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The Tsarino Foundation organises artist-run artist-in-residency programmes in Tsarino. It was set up in 2009 by an international collective of eight artists based in Amsterdam. 


Tsarino is a small village in the Bulgarian Rhodope Mountains, near to the Greek border. It was abandoned over thirty years ago due to a number of factors, one of which is its isolated setting amongst hills and forests. Over time, most original inhabitants moved to Chorbadzhjisko. This is a nearby town revolving around agriculture, growing predominately peppers and tobacco. Tsarino (its previous name in Turkish was Hasyurt) belongs to a Pomak community of Muslim Bulgarians. Pomaks are a minority group living side by side with the ethnic Turkish community, making up over half of the population in this region.


Our AiR 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 work conditions. The foundation currently uses seven habitable houses, which have been renovated on a very basic level to provide artists with accommodation and studio space. In recent years, the foundation has improved the general facilities by building an outdoor kitchen and renovating water lines. However, because of its remote location and lack of electricity, the conditions remain very basic.


Though abandoned (apart from one original inhabitant), Tsarino is still of significance to the communities of the area. Its mosque and graveyard are still maintained and used. Some families visit their houses, pick fruits or ‘park’ their cows in the village. The animals can take care of themselves and use the empty houses as their homes. In recent years, the local community has shown a growing interest in Tsarino. Previous inhabitants of Tsarino have taken initiatives to restore their houses or a stretch of road.


In all its activities, the foundation recognises its position and responsibility towards its environment. Through organising AiR programmes, the foundation aims to offer a platform for cultural exchange between the local community and (international) guest artists, as well as preserve Tsarino as a village.




Documentary made in 2011 (during our first residency) by Tamara Schvitz, 26 min.