Tsarino Foundation AiR
The Tsarino Foundation is an international collective of artists and an architect. While restoring and maintaining the formerly abandoned village of Tsarino in the Bulgarian Eastern Rhodope Mountains, their main purpose is to function as an art platform. Using the village of Tsarino as an art space, the foundation organises artist-in-residence programmes, exhibitions and other cultural events. This way, the foundation aims to offer a platform for cultural exchange between people of the area and guest artists, as well as preserve Tsarino as a village. The AiR programmes are part of a wider research project placing contemporary art in the rural and remote environment of Tsarino, inviting artists to explore its unique context, living and working conditions.
The foundation has run a number of full board group residencies in the past and is now in the process of setting up a more independent residency programme that will be ongoing. As this self-guided residency programme is still under development, the foundation currently runs a pilot programme. The pilot lasts 1 year (until the end of 2022) and provides artists with a 40% discount on their stay.
Artists who participate in the foundation’s pilot programme are asked for feedback and documentation of their working process to help the foundation set up the programme and demonstrate its importance in a future funding application. Currently, the foundation does not receive external funding. This means that all investments and work to facilitate the AiR programmes come from its members and volunteers.
Those who would like to do something more and receive a further discount are also welcome to volunteer for the foundation. There are a number of jobs to choose from, ranging from gardening (depending on the season) to renovations and other DIY jobs.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travelling to Tsarino may be difficult. Artists who are interested in doing a residency in Tsarino are urged to inform themselves about the current situation regarding COVID-19 in Bulgaria and/or contact the foundation to discuss possibilities.
As an alternative, the foundation shows works by artists from all over the world in the Razklon Gallery. This is a showcase located in the midst of nature, next to a dusty road where local cows make their daily trip to their pastures.
Artists may conclude their residency with an exhibition in the local cultural centre, open studios in Tsarino or an exhibition in the foundation’s Razklon Gallery, a showcase by the road leading up to the village.
- Artists on the self-funded residency will have a dedicated studio inside their own house, furnished with a desk, chair and wood-fired heater or fireplace.
- For artists on a programme funded by the foundation, a workspace can be arranged. There is ample space in the village, e.g. empty houses, fields and forests. The foundation will happily show the artists what is available and help them find a spot that meets their requirements.
- All artists receive limited project assistance.
The foundation currently uses seven habitable houses which have been renovated on a very basic level to provide artists with accommodation and studio space. In recent years, the foundation has improved the general facilities by reinstating old water lines, rebuilding parts of the road network, constructing an outdoor kitchen and setting up a solar-powered electrical charging station. However, because of its remote location and being off-grid, the conditions remain very basic.
Each artist (duos/groups also welcome) in the self-guided pilot programme will have their own private house including a bedroom (bed, wood-fired heater, carpet, chair), studio (desk, wood-fired heater or fireplace, chair), small kitchen (small gas stove and/or wood-fired stove/fireplace, cold water tap, sink) and outdoor toilet + wood-fired shower. They may also use the large outdoor communal kitchen. Artists taking part in a funded group residency are offered a private room furnished with a desk, chair, carpet, mattress, pillow and sheets.
Tsarino is a small village in the Bulgarian Rhodope Mountains, near to the Greek border. It was abandoned over thirty years ago by all original inhabitants except one. This was due to a combination of factors, one of which is its isolated setting amongst hills and forests. Over time, most original inhabitants moved to Chorbadzhiysko, a nearby town revolving around agriculture, growing predominately peppers and tobacco. Tsarino (its previous name in Turkish was Hasyurt) belongs to a Pomak community of Muslim Bulgarians. Pomaks are a minority group living side by side with the ethnic Turkish community, making up over half of the population in this region.
Although abandoned, Tsarino is still of significance to the communities of the area. Its mosque and graveyard are still maintained and used. Some families visit their houses, pick fruits or ‘park’ their cows in the village. The animals can take care of themselves and use the empty houses as their homes. In recent years, the local community has shown a growing interest in Tsarino. Previous inhabitants of Tsarino have taken initiatives to restore their houses or a stretch of road.