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The Kona Echo

Jul 29, 2022

Ilya Barannikov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, during politically unstable times.  His uncle, a painter who was critical of the Communist Party, helped his family flee. His family arrived in the United States when he was seven years old. As an adult, Ilya moved across the country until finally settling and falling in love with Hawai’i several years ago. His tumultuous early life contributed to his deep desire to understand politics, history, and the philosophies that shape the way people live and work.

  His parents were trained as engineers, but they had to find whatever work they could to raise a family in their new country; cleaning houses and driving taxis. Ilya became familiar with life for the less fortunate, and the experiences of immigrants. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mother was left in a new country with three children struggling to pay bills. Ilya  took it upon himself to contribute to his family's living and took any jobs he could. Growing up in public housing while surrounded by wealth led to young Ilya learning the impacts of wealth inequality.  

  Though Ilya excelled in studies in his youth, his family’s debts led him to leaving formal education in his early adulthood. He pursued his first career in design and building. By age 22, Ilya ran his own successful cabinetry business. When the world's economy collapsed in 2008, his business saw a reduction of work by over 90%. This led to Ilya becoming determined to find solutions so that smaller businesses would not be destroyed in the wake of larger businesses being bailed out by government funding.

  After the economic collapse, Ilya spent time focusing on art and music, becoming a working artist, traveling to over sixteen countries and creating large art installations for numerous public events and private owners. He also received grants to install intricate, educational art throughout the world. When Covid hit, Ilya returned to more local work within the community, getting involved with designing low-income housing projects, solar installations and electro-chemical technology for storing energy.

  Ilya currently runs a non-profit arts-based mentorship program in Hawaii called Hawaii-Fi, which is now running it’s pilot program on Hawai’i Island and aims to target young underprivileged youth and give them access to inspiring local creatives.