11 years ago Richard Smolsky was in charge of the Academy of Art. His life was just as other peoples’ lives, who know the price of professionalism, responsibility and justice — unavoidable constituents of the image of the modern director
I had known Richard Smolsky for a long time, since we had studied (he — earlier, I — later) in the postgraduate school of the department of the theatre of art history, ethnography and folklore of the Academy of Science of Belarus. When we worked together, I was a witness of his brave and assertive development in the department and at different creative forums. Once I experienced a mixed feeling of admiration and some embarrassment, when from a high tribune of the meeting of theatrical workers of the country Smolsky, so to say, took apart the performance of Kupalovsky theatre “Optimistic tragedy” by V.Vishnevsky staged by Valery Raevsky. I admit, the speech of Smolsky seemed to me, an adherent of criticism read between the lines, sharp in form and uncompromising in essence without a correction that this was one of the first performances of Raevsky, who became an art director of the theatre. However, what was characteristic of the speech of my senior colleague, is the absence of personification of a creative problem, seen by him in the work of Raevsky. Otherwise, this brisk graduate student didn’t catch the personality of a stage director and Valery Nikolaevich respected it. However, in my opinion, the whole audience in the great hall of the House of Actor experienced the same feeling. I recollect, how Raevsky entered the tribune and said: “Yes, this graduate will go far, he will certainly become a doctor”.

And this happened. Richard Smolsky successfully defended a Ph.D. thesis on the specialty “theatrical art”, and then a doctorate thesis. And 11 years ago he was in charge of the Academy of Art. His life was just as other peoples’ lives, who know the price of professionalism, responsibility and justice — unavoidable constituents of the image of the modern director.

— A new training season gains momentum. What do you await of it, Richard Boleslavovich?

— As all teachers, I am waiting for a small wonder, I hope that in the result of the acceptance campaign to us will come the most talented and hardworking people. And successful, those, who are helped if not by God, then by someone above. In the result, their creative destinies become happy. Recently, I have been watching the youth coming to art with growing respect and esteem. I am glad that in our pragmatic age there are those among young people, who want to serve art.

— Can you say, that the system of a big academic organism functions smoothly?

— The dialectics of life means that something becomes strengthened, and something is being destroyed. Simultaneously with strengthening we get rid of the old. We enter a difficult phase of capital repair of the main training building. We change engineer networks, windows and everything what needs to be changed. Difficult time is ahead: repair will be carried out without evacuation. As for the rest — everything is all right. There were big changes in strengthening of a material and technical base. Five years ago the President Alexander Grigorievich Lukashenko visited the Academy. He examined our household and then he talked to the students during five hours, he expressed his point of view to the development of culture, art and state. And he answered many questions. Owing to this meeting the material base of the Academy has been significantly improved. A new training 2008 year we met with reconstructed hostel for students. The conditions are ideal for living. There is even an attic on the 5th floor of the main building, where there are creative workshops for painters, and also the chair of graphics. We also bought computer equipment. Besides, in compliance with the national program of education development, it was promised to creative higher educational establishments to build the hostel in a campus and a new training building for the Academy of Art. This is good, as the number of students grows each year. Five years ago there were 900 students here, and now there are 1400 students. Each of them has to be provided with everything necessary. We try to do this. The Ministry of Culture helps, but we also earn money. At the expense of the budget activity we obtain 2 billion Belarusian rubles per year.

— Which commercial projects are being carried out in the Academy?

