The first week of July was active for those who live in Zhmerynka. All caring people united by the idea of improving the city space.

With the support of the Goethe Institute in Ukraine, the German Foreign Office and in cooperation with NGO ‘Institute of Cultural Policy’ there came experts of the ‘Transformation laboratory. PlanZ’: Irina Kats, Pavel Tretyakov, Irina Frenkel. They joined in the second practical module project with mural artists Alexander Nikitiuk and Vladimir Hodak, expert Yuri Slyusar and urbanist Wlodek Zotov. They presented the European experience of transforming spaces and know-hows from Kyiv. In the lively discussions that took place in the city library, at the park areas and in the City Council, it was decided to convert ‘The library of family reading’ into the center of cultural transformation by making the building look as an art object and updating content strategy for the library events.

On the first day Wlodek Zotov, a well-known urbanist, made a bike tour around the city together with activists and offered a rather unusual concept of turning Zhmerynka into a comfort zone for any citizen, regardless the area of residence. His proposals concerned transport connections, communications between areas and public spaces.

During practical sessions Agents of Changes took to the streets of the city to explore the opinion of local residents about potential resources and opportunities for the library and two parks. The desire of people was quite real and is primarily about the change of school hours (considering audience of all ages) and defining thematic areas for different target groups. Though there were respondents who were surprised to learn about existence of the institution in the city. Nonetheless a lot of ideas and changing steps were proposed. Survey results were analyzed and systematized in conjunction with the library staff, the public and the City Council.

The concept of the mural art proposed by Alexander Nikitiuk was reconsidered to meet the wishes of people and librarians. For a few days the artists were busy with the creative process during which talented local activists, including Alla Odessa, helped them a lot. With the advent outlines of the picture at the library’s wall people began to gather to take a photo with artists and a kitten who settled nicely on the shelves of books. To paint a kitten as the main character figure once asked a little girl and so, since then they call the library building a ‘Kitten’s house’.

Two meetings were held in the park areas (there are two in the city of Zhmerynka – ‘Friendship of Peoples’ Park and ‘Recreation Park’). During these gatherings local residents expressed their wish for cleaning park areas and organizations of certain attractions inside, like sites, scenes, resting areas and so on. Citizens have expressed many suggestions and showed a great desire to change the face of their city. The question of decommunization was also raised considering numerous Soviet symbols and monuments in the park. Understanding the amount of the problem the panel pondered over subsequent use of Soviet symbols in terms of their use in a transformed life.

During a meeting in the hall of Zhmerynka City Council activists held an interesting conversation with employees of the executive committee. All the issues expressed by them were talked about at the City Council in a reasonable dialogue between active citizens and government.  Initiatives were sorted by priority and then some solutions were presented. It was promised to implement them soon.

The culmination of the second module of ‘Laboratory of Transformations. PLAN Z’ was the presentation of the library building that now turned into an art object. There are flowers in bloom, beautiful butterflies and characters from books on the freshly painted walls. The symbol of the library is now a fluffy white cat that is painted resting on the bookshelves. People of Zhmerynka and guests agreed that it is now a place that should become a new cultural space. Mayor Anatoly Kushnir and Architecture Manager Yelena Yevtushenko understand the need to turn the surrounding area to a place with comfortable seating areas as it looks abandoned comparing to the bright pictures on the walls. During presentation of an artwork everybody understood the great power of art and its ability to force the authorities to take practical steps. The group of experts and city residents hope to see a new space here in August.

Irina Frenkel, a Chief Coordinator and Expert of ‘Laboratory of Transformation. PLAN Z’ noted: ‘The expert group collected a lot of data to practice and present in September. There are guidelines for the authorities for further changes in the city and the reflections about the first part of ‘transformations’ of the cultural and economic strategy of the city development that will be discussed’.