‘Any Event is Firstly About Emotions, for Both Me and the Participants’
Classes at the Hermitage, internships at the New Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre, cooperation with Sevkabel Port—all these things are part of student life on the Master's programme 'Arts and Culture Management'. Over the last year, Alisa Chernova, second-year student of the programme, has managed to study Dutch art in St Petersburg's main museum, attend the New Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre, and help organise the CIBA-2023 cultural event. Find out about these and Alisa's dream project in this interview.
From Law to Creative Industries
I am from the Chuvash Republic, where my mum organises events of a republic-wide scale. One example is Republic Day, when troupes from various Russian regions gather in Chuvashia and vividly represent their identities. In my childhood, I participated in such events myself—I performed dances. When I got older, I started helping my mum. I really liked engaging in it: I saw my mum putting her emotions into the script, and then, each person found their own meaning in the event. I have adopted this approach in many ways: for me, any event is firstly about emotions—mine and the participants'.
I studied law during my bachelor's degree, but was always attracted to the sphere of culture. I worked a lot as a volunteer at cultural events, and I kept helping my mum when I came home. After my studies, I realised that I wanted to make my dream of working in the art sphere come true because it gave me strength and energy. This is how I ended up in the Master's programme 'Arts and Culture Management'. But I do not regret studying law—I learnt to analyse information, think logically, do calculations, and understand legislation, which is also very important for a manager. In the master's programme, we had a course 'Intellectual Property Management in the Digital Economy', which was a chance to consolidate my knowledge.
Applicants to the programme have to record a video presentation. During the consultations, we were told that creative videos are remembered better. That is what I did: I recorded a video in front of various organisations the programme cooperates with. Firstly, it was important for me to show my interest in the programme. Secondly, I wanted to tell more about myself and my interests. The programme cooperates with the Hermitage, and I adore the General Staff Building. I had attended youth club lectures on art there and thought that it would be an advantage. With Cartier in the background, I talked about my interest in fashion: my thesis was even about the protection of intellectual property in the fashion sphere.
We also added a research proposal (RP). I chose an easy path and described how on the programme, I would continue the research I conducted for my thesis. I think it is ideal when the topics of your RP and final thesis coincide, but it is not necessary. The most important thing is to show that you can write scientific texts, put forward a hypothesis, and select a theoretical basis. Of course, you can change the topic—there is always the possibility that during your studies, you will be inspired by something else.
Classes in the Hermitage and an Internship at the New Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre
For me, all the courses were useful, but I remember our classes in the Hermitage the most. We studied two courses there: 'Art Institution Management' and 'Art History and Contemporary Cultural Practices'. Art history classes were held on Saturdays: the professor meets you, and you walk through the halls of the Hermitage, stop in the hall of Dutch art, and discuss something for a long time... Of course, this experience cannot be compared to usual lectures or, for instance, a podcast because you directly come into contact with the things you study. The unique feature of these classes was that they were taught by Hermitage employees. They told us not only about culture, but also about how a modern museum lives: how they restore the exhibits, shape the exhibition space, and calculate their finances. It was interesting to hear about the museum business in detail directly from the professionals.
We also had a course on 'Art Management in the Context of Modern Art Institutions', where we learned how to organise events and work in a team. We worked with real clients—I was involved in a project on running the social media accounts of the New Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre. We had total freedom: we contacted the representatives of the theatre ourselves, discussed their perspective on social networks, and came up with various options. The main task of the client was to attract young people to the New Stage, and I think that we managed to do it. To create content, we attended runs of the plays. Before that, I had thought that the director sat in an armchair and said: 'No, not that, change the decorations...' But in the final runs, everything is already approved, and the director moves around the hall, looks at how the actors are seen from different rows, sees if the light looks good. It was a very curious experience as I was usually in the audience, but this time it was like I was a participant!
