The New York Times recently ran an extraordinary story about the hopes for economic renewal led by cultural innovation invested in Russia’s provincial town of Perm. The story emphasizes how the Russian regime squelched the plans with anti-Western bias.
Nonetheless, in the context of numerous successful and not-so-successful versions of a similar story in cities around the world, the level of social experimentation was remarkable:
In 2008, Perm became a laboratory for an audacious social and cultural experiment. Oleg A. Chirkunov, the regional governor at the time, decided to use art projects to try to propel the modernization of provincial life. An ambitious and forward-looking politician, Mr. Chirkunov invited Marat A. Guelman, Russia’s pre-eminent arts impresario and an occasional spin doctor for politicians, to direct the project.
“We destroyed this stereotype that there cannot be anything interesting in Russia beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg,” said Mr. Guelman, who has since left Russia for Montenegro. “Locals realized that their status had changed and began to demand more. When you have a contemporary art museum in town, people want clean roads, too.”
Moscow Crushes an Uprising, This Time an Artistic One (NYTimes.com)