In Spring 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic forced universities and colleges to cancel public programming or to hold virtual events. It also gave fresh impetus to ongoing discussions at the Melikian Center, on how to better inform the US public about culture, identity, and politics in Russia, Eurasia, and East Europe. As was the case in the various citizen-diplomacy initiatives of the late 1980s, including the “space bridges”, constraints on physical travel can open new pathways of meaningful interaction and learning across borders.
Creative Horizons is a collaboration between ASU’s Melikian Center, the Havighurst Center at Miami University, Ohio, and the Institute on Russia at the University of South Florida. Alongside support for faculty and students at their respective universities, all three units share a commitment to promoting a greater understanding of Russia and the surrounding region. Building on separate experiments in virtual programming since Spring 2020, this joint venture will give audiences in Arizona, Florida, Ohio and beyond the opportunity to hear from working artists in the region as they discuss their methods, perspectives and aspirations.
The series features videos produced in collaboration by the featured artists and videographer Ari Gajraj, followed by online discussions featuring the artist and moderated by regional specialists from ASU, USF or Miami University.
The first featured artist is muralist and graphic reporter Victoria Lomasko, whose 2017 book Other Russias attracted widespread reviews and attention, including coverage in the New Yorker, the LA Review of Books, and The Calvert Journal. Other Russias also won the 2018 Pushkin House Prize for the best book in translation. In 2019, Vika visited the Melikian Center and the Havighurst Center, where she created the mural Atlases for the King library. In September 2020, Victoria Lomasko spent time in Minsk, Belarus, covering the extended civic activism protesting the rigged August election results.
Vladimir Tsesler is the second artist featured in the Creative Horizons series. One of the most famous Belarusian artists, Vladimir is a designer and creator of art objects with about 40 international awards in the field of poster, book and advertising. His works have gained worldwide fame and are stored in the collections of many museums including The Musée de la Publicité, a museum of advertising history located in the Louvre's Rohan and Marsan wings. Tsesler uses ridicule, humor and even sarcasm in his art work. He has nearly 37,000 followers who keep track of him on Instagram.
The third featured artist is Szabolcs KissPál, who has created multimedia docufiction to counter nationalism's fantasies. He is a Hungarian artist based in Budapest whose work engages with the social and political circumstances in which he lives and the role of the artist in society, particularly in the post-communist world. Like many artists in former eastern Europe his work displays some ambivalence about the current situation as well as hope for a more structured and controlled continuing emancipation. KissPál works with photography, moving image and sculpture.
Ermina Takenova, the fourth artist of the series, is an animator, director, and illustrator who is exploring her cultural heritage through her art and is learning to understand it better. Takenova’s short film “Mankurt” is based on a Turkic legend adapted by Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov in his novel The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years. She describes her short film and other works in more detail on her Royal College of Art MA program page.