With subsidized rent and a skill in demand, an artist in Belarus can make a good living, but the appetite for challenging works is limited.
by Ilya Kuzniatsou
Maxim Svistunou’s career path was set when his teacher mother and artist father sent him to art school in fifth grade. Though he was unhappy about it at the time, the accomplished 32-year-old stained-glass window designer now revels in his own creativity. Svistunou is one of a handful of vitrage designers in Belarus, working with glazed glass, creating colorful windows primarily for wealthy clients. Dreaming up new designs, cutting glass, and soldering full windows in his basement studio, the freelance artist often works nights to save daytime hours for his other passion, fishing. Although he earns more than the average Belarusian, he is frustrated that he has so far not been able to pursue his real artistic calling – making the kind of modern, conceptual art highly regarded in the West.
Ilya Kuzniatsou is a freelance videographer and video producer in Minsk. He has worked on documentaries and short films for the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Euronews, and other international news media.