Friday marked the last day for Ilia in Oklahoma City – he boarded a flight this morning and is on his way back to St. Petersberg. I finally got to do a full interview with him with an interpreter Thursday. I’ll be sharing that soon, and maybe, just maybe, I can get Dennis Wells to do guest blog about the entire experience.
Many, many thanks go to Dennis Wells and his employer, Bud Miles and Miles Associates Architects.
If anyone knows what it’s like to be a visitor in a foreign land, it’s Casey Cornett, who has engaged in “couch surfing” to see much of Europe. Dave Morris visited with both Ilia and Casey.
“The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.”
- Marshall Mcluhan, circa 1969
Let’s talk about the power of creativity. I’ve had some folks accuse me of going overboard with my coverage of “Russian Sam.” True, some of these voices tend to be consistently negative personalities. But let’s delve into why this is such an extraordinary story.
First, let’s start with a bit of bias on my behalf. Sometimes, as a reporter, you spend so much time covering serious and/or controversial issues that you crave a “good news” story. And this is a good news story. This is a chance to step back and appreciate the wonders all around you.
Ilia is a reminder of Marshall Mcluhan’s “global village.” We’re all one community now. And all too often, I fear, that causes us to spend all of our time worrying, fearing and arguing our differences. When I was a kid, we were told the Russians were our mortal enemy. For those of you who are in your 20s, please realize, we grew up fearing the Russians as many are growing up now fearing folks in the Middle East.
Think about this. Sure, there are differences politically between Russia and the United States. But I don’t think we see them as our mortal enemy anymore.
So this is one thing that is on my mind. Ilia, to be blunt, is a cool guy. He’s quite brilliant. And I know he’s holding back on us when he’s gives us the impression he doesn’t understand what we’re saying (he’s got no excuse when an interpreter is with him!). Nope, Ilia is enjoying the moment, and would rather just soak it in and enjoy the opportunity to be the obvious fly on the wall.
And that’s cool.
It started with paper. Sure, the Internet is what brought us all together. But it started with paper. It started with Ilia picking downtown Oklahoma City as his first urban model. And as he began to assemble buildings from his sketches, print-outs from his work with Microsoft Paint (yes, Paint!), he ventured out into the big world online to make connections, get help putting it all together.
And when the connection at OKC Talk occurred, it was magical. Friendships emerged. And maybe, just maybe, we began to realize, that whether we like it or not, we’re a part of this global village and it doesn’t have to be so scary.
After Ilia finished his downtown OKC model, he started work on one based on downtown Tulsa. On Friday he is traveling with Dennis Wells to see the real thing. Folks associated with OKC Talk can feel free to post this on the board’s Tulsa section (I’ve stopped doing updates on OKC Talk after getting the impression from longtime forum members like Steve Newlon that such posts are not welcome). OKC Talk, by the way, is a wonderful site that served as a critical beginning of conversations between Ilia and locals.
Reminder! You can see Ilia and his model this afternoon, approximately 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., in the showcase exhibit hall at the Creativity World Forum at the Cox Convention Center without registering for the conference or paying admission.
(this was written by Ilia Shvetcov to his host Dennis Wells upon news of his Visa being granted)
I am 25 years old. I was born and live near St. Petersburg (30 miles). Not married. No children. I parted with a girl 2 years ago.
I graduated 9 years of school, 3 years of high school (specializing in “automechanic” and “driver”), 3 years of college (specialty “optical and opto-electronic devices and systems”). After college, tried to go to university, but unfortunately did not happen. 3 years worked in the specialty. Now I work in a hypermarket in the sales department.
I live with my parents (mom works in guard service, dad builder). I have the younger sister (she is married, they have a child, my nephew, David, they live in St. Petersburg), my favorite cat and one-eyed a dog named Porthos.
Now about my English. I have 5 years to learn French in school, 2 years of English in college. I think we can understand each other, communicating simple sentences.
Something like this:
- I want the great American hamburger.
- You can eat 30 pieces?
- Of course, within a week
I love animals very much, so never go zoos (I’m sad to see them in cages).
I like the architecture of American cities. It has no analogues in the world (Canada only). Especially the art deco style and postmodernism.
My dream – to visit every city in the U.S., even in the smallest and take a photo and video reports about them.
I have no eating habits, I eat everything except olives, beets (allergy) and milk.
I like motor racing – Formula-1. No, I do not participate, watching events on television. From music I like rock the 80′s and 90′s – Billy Idol, Michael Stanley Band, Jimmy Barnes, Dire Straits, Eddie Money, also Shania Twain.
On my trip to the U.S. my friends found out only today – they have “fallen” jaw on the floor when they is heard. Among my friends and nobody has ever traveled to the United States.
I can’t write much right now – busy writing daily stories for the paper. But I just want to share a bit about “Russian Sam” aka Ilia (Elijah in English) Shvetcov. He arrived last night, worn out from a 24-hour flight from St. Petersburg, Russia.