— As in the other higher educational establishments, education is carried out on a free and paid basis. We gather the groups of students, candidates for a master`s degree, graduate and doctoral students. There are preparatory courses in the Academy for graduates: future painters, designers, actors, stage directors and operators. 50 per cent of those who attend these courses enter into our Academy. This is a successful commercial project: it gives us a possibility to earn, and, what is important, to give serious preparation for young talented people. As it is known, you can’t enter the Academy of Art without serious preparation. Only to the dramatic faculty. When, for example, a boy comes from the depth of the country: a giant, voice, ear and the whole gentlemanlike set for appearance of a scenic hero, also with the talent of dramatic identification. Such persons are rare.
We also have such a structure as creative workshops, which also render paid educational services, in whole, for designers. Something like sections. We also prepare cinema administrators, assistants of stage directors for a film studio “Belarusfilm”. We opened the faculty of retraining and personnel development for professional art, where study more than 100 listeners. For example, my son studies there. He graduated from the linguistic university, but his dream to be a stage director turned out to be stronger and led him to the Academy, where he at his own expense studies to become a stage director. There are many such young people. Not each of them will become Fellini, but if one of the twenty repeats in the big cinema experience of Mikhail Ptashuk or Viktor Turov, this will be good. One more commercial project is connected with the art gallery. There is an exhibition hall in the hostel, where different exhibitions will take place. And, finally, the theatre-studio named after E.Mirovich has got its audience and its income. I hope that the last project will also be perspective. Together with the radio company “Mir” and “Beltelecom” company we established an art structure LLC “Kinomir”, which will produce feature-length films and series. In whole, everything we do testifies that the Academy corresponds with time: trains highly-qualified personnel.

— Novelties for 11 years of work are the art of a director, aren’t they?

— Mainly, don’t think that this is indiscretion. Of course, teachers come to me with private offers to improve or to change something. Especially active is a young director of the Theatre-studio Andrey Vasilevsky.

— If I am not mistaken, there are four faculties in the Academy.

— It seems that there are few of them, but each of them has numerous directions. On the theatrical faculty, artistic faculty, and also on the faculty of design and applied art, on the faculty of personnel development and retraining. Besides, to 2010 we will be ready to open the faculty of screen art. We will have our own Belarusian Institute of cinema art. As I say: a small All-Union State Institute of Cinematography. On Chicherina Street near the Opera and Ballet Theatre a training building will be opened soon, there we will locate it. On the chair of cinema and television art almost 200 students of full- and part-time attendance study. In the near future we will open two new chairs: the chair of stage direction of cinema art and the chair of cinematography of screen art. All this is done for preparation of the national film and video branch.

— How many teachers practice the artistic creativity?

— Almost 120 people (the same number of teachers, working as staff members). This is our “golden reserve”: stage directors, actors, cinematographers, painters. The course of film directors is headed by the experienced master of cinema Alexander Efremov, the courses of stage directors — by people’s artists Valery Raevsky, Boris Lutsenko. Artistic courses — by people’s artists May Danzig and Boris Gerlovan and a merited man of art Vladimir Zinkevich. From practical men we attract only those, who recommended themselves in culture and art.

— I heard that the number of foreign students grows each year.

— In the beginning of 2008 we established the department of international relations, as our life stimulates us to export educational services. Students from Europe, Asia and Africa come to us, also from Iran, Algeria, Venezuela. They are those who independently made there choice via Internet in favor of obtainment of exclusive professions in Belarus. For example, a girl from Columbia became interested in our designer faculty, a boy from France — in the dramatic faculty.

— Do you invite people to study here?

— Of course. In spring two our teachers specially visited China, they carried out selective examinations and formed a group of students for design faculty. And, of course, we will increase the number of foreign students: we have good conditions now. Foreign students are satisfied with the quality of study, calm situation in the country, fair price for education and living.

— Is there practice of foreign periods of probation?

— Young and leading teachers regularly work on probation in Russian higher educational establishments. We have firm relations with State Institute of Theatre Arts, All-Union State Institute of Cinematography, with the Academy of Arts. Recently a big group of students and teachers has visited the Academy of Arts and Tseriteli, he carried out master-classes with them, in the result he highly appraised our students. When they during several hours made good pictures, he said the following: “I don’t see the reason for teaching you, you are ready masters”. It is pleasant! We maintain relations with the Ukraine, Poland, Germany. Professors from Munster Academy of Art came (this is one of the biggest European Academies) and admired our classical realistic school of painting. Agree, this is also pleasant. Our actors take part in the festivals. Recently students of the dramatic faculty (4th year) — have visited the festival “White Tower” in Brest, got a special prize of the jury. We visit Poland, Turkey, France.

— Do you like the time of creative pluralism, when theatres of other forms appear alongside with 29 national theatres?

— This is normal. Theatre evolves. Non-repertory theatres of different genres and directions give the actors possibility to show themselves. I like when the most successful actors find time for creative manifestation in the non-repertory theatres, in spite of the fact that they are busy in the repertory of their theatres.

