eng Automatic Translation
  • Aleksei Borisionok
  • Maria Kotlyachkova
  • Sergey Shabohin

Why does an artist need an academy diploma?

1 lecture

The art department of the Belarusian State Academy of Arts, despite its conservatism and outdated teaching program, recruits about 25 students every year for the departments of graphics, painting, monumental art and sculpture. The enrolled students hope to get a profession as an artist. At the same time, in order to ultimately defend a diploma, students must spend 6 years (!) On education, money (for students on a paid basis) and another 2 years for working out (for students on a budgetary form of education). But is a diploma of an artist really necessary and is it worth the resources spent?

So, why might an artist need an academy diploma?

1 belief: an academy diploma can confirm acquired skills

Here it is necessary to start with the fact that the professionalism of an artist is rarely confirmed by the actual presence of a diploma, but is assessed solely by the accumulated portfolio - examples of statements created by him, which make it possible to reveal the way of thinking and skills of the author.

Usually, artists in their CV indicate the terms of training and the institutions in which they took it, without mentioning whether they eventually completed the training or took the documents. At the same time, many practice a frequent change of educational institutions at their own discretion: first of all, to gain knowledge, and not a diploma.

For example, the Belarusian artist Studied at five art institutions. At the same time, after graduating from the academy in Minsk, she regularly changed educational institutions in Europe at her own discretion.

An excerpt from Anna Sokolova's CV:

2007-2010, Academy of Media Arts, Cologne; postgraduate study
2005-2007, Art Academy Düsseldorf; classes of Daniel Buren, David Rabinowitch
2003-2005, Le Fresnoy, Studio national des arts contemporains, Tourcoing, France
1994-2000, Belarusian Academy of Arts, Minsk, Belarus; monumental painting department
1991-1994, Minsk Art School of Glebov, Minsk, Belarus

In addition to the list of educational institutions, professors are usually indicated whose classes the artist attended, programs attended, art residences, competitions and awards received, and most importantly - activity (personal and group exhibitions, presentations and other projects). All this, except for the works themselves, will say more about the artist than having a diploma.

Especially for our project, we interviewed former students of the academy, whether they needed an academy diploma after graduation. Of course, most of them never used it.

Yes, the diploma not very much and is quoted in the world. Permanent training and obligation at this institute give students_kami a certain craft, the quality and specificity of which we assess as rather dubious, especially considering the methods by which it is hammered into students_kam. The free creativity of students, who are forced to vegetate in the academy from morning until late at night, is limited by aesthetic and ideological limits, and all this multiplies the same type of quasi-academism, nationalistic images and decorativism in all departments of the academy. Outdated methods are exacerbated by the authoritarianism and unprofessionalism of the teaching staff. Students who do not fit into a strict regime and do not meet the order of the institute, as well as the aesthetic and personal preferences of teachers, are often expelled from the academy, as, for example, was the case with a whole wave of Belarusian artists who left Belarus and began to study at academies in Europe and around the world. The vacuum of the academy, among other things, intensifies the lack of an easy transition of students from class to class, mandatory attendance and reporting, leveling, patriarchy, outdated material base and many other disadvantages.

The tablet was taken from the official website of the Academy of Arts in the section called "Mission of the BSAA".

The mission of the academy speaks for itself.

2 conviction: an academy diploma will help you integrate into the official cultural system

And why should a free artist integrate into this system at all? Graduate students can be attracted by teaching, employment, benefits from joining trade unions (for example, a workshop and government orders).

The administration of the academy expects that after graduating from the academy, students will be integrated into the system of official culture, primarily as teachers in art circles and schools, colleges and universities. For this, the academy provides educational hours and teaching practice. But not many students see themselves in this role, and most often they are forced to work out this “duty” for two years after receiving a diploma, after which they immediately quit teaching.

Many students who entered the academy are really ready for integration into the cultural industry of Belarus. They want to get the skills of an artist, and in the future to participate in official group exhibitions, to join and (ideally) work in a workshop provided by the union. For many, joining the Union seems attractive also because it gives a chance to receive proposals for the implementation of state orders (painting objects, creating urban sculptures, restoration, etc.). But here it is also important to note that the workshop and orders are given with great difficulty due to demand, corruption and clannishness of the organizers and many members of the Union, and you can wait, for example, for a workshop for more than 10 years, and the most profitable orders are received by the "masters" close to the table. It is easier to rent your own space for work and look for orders on your own by participating in open competitions. Often, having waited for her turn to the workshop, a young artist receives a "handout" in the form of a space with monstrous conditions (and a rather big rent), and even then - for this you need to curry favor. For example, you will have to participate in republican exhibitions for reporting and "gaining points", as well as thematic expositions a la "Svyatlo Peramogi". By the way, it can be possible to organize a personal project at the Palace of Arts for free only on the occasion of your own solid anniversary.