Ilia is staying at the MidTown home of architect Dennis Wells in what is becoming the city’s best neighborhood of modern design houses. Ilia got up at dawn and this was his first photo taken of the skyline:
I joined Ilia and Dennis this morning; we are without an interpreter today, though we will have one throughout the week. We managed, thanks to some rudimentary English spoken by Ilia and fumbling attempts by Dennis and I to sign and motion. It worked. Not everything needs to be spoken anyway – not, at least, Ilia’s amazement seeing the downtown skyline he could only view online, and then recast as an incredible model so far, far away.
When Dennis picked up Ilia last night at the airport, his first comments were “the model is more spectacular than I could have imagined. It would be great if the mayor could see it.” I agree. It’s far smaller, far more detailed than the photos indicate.
Ilia also brought his sketches and other prep work to show how he assembled the model. It’s truly amazing.
We spent out day visiting various sites around downtown, including the rooftop of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (many, many thanks go to Leslie Spears for arranging special access at the last minute on a Sunday afternoon!).
Some people might ask, what is this all about? Good question. And the answer, I think, is quite simple. Sometimes the best way to see your city, to see its creativity and imagination of its people, is through the eyes of a stranger. And what better stranger to help us step back and see ourselves than this one person who fell in love with it so many, many miles away, armed only with a computer, his own artistic talent, and a translation program that gained him an assortment of friends here in OKC that he has yet to meet?
Go back and read the start of this coverage (hit the Russian Sam link at the bottom of this post) and you can catch up on how this journey began, how a man who used the online nickname “Russian Sam” traveled to Oklahoma City with a vision made of paper.
Welcome to Oklahoma City Russian Sam. I hope you enjoyed today’s tour, including the Chicken Fried Steak at lunch!
Your friend, Steve Lackmeyer
I am having a blast touring downtown with Russian Sam aka Elijah aka Ilia, with Dennis Wells and my son. I’m taking lots of photos, and I hope to have a full post later today (I’m doing a mobile post right now). His model is far more incredible than I could have imagined. This afternoon we are introducing Ilia to chicken fried steak, which Dennis is telling him is a gourmet Oklahoma meal. This is a cool, cool way to show off Oklahoma City’s creativity community, which we will be doing all week as part of the World Creativity Forum.
The following is a report written by architect Dennis Wells to fellow employees and friends following news of “Russian Sam” obtaining his Visa. For what it’s worth, Dennis is way to shy in accepting credit and way too generous in attributing this effort to me. Also for what it’s worth, Dennis, Bud Miles, the folks at Creative Oklahoma and the staff of Rep. Mary Fallin are the ones who pulled this off. I’m just enjoying having a great story to tell!
October 29, 2010
In case you haven’t heard the story of “Russian Sam,” here is the Cliff Notes version: (Miles Associates is sponsoring his visit to OKC.)
Ilia Shvetsov is a 25-year-old hypermarket worker who lives in St. Petersburg Russia. “Russian Sam” is the pen name he uses on his website. Ever since he was a kid, he’s enjoyed making things out of paper. He grew to love making models of iconic American buildings, and eventually decided to build a model of an entire American downtown. After much research, he chose Oklahoma City because it has a good variety of architectural styles, and it was small enough to build (and there was a wealth of photographic information available due to OKC’s rich blogosphere). The model has amazing detail and accuracy. Ilia has never been outside Russia…
aka “Russian Sam”
The scale is 1:2000 (+/- 1” = 175’), but still the building signs, and the smallest details are legible. The base of the model is only about 2’ x 2’ in size. (Surf flickr for good pics)
Ilia’s model of Oklahoma City
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter for the Oklahoma City newspaper, and hosts a blog that has posted stories about Russian Sam’s progress during the last couple of years. A few months ago, I made the mistake of posting this comment on Steve’s blog: “Hey, we should raise funds to buy this guy a ticket to OKC, and give him a helicopter ride to see the real thing!”
The next day Steve published a story in the newspaper proposing (STEVE’S NOTE: I’d describe it as “asking” about the possibility rather than “proposing”) that Creative Oklahoma Inc. sponsor him to attend the pending Creativity World Forum (CWF) to be held in OKC Nov. 16-18.
In the same article, he elected me to be chief fund-raiser (I had offered to pitch in the first $50, and a place for Sam to stay…), so that’s how I got involved. Bud Miles thought it was a neat idea and agreed to buy his plane ticket. Creative Oklahoma Inc. is sponsoring Ilia’s attendance to the CWF, and is accepting tax-deductible donations to help offset all the expenses.
Ilia & I have been e-mailing back & forth during the last several weeks to coordinate some of the details required for him to get a visa. (He doesn’t speak English; he uses Google Translator!) It looked like the consulate was going to deny his request, but Steve Lackmeyer enlisted the aid of Mary Fallin’s office (STEVE’S NOTE: Yeah, this is pretty much true. I asked if they could “be of assistance) to pull some strings, and the visa was finally approved today. Sam is excited to be the first person he knows to visit America. His friends are in disbelief. He’s looking forward to seeing the real Oklahoma City (and eating the best hamburger he’s ever had!).
See more here: http://stateofcreativity.com/ and: http://blog.newsok.com/okccentral/
more pics here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/44533223@N08/sets/72157624599353907