“Flying University” Support and Charity Foundation
Location: Minsk, Belarus
Implementation period: April 2016 – May 2017
Project coordinator: Yuliya Halinouskaya
Author: Michal Aniempadystau
Context, Problem, Purpose
During several years, the Flying University has been studying and actualizing the topic of Belarusian traditional esthetic preferences (coloristic and stylistic) in various forms of today’s use (design, architecture, environment, media, and culture), in mass consciousness and taste. The partnership with Michal Aniempadystau, the exclusive expert in this area, designer, artist, author in a broad sense of this word, has resulted in several courses of lectures on design, opened for wide interested audiences. It became obvious at some instant that the received culturological material on traditional visual codes is extremely important in questions of our national identity; besides, except us, nobody deals with this topic openly.
Thus, there appeared an idea to actualize this area of knowledge for a wide cultural community; to show historical canons and styles; the logic of their appearance, synthesis, and development; to offer the necessary bases, tools in the work with the tradition, style-forming elements, and markers characteristic of our culture and mentality. This topic is particularly perspective, we think, for those who can apply this knowledge professionally – designers, artists, architects, cultural managers, brandmakers, and experts in marketing.
As a community of intellectuals, this project helps us to promote not only a rational and solicitous attitude to the chosen material, but also the value of the research itself, the intellectual work to restore the tradition and links with the present.
– The book-catalog “Color of Belarus” is the result of Aniempadystau’s huge work and the central product of the project. This research of the color restores the fundamental bases of Belarus’ coloristics; in the contemporary conditions of postmodernism, with its color, esthetic decisions, it is called to become a stimulus to reconsider the questions of style, esthetics. The author scrupulously restores the lost examples of “cultural similarity”, thus reviving connections in the cultural continuity and stylistic harmony, or, as a matter of fact, creates the tradition anew.
– The book was presented to the public in spring 2017 and was accompanied by a special exhibition with the same name. There were presentations in Minsk and the regional centers of Belarus: Vitsiebsk, Hrodna, and Brest. We are planning to visit other regional cities with our book and exhibition presentations. These events accompanied by open discussions concerning the national style and identity, as we think, promote cultural decentralization needed today in Belarus – they establish connections and relations with representatives of cultural elites and activists in regional cities.
– The lecture course that was read within the framework of the school “Style and Identity” in the beginning of 2017; it is now presented as an independent video course on dp.fly-uni.org; it was created thanks to CHOICE within the pale of the organizational development section.
Evaluating our work, we can mention now preliminary results only – the catalog was sold out faster than we had expected; numerous journalistic materials and responses on the Internet, invitations to have autograph sessions in different bookshops in Minsk, inquiries to carry out the exhibition in other cities, and offers to print the book again – all these attest a high degree of society’s interest, probably not so narrowly professional.
The project has given the Flying University a basis for a new, more integral educational program aimed at developing methods of work with cultural and intellectual heritage.
Communication Challenges of the Project
Due to the novelty of the topic, we did not face any serious substantial conflicts. However, we felt no obvious reciprocal movement – although this topic is obviously topical for various target groups – first of all, state-run structures and mass media. At the institutional level, the topic cannot be advanced in state-run universities (we understood it at the stage of advertising our events). The majority of state-run mass media ignored our invitations to the exhibition opening; single cases of publications about the exhibition in the state-run mass media, as a rule, were possible thanks to personal acquaintances with journalists.
However, the inertness and circumspection of the state sector in relation to any representatives of independent culture in Belarus is an unpleasant, but habitual circumstance. Recently, there has been a wave of so-called “soft Belarusianization”. However, priorities of public attention changed this spring in connection with the aggravation of socio-political tensions. In parallel with the stage of our active advertising campaign of the book presentation in Minsk, there were important cultural-political events: huge protests to protect the Kurapaty memorial complex (the place of mass burial of victims of Stalin repressions), mass detentions of activists on the eve of March 25th (the Independence Day of Belarus, which is not recognized by power), as well as rallies of so-called “social parasites”. All these affected our work with the independent mass media as all attention was concentrated on other topics. In comparison with these force majeur circumstances, our work (important for the strengthening of national identity) in the media would be considered inappropriate and even indecent. It is hardly possible to get prepared for such situations in advance, especially with strict calendar frameworks; however, it was a valuable experience for us who learnt management flexibility and civic tactfulness.
New Partner Connections and Relations
During the work on the book and the exhibition, there was rapprochement of a certain pool of experts and organizations – it gives us hope to continue joint research work on this topic.
We are grateful for cooperation personally to Todar Kashkurevich, Lena Mironava, Volha Labacheuskaya, Elina Schindler, who work with the tradition and similar topics.
Our institutional links and relations with the Belarusian Union of Designers and the public cultural campaign “Budzma [Let’s Be] Belarusians!” have been strengthened. Now there are negotiations with the Union of Designers concerning our interaction with a remote platform – the organization of a number of public lectures and courses. Within the scope of the campaign “Budzma”, there will be new publications on the topic of coloristics, the Belarusian tradition and style, and advancement of the value of the intellectual work with the cultural tradition. The strategic partnership between us can lead to projects combining education, cultural science, sociology, and marketing technologies for culture.
Our links and relations with international partners have increased, too. During his working trips to gather materials, Michal Aniempadystau met the management of the Museum of Textiles in Lodz, the Podlachia Museum in Bialystok, the private museum of Belarusian ethnography in Studziwody (Poland). While preparing the exhibition and the book, collections of museums were used only partially – there is potential to continue this topic. Also, there are plans for the future – to organize an exhibition in Bialystok.
As a whole, we quite actively initiate new partnerships with the mass media, experts, initiatives, and organizations that are also interested in the further advancement of cultural heritage. We are ready to render intellectual, methodological support and to include new topics and experts in our educational program.