The Tsarino Foundation, since 2009, is an international collective of artists and an architect. While restoring and maintaining the formerly abandoned village of Tsarino in the Bulgarian Eastern Rhodope Mountains, our main purpose is to function as an art platform. Using the village as an art space, we organise artist-in-residence programmes, exhibitions and other cultural events.
The first artist-in-residence programme in Tsarino took place in 2011, followed by three more in 2012, 2013 and 2018. These programmes are part of a wider research project placing contemporary art in the rural and remote environment of Tsarino, inviting artists to explore its unique context, living and working conditions. The foundation strives towards being able to organise residencies on a more regular basis in the future when the necessary facilities are permanently in place. For more information, see residencies.
Maintaining Tsarino's heritage is one of the core values of the foundation. The foundation places great importance on staying true to the original character and tradition when it carries out any restoration work and is also sensitive to this when designing and building new structures.
The restoration and maintenance work carried out by the foundation primarily focuses on the houses and infrastructure in the village, such as water lines and roads. New facilities include an open-air kitchen, outdoor toilet and showers.
Recent building work has made use of reclaimed stones from collapsed houses in the village and was carried out by local building masters (in Bulgarian: 'maistori') utilising traditional building methods. We found the maistori after a long search in the area and they are likely to be the last in their field. The traditional way of building in the eastern Rhodope Mountains is, unfortunately, a dying trade.
Over time, the foundation and the maistori have built up a strong relationship. Members of the Tsarino collective regularly turn to the maistori for help and advice over a glass of rakia. The foundation hopes to learn from the maistori their unique building techniques so that we can repair and maintain the village for the long future ahead of us. We are currently working on documenting the traditional building methods so they will not be lost.
Please visit our restoration gallery to see some of the work we have carried out.
In all its activities, the foundation recognises its position and responsibility towards its environment and the local community. By organising AiR programmes and other events, the foundation aims to offer a platform for cultural exchange between people of the area and guest artists, as well as preserve Tsarino as a village. Surrounded by nature, the foundation also thinks of its place in the ecosystem and is working on environmentally friendly solutions where possible.
The houses in the village used for art activities are owned by individual members of the foundation or by the foundation itself. All the land belonging to the houses is owned by the foundation.
Being an independent foundation, all investments and work to facilitate the AiR programmes come from its members and volunteers. Currently, the foundation does not receive any external funding. Acquiring official funding is a complicated and lengthy process. When the collective first arrived in Tsarino, the village had been abandoned for over 30 years. It has taken a lot of time, money and dedication to restore the village to its current state and we are getting close to the point where we can demonstrate to an official funding body the importance of our work and our vision to sustain this going forward.
If you would like to help the foundation please do not hesitate to contact us.
The Tsarino Foundation is registered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Stichting Tsarino, KVK-52453014) and in Bulgaria. Responsible for the running of the foundation and all decisions is an artists’ assembly formed of nine members.