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‚Äôs 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 ‚ÄúThe Last Supper‚Äù featuring disciples under canvas with a thorn wreath overhead. Students illuminated their paths using the glow of small flashlights. ‚ÄúWith the flashlights you focused on one thing at a time. You really got to know (the art),‚Äù 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. ‚ÄúThere was a contemporary theme where it was left up to you‚Ä¶there was an interpretation of culture,‚Äù said Tyler Lathrope of the University of Connecticut.
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 ‚Äì not so different from the students who walked its galleries that night.
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. ‚ÄúIt felt so special like it was just for us,‚Äù said Amy Anderson of The University of Kansas. As they exited through the Erata‚Äôs front doors, it was evident that both the works as well as the Russian hospitality made a lasting impression.