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Know Your City: One artist’s quest to beautify Kyiv with street sculptures

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Aug. 2, 2012, 11:34 p.m. | None — by Olga Rudenko

Kostyantyn Skrytutskyi and his most popular sculpture, the Hedgehog.
© Sohei Yasui

Olga Rudenko

Unexpected sculptures dot the Kyiv landscape. They are small and unpretentious, though extremely cute, and sprinkled all over the city center, on sidewalks and in gardens. 

Many are produced by the Kyiv Landscape Initiative organization and created by sculptor Kostyantyn Skrytutskyi, who is noted for decorating Peyzazhna Alley with sculptures of toothy cats that won the hearts of local residents.  

Hedgehog Without Fog (Corner of Reitarska, Zolotovoritska Street and Georgiyivsky Lane)

This hedgehog sits in a garden at the corner of Reitarska and Zolotovoritska, inspired by “Hedgehog in Fog,” a beloved Soviet cartoon. He faces the nearby border-guard monument of a Cossack on a horse.

He was planned as a joke, Skrytutskyi said, to mock the border-guard monument. “He watches a horse, just like he did in the cartoon.” Since being installed in January 2009, the hedgehog has taken on a life of his own by attracting tourists who place coins in his mouth or between his needles.

His body is made of wood. Screws were used for the needles. The bundle he carries is made of painted ceramics. He is hard to move.

“Once we were taking him away for repairs, and it caused a bit of panic,” tells Skrytutskyi. “I got a call saying: ‘You know that someone is taking away the hedgehog,’ and I said: ‘I do, it’s me taking him for restoration.’ People from the border-services office ran out of the building to protect their beloved sculpture.”

While the hedgehog was gone for repairs, a poster that read “I left to count the stars,” also part of the cartoon, filled the empty spot.

Skrytutskyi has replaced the sculpture’s nose and leg. He says the hedgehog is suffering from too much attention, but sees no harm in it. “If he loses a leg, it’s only because of the love he gets,” says the sculptor, stroking the hedgehog’s wooden limb.

Skrytutskyi says he wanted to replace the sculpture with a bigger one, but decided not to tamper with people’s emotions. He will add an element, though, but won’t reveal what it will be. We’re guessing it’s the fog.

Ballerina (Corner of Stritenska and Striletskoho streets)

The ballerina came at the request of one person, but many others enjoy the sculpture as well. (Sohei Yasui)

This spot with a dead tree stump was tailor-made to become a sculpture or serve as a pedestal.

Skrytutskyi and Volodymyr Kolinko, who heads the Kyiv Landscape Initiative, had an idea, but it all changed one morning when Kolinko passed by the already prepped tree stump. He saw a short note pinned to it. It read: “Please, put a ballerina sculpture here. A distinguished ballerina lives nearby. She will be pleased.

The plan was changed and soon a delicate wooden ballerina was installed. Several days later another note appeared: “Thank you.”

Skrytutskyi says he never learned the identity of the the mysterious ballerina. When making the sculpture, he was inspired by images of several women.

Smiling Donkey (Rylsky Lane)

A smiling donkey with a tiny cart found its place in the alley near Sofiivska Square. A very simple sculpture, Skrytutskyi says he is surprised at its popularity.

“There are always some huge expensive cars parked on the sidewalk, so the donkey also parked there with his charming cart,” the sculptor explained. The donkey remains nameless for now, but “maybe people will name him,” Skritutsky muses.

It also earned Skrytutskyi the strangest accusation he ever heard, when a local citizen complained that young people pay more attention to the donkey than the nearby St. Sofia’s Cathedral.

Plastic Kitten (Golden Gate)

Kitten, made of white plastic forks, is hidden on the tree near the Golden Gate. (blogspot.com)

Hidden within the dense foliage of a tree near the Golden Gate, this tiny kitten seems to regret it climbed so high and is now scared to come down. Made of white plastic forks, it looks both disheveled and sweet.

“I really love this kitten,” says Skrytutskyi. “It started as part of a project called ‘Kyiv’s Hundred Cats’ to take existing cat sculptures and inspire people to install new ones.”
The plastic cat became Skrytutskyi’s contribution to the project. Forks turned out to be perfect to make the kitten’s stubbly fur. 

Unfortunately, he says, the owners of a nearby cafe don’t care enough even to wash the cat with so much as a hose, so the plastic became dirty and leaves often stick in the kitten’s fur.

Flying Cow (Olesya Honchara near Kotsyubynskoho Streets)

Skrytutskyi says the flying cow is one of those early works he has fallen out of love with. He would prefer to remove it, but says local fans would never let him. When being installed in March 2009, the Flying Cow was precious to Skritutsky, but not anymore. “It was somewhat stupid. I saw some sense in it, but now I see it wasn’t as good as I used to think,” he admits.

Chopin’s Piano (Corner of Bohdana Khmelnytskoho and Pyrohova streets)

This beautiful piano is a monument to Frederic Chopin, Skrytutskyi’s favorite composer. The white tiles covering it and red flowers that grow inside are a reference to Poland, Chopin’s native country. It is one of the sculptor’s youngest creatures, installed in August 2011.

The monument also plays music. It has a motion sensor and starts playing one of Chopin’s works whenever someone walks by.

“At first we planned to put the piano in the garden, so that people would hear music and look for the source,” says Skrytutskyi. “But then it ended up on Bohdana Khmelnytskoho Street.”

Police wanted it removed because “it was not approved by the traffic police.” Local authorities solved the misunderstanding, but not before jokes about an improperly parked piano case appeared in the press.

“I love my city very much. And since I’m a sculptor, street sculptures are just my way to make it even more beautiful.” 

Sculptor Kostyantyn Skrytutskyi, 30, was born in Luhansk, but has lived in Kyiv most of his life. His first sculpture on Kyiv streets was a monument to Ukrainian artist Serhyi Svyatoslavsky, installed at Lukianivske Cemetery. About two dozen of Skritutsky's sculptures now adorn Kyiv's streets.

Kyiv Post staff writer Olga Rudenko can be reached at rudenko@kyivpost.com

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