Activity of the President of the Russian Academy of Arts Zurab Tsereteli in Art Education

The Russian Academy of Arts headed by Zurab Tsereteli since 1997 was conceived and established as an educational entity. Throughout its history, the oldest Russian cultural institution has obtained a variety of new functions. Nowadays, the Russian Academy of Arts is a premier state creative and research entity combining prominent artists and creative people of the nation. Since the outset of the Academy, education has remained the most significant element of its multisided activity.

For Zurab Tsereteli, who graduated from the Tbilisi Academy of Arts and mastered the school of such eminent draftsmen as V.I. Shukhaev, a noted professor and graduate of the Russian Academy of Arts, the originality of the 250-year-old Academy art education system is obvious and his first efforts as President of the Russian Academy of Arts have been directed to its preservation and development.

Very symbolic is the fact, that Tsereteli’s presidency in the Academy and positive changes in the field of Russian art education coincided with involvement of the Academy in recreation of artistic decoration of the biggest in Russia Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Along with academicians, many graduates of the Academy art institutions were engaged in that grandiose and spiritually significant work which was a rare opportunity for them to reveal and upgrade their talents and skills.

When Zurab Tsereteli took the office, the Academy embodied the biggest two national higher art educational entities: V. Surikov Moscow State Art Institute and I. Repin St.Petersburg State Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture; two lyceums: N.V. Tomski Academy Art Lyceum in Moscow and B.V. Ioganson State Academy Art Lyceum in St. Petersburg and a number of creative workshops for the most talented graduates of the above Academy entities to upgrade professional skills. The perfection and development of the Academy art education system have become one of the most significant directions of Tsereteli’s modernization strategy.

First, it was urgent to improve the facilities in which students were trained. The old building of V. Surikov Moscow Institute had been in a devastating condition for a long time with dirty interiors, destroyed parquet floors in studios and lobbies. The miserable dormitory had many problems with hot water supply. Not a better picture could be seen in another, not less prestigious I. Repin Institute in St. Petersburg. The 18th century building on the University Embankment, which housed an Imperial Academy of Arts, had not been repaired for the last 80 years.

It took Zurab Tsereteli a few years to furbish up the above facilities and improve the gloomy reality thus proving that only efficient actions could fruit well. In 2003 students and teachers of V. Surikov Institute began their lessons in a completely restored and renovated building. Now, the students’ dormitory offers good living conditions. It is also planned to transform the Institute’s courtyard into an additional area of 200 square meters to be used as studios. Recently, clergymen from the Moscow Patriarchate have consecrated the foundation stone laid for the chapel honoring St. Flor and St. Lavr to be placed on the Institute’s campus.

In St. Petersburg, the historical home of the Academy of Arts, in honor of the tercentenary of St. Petersburg the big architectural complex of I. Repin Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture has undergone a radical refurbishment including 45000 square meters of the building facades and 25000 square meters of its roof; the interiors of the lobby, main suite of rooms, Catherine Hall, Raphael and Titian galleries, a round Conference Hall. The home church of St. Catherine has been topped with a six meter gilded cross. In the renovation of the interiors were involved students of the Academy Religious and Historical Painting Workshop who demonstrated once again the high level of training in the Academy institutions. To restore the historical image of the building, its dome has been crowned with bronze Minerva, goddess of wisdom and arts. The circular inner courtyard and facades overlooking it were repaired as well. On May 29, 2003 the first curator of the Academy Ivan Shuvalov was commemorated in the courtyard by a statue sculpted by Zurab Tsereteli.

Respect for memory and merits of talented artists and teachers of previous generations is one of the most significant components of the educational strategy executed by the Academy President Zurab Tsereteli. It is impossible to appreciate modern achievements without comprehending academic traditions of the past. Zurab Tsereteli likes to remind of the inscription on the Academy building in St.Petersburg made according to the will of Catherine the Great: “Architecture. Sculpture. Painting. Upbringing”. It is of special significance for Zurab Tsereteli to bring to people the idea, that “school” comprises not only a complex of professional skills and techniques, but also such an important aspect as upbringing of a personality.

In spite of his wide public and creative activity, Zurab Tsereteli finds time to head a creative workshop in V.I. Surikov Moscow State Art Institute and to give monthly master classes in painting to children in the Art Gallery, 19 Prechistenka street in Moscow.