For the first time ever, the doors to the former Bank of America building will be temporarily opened to display a retrospective exhibition of local artist, Val Polyanin. Polyanin was born in Ukraine and remained there until 1986. At this time, Soviet rule required artists to conform to socialist realism standards. Unwilling to be creatively stifled and feeling like he would rather die than not make art, he escaped his home country by jumping off a cargo boat and swimming to the Japanese island Honshu. All the artwork he left behind was destroyed by the government. Undeterred by this loss and his arduous journey, Polyanin resettled in Crescent City, California, where he has continued to prolifically create art for the last 35 years.
Polyanin recently donated his collection of over 900 pieces of art to the City of Crescent City when he was no longer able to house the work himself. The City has accepted the gift and safely secured the art in a former Bank of America building, currently slated to be the next City Hall. The City has since decided to open the doors to the public, while the City Hall project remains in the design phase, for a timely, yet temporary exhibition of the work. The collection demonstrates a wide range of artistic ability and includes painting, sculpture, assemblage, and more created from an array of materials in sizes ranging from 2 to 10 feet tall. The work on view was created between 1988 and 2023, and much of it was displayed in Polyanin’s art gallery that he housed in shipping containers along US Highway 101 until 2022.
Viewers will be invited into the former bank to share in our appreciation of Polyanin’s incredible creative practice and celebrate Crescent City’s safeguarding of his artwork – a powerful and articulate expression of freedom, as the war in Ukraine rages on.
On May 18, 2022, the City of Crescent City was contacted by the Hambro Group and informed that their tenant, Val Polyanin, had decided to donate all his remaining artwork to the City. There were a total of four shipping containers housing over 900 pieces of art, representing the artist’s life work. The amount of art was astounding, and the collection itself was unlike anything you would expect to find along the side of the highway. Several City staff members were invested in the opportunity to accept the donation and utilize the incredibly talented artist and long-time community member’s work to benefit the community as a whole.
The City recently adopted an Economic Development Strategic Action Plan in 2021, which provides recipes to help spur economic growth, including “7A: Strategic Art Plan” and “7V: Music and Arts Capital”. City staff saw this unique gift as an opportunity to help the City achieve some of its goals: invest in beautification and tourism attraction; and focus on efforts to enhance downtown.
In 2017, the City purchased a former bank with the hope of converting it into a new City Hall. By 2022, the project was still in the design phase and had been sitting empty for 6 years. With an empty building and an entire collection of art in hand, the Safekeeping project was born. On June 30, 2022, City Council agreed to accept the art and on February 6, 2023 agreed to temporarily open the doors to exhibit the work.