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Night at the Museum

Museum docent Oxsana Kozlova guides students through the Erarta Museum after hours.
Museum docent Oxsana Kozlova guides students through the Erarta Museum after hours.

Small chatters of excitement spread throughout the crowd as the museum went dark promptly at 10PM. The Erarta was different from most museums students visited in Russia, as it was the largest non-governmental collection of contemporary art. The structure itself dated back to the Stalin period but the art found behind the doors was the product of younger generations.

As flashlights clicked on, students began guided tours of The Erarta’s five floors. New surprises and enchantments were unveiled around each corner. One turn a young dancer and musician came to life; another turn a life-size installation of “The Last Supper” featuring disciples under canvas with a thorn wreath overhead. Students illuminated their paths using the glow of small flashlights. “With the flashlights you focused on one thing at a time. You really got to know (the art),” said Ciara McManus of the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Having artwork reveal its intricacies as students were only feet away, docents helped uncover the deeper meaning of many pieces and shined light on the history of their Russian creators. On many occasions, the art did not share one specific story but encouraged more questions. “There was a contemporary theme where it was left up to you…there was an interpretation of culture,” said Tyler Lathrope of the University of Connecticut.

Kelly Bermudez, of Washington State University, tours the Erarta Museum examining each piece with her flashlight.
Kelly Bermudez, of Washington State University, tours the Erarta Museum examining each piece with her flashlight.

Aside from the pieces of art themselves, museum staff shared the struggles of contemporary art within the Russian society. While the Erarta worked hard to recognize gifted artists with unique approaches, more traditional Russian generations preferred an academic or classical style. Still in its infancy and celebrating its fourth birthday on September 27th, The Erarta Museum typically attracted younger guests – not so different from the students who walked its galleries that night.

Students enter the Erarta Museum right at dusk to explore the contemporary galleries in the dark.
Students enter the Erarta Museum right at dusk to explore the contemporary galleries in the dark.

Having toured the city of Saint Petersburg for days, students were excited to be out of the crowds and allowed this unique opportunity to privately tour the Erarta Museum. “It felt so special like it was just for us,” said Amy Anderson of The University of Kansas. As they exited through the Erata’s front doors, it was evident that both the works as well as the Russian hospitality made a lasting impression.

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  • Culture
  • Life on Land

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