Mikhail Alexander Epelman, a Russian immigrant, was born and raised in St. Petersburg surrounded by the astounding beauty of the city's 18th and 19th-century architecture. He was profoundly influenced by its aesthetics. So upon acceptance at the prestigious University of St. Petersburg, he chose to major in political science and architecture while also training in sculpture. But with the changing political system in Russia, Mikhail knew the United States would provide him the freedom to fully concentrate on his art. So in late 1979, he defected and made his way to America.