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Artist who fled the Soviet Union donates his life’s work to Crescent City, leaves town; Gallery along the “iconic” road run by Val Polyanin near South Beach | Outpost of the wild rivers

Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Today @ 3:36 pm / Arts, Community

Artist who fled the Soviet Union donates his life’s work to Crescent City, leaves town; Gallery along the “iconic” road run by Val Polyanin near South Beach

Val Polyanin, a Ukrainian immigrant to Crescent City after the United States granted him asylum from the Soviet Union, ran a roadside art gallery near South Beach for more than 20 years. | Photo courtesy of Tony Reed


Crescent City will soon receive more than 500 artworks representing the life work of a Ukrainian man who fled the Soviet Union during the Cold War and opened a roadside attraction across the street from South Beach.

Val Polyanin’s drawings, sculptures, paintings and mosaics are currently housed in four shipping containers on the Hambro WSG property along with US 101. The artist was unable to keep up with the rent charged by Hambro and has left the company a note saying she wanted to donate her art to the city, according to Ashley Taylor, the city’s director of economic development and recreation.

Hambro would have thrown the art away if the city refused to accept it, he told Outpost of the wild rivers on Wednesday.

“We hope we can find a good use that benefits the community and honors Val,” said Taylor. “This is one of the most important parts of ensuring that all the work he put into his art is promoted in the community in a way that respects and honors what he put into it.”

Polyanin was granted asylum in the United States after jumping from a Russian military ship near Guam and swimming ashore. He emigrated to Crescent City and spent his life making art in the community. For many motorists, Polyanin’s humanoid sculptures were among the first things that greeted them as they made their way into the city from the south.

At a special meeting last Thursday, Crescent City Councilors agreed to accept the art after Taylor told them what she knew about Polyanin. Taylor said she even asked her mother about her if she was familiar with Polyanin’s art, and that’s how she learned that her art gallery along the way had been a fixture in the area. of South Beach for more than 20 years.

“He felt the roadside attraction was an iconic piece of Crescent City history,” Taylor said. “He is easily recognizable and his presence is truly iconic.”

With Hambro WSG giving the city a September deadline to take possession of the art and Taylor pitching the idea of ​​displaying it publicly, the councilors decided to allocate $ 10,000 from his economic development fund to get it.

The city will temporarily keep the art in its new City Hall, the former Bank of America building on H Street. Crescent City manager Eric Wier said he and the staff will likely return to the Council to discuss the logistics of moving the art, suggesting that they recruit a team of volunteers who could help.

Val Polyanin told his landlord, Hambro WSG, that he wanted to donate his life’s work, more than 500 works of art, including this sculpture, to Crescent City. | Photos courtesy of Ashley Taylor and Bridget Lacey

Taylor said she, Bridget Lacey, the city’s grants coordinator, and Lynnette Braillard, her marketing consultant, would explore ways that Polyanin’s art could be used to engage audiences, especially visitors with a cultural mentality.

When she presented her options for using Polyanin’s art to councilors on Thursday, Taylor said she, Lacey, and public works director Jon Olson spoke with representatives from the Kohler Foundation, who said they were interested in the pieces and to be able to help the city to preserve them and find them homes for it. But that process would take about a year.

Taylor also suggested that the city retain some art as a resource, showing councilors photoshopped images of the paintings professionally hung on the walls inside the former Bank of America building. She also shared the statistics researched by Braillard, stating, among other things, that about 130 million American tourists participate in cultural activities and spend an average of 60% more than other travelers.

Braillard also had ideas on how to tell the Polyanin story and present it to various travel publications and magazines to draw attention to Crescent City, Taylor told Councilors.

“I think this is a good time for staff to start thinking in terms of one, three and five year plans when it comes to addressing our strategic economic action plan,” said Taylor. “In that plan we identified many priorities for the city, including economic development priorities such as Crescent City which is a capital of music and the arts. This would greatly contribute to laying the foundations to support this effort and, in general, to support the development of a strategic artistic plan ”.

An essential aspect of this plan is the story of Polyanin itself and how it ended up in Crescent City, Councilman Blake Inscore told the Outpost. But nobody knows where he is.

On Thursday, City Attorney Martha Rice told Inscore and her colleagues that the only proof the city has of Polyanin’s intent with her art is the note she gave to Hambro. If the city doesn’t take the job, there’s a good chance Hambro will throw it in the trash, Rice said.

“The only way to keep it alive is to accept it by official Council action and then take possession of it,” he said.

Inscore told the Outpost that involving a foundation in preserving and finding other homes for the artwork would be a huge mistake for the city. Polyanin’s story is a fascinating one, he said, but the question is, do his colleagues and staff want to take on this investment risk.

“If we really want to exploit this as I think it could be, we need an interview with this man. We need him on video. We need him to talk about his life about him, “said Inscore.” He decided that he would go ahead and wanted to leave his things to the city. We’re still trying to find him. “

Polyanin’s art gallery has been featured on several websites, including, Only In Your State, and Spaces.


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