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Russian artists in Natchez to teach art lessons

NATCHEZ — Natchez art enthusiasts had the opportunity to learn or fine-tune their skills this week with special lessons from internationally known Russian artists Aleksander and Lyuba Titovets.

Wednesday evening, at a reception in Regina’s Kitchen, the Titovetses met with students who will be taking classes with them at the Mississippi School of Folk Art on Franklin Street through this Saturday.

“I have absolutely loved the class,” said Theresia Smith, who came from Houston to take art lessons with the Titovetses. “They are so knowledgeable about the craft and what it takes.”

Smith, who started taking the class Monday, said she took art lessons in college and decided to relearn the skill.

“Every instructor has their own approach,” she said. “Their (Titovetses) education from Russia is strong and that really comes through in their lessons. It’s amazing what you can learn in three days. They have a wealth of knowledge.”

Lyuba said she and her husband traveled to Natchez from El Paso, Texas, where they taught at the El Paso Museum of Art and El Paso Community College. Lyuba said this week has not been their first stay in Natchez, however.

She and her husband visited the area in February with their friends Fred and Melinda Kent. Inspired, Lyuba said she painted a portrait featuring all of the interesting people she met during her stay — which was displayed in Regina’s Kitchen on Wednesday along with several more original pieces by her and Aleksander.

The couple originated from St. Petersburg, where Lyuba said she first started taking private art lessons at 5 years old. Aleksander graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. Petersburg Pedagogical State University, Department of Painting.

They both moved to America 27 years ago and established an art studio in Charleston, South Carolina. Aleksander also famously painted a portrait of the former First Lady Laura Bush that is displayed in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Fred Kent said he believes the Titovetses have the skill and experience to reshape the art scene in Natchez like they did in Charleston, where they planted an art studio and seeded inspiration for the community.

“When we first came to Charleston, it was a sleepy town with little art,” Lyuba said during Wednesday’s gathering. “Four years ago, it was a number one destination for European visitors for its art … They now have 15 art galleries in the center of downtown. … This all happened within a short span of time before our eyes.”

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