises already has high-speed internet, automated cash registers and they’ve started repair work on the building. Their next step is to restore the toilets.

“We found a sacred painting by the artist Jan Rozen. At one point it was a baptistry, but they put a toilet in there in Soviet times,” Demko says as he shows us some of the frescoes that had been plastered over.  

The Lviv Organ Hall has a packed concert schedule. Every day, and occasionally twice a day, they hold classical music concerts.

Ostapovych and Demko feel a responsibility to give the Organ Hall what it lacked in the past:

“We saw that the Organ Hall could become the city’s brand. We need to make it welcoming, so that people want to come here.”

Sykhiv – Lviv’s cultural centre

Not so long ago, giant advertisements and whitewashed windows dominated the facade of the Dovzhenko Center. According to the center’s new director, for many of the employees, this was the first time they had seen the second floor of the building looking so light.

Decentralization of culture in Lviv is what led Marta Ivanyshyn to Sykhiv – a commuter district outside the city centre. This is where the Dovzhenko Center is located. It is the only cultural center open to the 200,000 local residents.

Photo credit: Olena Zashko/HROMADSKE

Ivanyshyn previously worked in the promotions department of the Lviv City Council for over 10 years. She was involved in the “Days of Lviv” campaign, which took place in cities throughout Ukraine, and the “Breakfast in museums. Let’s talk about…” project.

The Dovzhenko Center is now mainly used as a cinema. Ivanyshyn’s goal is to turn it into a multifunctional center: “I want to completely transform it in the direction of culture, cinema, conferences. We need to create a point of creativity.”

Photo credit: Olena Zashko/HROMADSKE

The director is trying to free the first floor of its tenants and raise additional funds for the reconstruction of the concert hall. “It’s nice when you work and immediately see results. This is our daily routine. Culture needs to be created,” Ivanyshyn says.  

Honchar and Terror

Olha Honchar won a competition to become the director of the “Territory of Terror” museum. It has been built up from nothing and the full opening is planned for fall 2018. However, they’ve already begun hosting exhibitions, discussions and projects.

The museum is located on the site of a transit detention facility, which the Soviet authorities opened in 1944. However, according to Honchar, the concept of the museum focuses on the idea of terror as a phenomenon. “We look at terror from different angles: in everyday life, gender terror, terror in the modern world.”

Photo credit: Olena Zashko/HROMADSKE

The exhibition layout in one of the two barracks is still being completed, and the other will hold temporary exhibitions and host events. In addition to that, the state railway company Ukrzaliznytsia gave the museum a freight wagon, the same kind used to transport prisoners to the camp.

“Our audience is specific, the theme is complex, so people come here to speak out and tell their stories.”

For Honchar, having young leaders in the cultural institutions is not a problem, but instead a sign of great change and transformation.

“Museums can be interesting,” she reassures. “It all depends on the director.”

/By Olena Zashko and Serhiy Zakharchenko

/Translated by Sofia Fedeczko