— The model of a repertory theatre exploded itself, didn’t it?

— By no means. It shall exist, and the state within due limits shall support it, understanding that dramatic theatres are not profitable. World economy laws approved this long ago.

— You are a stage historian, your professional area is theatre. Does it mean that you pay more attention to the theatrical faculty?

— Not at all. I am an adult. Of course, I have my own preferences, but expertly combine them with the national objectives: to develop our alma-mater successfully.

— Does your professionalism of a stage and theatre historian help you in the work?

— Of course, this is the possibility to think, drawing parallels, understanding regularities, characteristic of the world of art. I often bring a historical example, when some directors say that initially it is necessary to strengthen the economy, and to think about culture. It deals with Napoleon. Imagine, October 12, 1812. Napoleon is in Moscow. The campaign was unsuccessful. The city flares. Napoleon has to save his army and himself. And what does he decide to do? On October 12, 13 and 14 Napoleon edits the charter of the theatre “Comйdie — franзais”, consisting of 102 big articles. On October 15 in Kremlin Napoleon approves this Charter. Emperors, kings, governments and presidents change in France, and this charter is the same and protects the theatre. Besides, Frenchmen respect Napoleon as a man, who made a lot for culture of France. I told about this historical fact to Alexander Grigorievich Lukashenko, when I invited him to watch the Academy. As a historian by education, it was interesting for him to know about this.

— What is your attitude to free manifestation in clothes of creative people? Creativeness of appearance of some future authors is sometimes originally expressed.

— I am a tolerant person, and if such creativeness doesn’t step out the borders of commonly accepted norms, I refer to this fact calmly. Let me bring an example. Once I came to the lecture to theatre of historians and saw two girls with shaved tops. Firstly I was shocked, then I got used to it for two hours of the lecture I read. To the end of the lecture I thought: “Why not? The heads are beautiful, round, they look harmoniously”. Their hair were cut during the semester, and then hair grew. It happens that young people express themselves. The period of studentship is a time with the wind in the head — let it blow for a while.

— How do you interpret the notion “culture”?

— There are several hundreds of determinations of culture in encyclopedic dictionaries, and they are all correct. This is why I say: culture is our all. The style of life, behavior, world perception and other. Culture means not only achievements in the sphere of art. This is our social existence. Look at the roads, for example. Almost each second driver of the country drives a car. Our driving behavior reflects our culture. I am an optimist, I think that there are cleverer and better people, and they will assist to the fact that the level of culture is high not only on the roads.

— Did the rector happen to break traffic rules?

— Yes, I did, I repent, but now I try not to break them: I don’t break parking signs, I don’t overspeed, when I am in a hurry.

— In your opinion, which directions of culture are developed in the country, and which shall be developed?

— I am sure that our national program in the near future will be built on harmonious development of culture and its constituent parts. Many things are being done for this. I like that much attention is paid to classical types of art. On this basis the cultural layer will grow. For example, the cinema. As for now, we produce 5 films per year. But if we manage to make 20 films, masterpieces will appear. Nobody cancelled the law of transition of quantity into quality, the law of large numbers.

— Experience of which countries deserves attention in the sphere of preservation of cultural national riches?

— I travelled a lot, I know Europe well, I was in Asia, Africa, Poland, Germany, France, Italy and Czech Republic… In these countries attention is paid to development of their national culture and financial investments. I think that we shall pay attention to the Chinese culture, to experience of approach of the Chinese state to preservation of their originality. We also need to carry out serious research of foreign cultures, and also specialists, who would be able to study Shakespeare in original, Beaumarchais and other giants of a creative thought. In whole, we are respected in the world, because we are getting stronger, stand on our own feet. It can’t be otherwise, as we created the masterpiece of modern architecture — the National library, soon the doors of a restored Opera and Ballet Theatre will be opened. Restored Mirsky castle and a palace complex in Nesvizh invite tourists. In a word, there are grounds to believe that new XXIst century will become “golden” for Belarusian culture. It is pleasant to realize that teachers and students of Belarusian State Academy of Art make their contribution into this great business.

Valentina Zhdanovich
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