A pharmaceutical rep-turned-photographer and art curator, Iryna Kanishcheva has helped to create a nationally recognized street art scene in Gainesville. After moving from her home in the Ukraine and living in France for two years, Kanishcheva relocated to Gainesville, where she has helped to completely change the way we see street art. Kanishcheva’s connection to artists around the world and her refined photography skills, brought intricate wall murals to our community, creating an artsy ambiance and beautifying our city.
Her Campus UFL (HC UFL): When did you pick up photography?
Iryna Kanishcheva (IK): “I’ve always really liked taking pictures. While I lived in France, I started photographing street art. I made a lot of connections through that.”
HC UFL: You’re from the Ukraine and eventually ended up in Gainesville, what was that process like?
IK: “In the Ukraine, I worked in the pharmaceutical world, and at one point, I managed a team of pharmaceutical reps. When I came to the US, my degrees didn’t count, so I would’ve had to go back to school to again if I wanted to have the same career.”
HC UFL: Can you describe your first project in Gainesville, 352 Walls?
IK: “When I came here after leaving France, I noticed that Gainesville didn’t have very many wall murals. I wrote a proposal to the city of Gainesville, looking for a budget and sponsors to have more street art created around the city. I showed them all the benefits the city would get if we did this project, and everything worked out. I was able to bring in artists from many different places to do some great work. Gainesville is a small city, it’s very tiny, but now it has some good artwork in it.”
HC: Along with 352 Walls, you played a big part in the Grove St. Neighborhood project. How did these two projects go together?
IK: “I was approached by Maria Huff, the neighborhood leader, while I was working on 352 Walls. She wanted this wall painted to help beautify the neighborhood. After that I had an artist in Jacksonville come to me asking if I had any walls here to paint and I immediately thought about that wall, so that’s how we created the first mural for Grove Street. After that different artists contacted us asking to paint their and property owners agreed to it, so the project grew because it was organized by a community of people. The artists went unpaid, as they often do, they did it for exposure and because it’s something they’re truly passionate about.”
HC UFL: Street art seems to have really grown in Gainesville over the last 3-5 years. How do you accommodate for that growth?
IK: “I created a website, GNV Urban Art, to cover all of the street art going on in the city. When I originally created it I was worried I wouldn’t have enough to cover, but I’ve been able to compile a lot. The most important thing about the website is that it tells people what’s going on, it even has urban arts books available at the Alachua County Library that people can check out. It’s a way for me to connect people, artists and property owners and keep it growing.”
HC UFL: What projects ae you working on now?
IK: “I’m always busy. I’ve been working on a project in the Ukraine called Arts United. I travel around a lot doing photography I’m commissioned for. Right now I’m focused on going back to school. I’m about to apply to UF to study art history and I’d like to focus on my studies.”
HC UFL: If you were to leave Gainesville and move to another street art deprived city, would you begin the same projects there?
IK: “I like Gainesville, but if I ever did leave I wouldn’t do similar projects again. Every project should be something new. I couldn’t do 352 Walls again because now it’s already been done.”
Photos courtesy of Iryna Kanishcheva.