The artists involved in contemporary art are inconvenient for the Union, they are often criticized, and in most cases they are not given anything: neither commissions nor workshops. For example, the artist for many years of membership in the Union, without getting the expected studio, left the trade union with a scandal.

State museums buy works in the collection mainly only from those who are members of the Union or at least are present on the official map of culture (and this can justify a diploma). But the attractiveness of getting into such conservative collections due to the myopia described above is greatly leveled.

It is important to note that sometimes graphic artists get jobs in publishing houses and production, and muralists and sculptors in interior studios only if they have a diploma. Freelance artists, engaged in creative self-realization, and not working outside their profession or engaging in teaching activities, apply the acquired skills without using a diploma. Therefore, we recommend that artists who wish to engage in contemporary practices in art do not receive an academy diploma just to integrate into the official cultural system of Belarus, but remain independent.

3 belief: an academy diploma increases social status

The belief "without a piece of paper - you are an insect" is often heard from their relatives by students entering and studying at the academy. Indeed, many go to the academy "for dad and mom", and then the received diploma gathers dust at the parents' house, carefully hidden in a box for documents.

"Without a piece of paper, you are an insect,
And with a piece of paper - a man"

Students who are accustomed to our education system, after elementary school and colleges, out of inertia, enter the institute, where for another 6 years they will look like a respected member of society in the eyes of their relatives. But closer to the end (and immediately after), parents and graduates become more confused and more anxious about the future. Yes, a diploma raises social status, gives a guarantee of getting some kind of job in production and in the field of teaching, but more often than not, the belief in the need for the indispensable presence of a “paper” is a common syndrome in Belarusian society, and even a delusion if this attitude is applied to professions of an artist. After all, a diploma (in particular, a diploma from the Belarusian State Academy of Arts) may not become an assistant for an applicant who wants to get this profession, but a rollback from the dream of becoming a professional freelance author.

4 conviction: an academy diploma gives you the opportunity to continue your studies

Indeed, some students plan to use it to continue their studies after receiving a diploma. Today, there are many opportunities for inexpensive or even free education in Europe. For example, in the eastern part of Germany, education for Belarusians is still either free or costs up to 500 euros per semester.

The problem of continuing education may be the inability to take a second deferment from the army, two years of training, and most importantly, the language barrier. All this puts former students in a state of prolonged confusion - a phenomenon observed in many generations of graduates.

English is the most widely spoken language in the Western art system, with nearly 99% of all catalogs and other publications available in English. Most contemporary art institutions use English to communicate with foreigners.

We firmly believe that in this case, self-education - the study of the theory and history of art, its system and new media, as well as foreign languages - is the best option. Our online lectures can also help in obtaining and filling in the missing knowledge in the field of the system and theory of contemporary art. Therefore, our blog, combined with self-education, is for those who are already studying at the academy and cannot leave it, and for those who are unable to enter a European university due to various circumstances, including the language barrier.

At the same time, we do not idealize the Western system of art education and the cultural situation in general. Western academies do not a priori take a progressive, innovative and reflective position. The hegemony of the market imperative, the commercialization of art and the insecurity of cultural workers in a free market, class restrictions on access to education and competition, characteristic of Western countries, will also fall under the scope of our criticism.

The modern economy produces a system of labor relations, which is characterized by project activities, fatigue from seeking funding and writing applications and reports, precarious (unsustainable) position. At least in the countries across the border, universities have a tradition of fighting for the rights of cultural workers, solidarity with oppressed groups, and the creation of experimental art laboratories, which both students and teachers work on.


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    From the Song of a Bureaucrat, written by the Soviet poet Vasily Ivanovich Lebedev-Kumach for the pop review of the Moscow Press House Question With an Edge, 1931.


  • Aleksei Borisionok
  • Maria Kotlyachkova
  • Sergey Shabohin
  • Zhanna Gladko
  • Sergey Kiryuschenko
  • Anna Sokolova
  • Mikhail Gulin
  • Belarusian Union of Artists
  • Belarusian State Academy of Arts