There were several courses in which we studied how to conduct research in management and marketing. For me, it was something new as we were taught to put forward a hypothesis, select relevant research methods, and only then start the research itself. In the sphere of law, I was used to analysing cases from judicial practice, and we didn't have to set out hypotheses for it. Here, I managed to become a real scientist. So in the programme, we had a chance to dive into practice as well as choose a research track and develop as a researcher.
Organising CIBA-2023: From Creating an Idea to Cooperating with Sevkabel Port
It seems to me that art and business go hand in hand, especially in the modern world. I don't really like the idea of creating art for money—it must come from your heart. But it is amazing when an artist can express themselves both in a creative and financial way. Sometimes they have to finish their professional career as they cannot earn their living. I am also happy that now, there are more tools which help to prevent this from happening.
This year, the connection between art and business was the focus of CIBA: Creative industries. Business. Art, a cultural and educational conference which students of the programme organise as a project work. Those looking to participate in the organisation had to write a motivation letter explaining why they want to organise this event, what skills they have and which ones they will be able to gain. Out of all the applicants, they selected 12–13. Together, we thought about what CIBA would be about this year and then presented four ideas to the employees of the New Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre: curator Olesya Strokina and general producer Alexander Malich. They recommended two topics for us to choose from, and we settled on one dealing with how art influenced the development of business.
I had a lot of responsibilities! Together with other students, I worked on the script: made a list of lecturers, built communication with them, and thought about the order of their speeches. We spent a lot of time choosing the format of the speakers' presentation: either a TED Talk or a roundtable. I think that a roundtable is good when people know each other or their spheres overlap. As a result, we chose a mixed format. I was also responsible for volunteers: I selected them, explained the concept of the event, and coordinated their work at the venue. For me, it was a new experience; I had usually been a volunteer, but here I was a curator.
CIBA left me with a lot of emotions. I am very glad that this year, the representatives of cultural institutions and mass media who we addressed joined us—they took an interest in our project and offered to cooperate. A CIBA animation was also shown in Sevkabel Port, and Valentina Antiushina, marketing director at Sevkabel Port, participated as a speaker. Also among the participants were the co-founder of the bigcity.art project Elizaveta Zinovieva, general director of the food mall Vokzal 1853 Nikita Ulybin, PR director of the non-profit organisation 'Anton Tut Ryadom' Lada Efimova, and others. It is amazing that they responded to our idea and supported us in a creative way.
This project also gave me an understanding of all the nuances of organisational work. For instance, I realised that an organiser should know the professional terminology of light and sound operators: you come to the venue and have to explain what you need in the language they understand. The New Stage also has its specific features—the stage can transform into any shape. But they helped us to figure this all out: they organised a tour, showed us how the mechanisms work, where the sound-effects technician sat, where his booth was located—it was fascinating.
Industry People Who Inspire
This is the first woman to introduce fashion to museums. She organised the first fashion exhibitions in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Diana Vreeland became an icon in the art world because people had assumed that fashion wasn't worthy of a museum—but she changed everything.
I really like Alexander McQueen and the brand he built during his life. He is not from a rich family; his father was a taxi driver and his mother didn't work, so he made his first collections on a scholarship. It seems to me that his collections are often very controversial as they touch upon various feelings, including melancholic ones. But I like his talent for showing his emotions through clothes.
I like Darya Zhukova because she started developing modern art in Russia. She supported and sponsored exhibitions of the Moscow conceptualist Ilya Kabakov. In addition, she founded the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, which became an amazing platform for the development of modern artists in Russia.
I have an idea to do something to develop national art in my native land—the Chuvash Republic. We have a very rich culture which is famous for its embroidery. The uniqueness of this embroidery is that it is the same on both sides, which means that it is reversible yet made on one canvas. Today, contemporary art in Chuvashia is developing, but it lacks venues. Last year, Chuvashia hosted a biennale of contemporary art. I didn't manage to visit, it as I was in St Petersburg for my studies. But according to reviews, it was awesome! I would like to organise such an event to help young artists from Chuvashia express themselves—and make it a tradition.