1. Culture is what people PRACTISE,
    NOT what they believe. –
    I. A. Rehman

The sheikhs of the United Arab Emirates paid France $525 million to rent the name “Louvre” for the museum in Abu Dhabi. The cost of organised tours of museums, galleries and unique architectural sites can easily reach $80,000, as can specialised creative and educational tours for artists, architects, fashionistas, history buffs and many other ‘creative tourists’. Art tours are no longer uncommon, but the real popularity of this tourism trend is yet to come – as more countries open the doors of their authentic culture to travellers, the demand for creative tours will increase.

Artist-in-residence programmes occupy a special place among art tours. Such residency programmes can be very different, but they have one thing in common – the resident must create (or prepare to create) a specific creative product. They can be funded by the state or by foundations, offering creative people a kind of scholarship or grant programme, or they can be 100% funded by the residents themselves, as a kind of break from routine and a change of scenery for a new dose of inspiration. An artist-in-residence is usually a special place – an office or a whole village of houses – equipped for the creative process. At the same time, the format of the work is different. Sometimes it is active networking, communication with colleagues and experts, active participation in events and the creation of collective projects. Sometimes, on the contrary, the resident is given the right to complete solitude and concentration on his or her individual projects. In some programmes, a significant part of the time is spent on research, training and working with experts. Often, residencies end with an exhibition, presentation or concert so that the residents can share the results of their work.
The art residency format is very common in European countries, but for the CIS and Central Asia it is still quite new and its adaptation to real conditions, colour and mentality is only now gaining momentum. Since 2021, ECG (London) has been running the ECG HORIZONS art residency – a unique space for writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers and other creative people. It includes a showroom and co-working zone, library, music corner and indoor art gallery. Residents can discover breathtaking views of mountains, forests, lakes and rivers around Shchuchinsk. Astana and Kokshetau also offer museums, theatres and art galleries.

The original idea behind the HORIZONS residency was to create a platform for experimentation, where creative people from different disciplines, countries and cultures could meet and create a new creative product. The festivals and other events organised by ECG (London) each year have already seen such collaborations, with writers creating performances with artists, filmmakers from the UK making a documentary about the local community, and currently a unique project called ‘Elish and Superheroes’ is based at the residency. Timur Akhmedjanov (UK), the author of the graphic adaptation of Azerbaijani writer and psychiatrist Kamran Salayev’s “Elish and the Wicker Tale”, with the support of ECG Guardian Saltanat Khamzeyeva, will create the third part of the graphic novel with talented children from Shchuchinsk and the Burabay region. Earlier, the project of the world’s first comic museum “Elish and Superheroes”, dedicated to the theme of inclusiveness, was created on the basis of the residence. Details of the project can be found through the QR code.

The Residence organises performances and master classes several times a year, also with the support of embassies and cultural centres. This activity makes it possible to introduce foreign guests not only to the hospitality sphere of the Burabay region, but also to its cultural life.

In addition to the space for creativity, the ECG HORIZONS residence also houses a number of cultural and tourist facilities. The first is a showroom of exclusive and antique souvenirs – books (many of them autographed), paintings, handicrafts and so on. The second is the library, which presents a unique collection of books in various languages, revealing the rich heritage of Eurasian countries. Many books are only available at the Residence. The most impressive part of the Residence is the Wall of Memory, on which plaques are placed each year in honour of deceased members of the ECG (London) who have left their mark on the history of art. In 2023, the wall was adorned with a mural of a starry sky, on which each resident was invited to leave a star. The mural was opened in person by the British Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Kathy Leach.

Now the plan is to develop the residence and increase international tourism, as the Burabay region has only domestic tourists. Priority will be given to MICE tourism (as part of ECG events) and media support for the projects.

by Taina Kaunis,
ECG HORIZONS Burabay General Manager