“Winter Songs on Mars”: Song through time in space

NEW YORK – In late December, Yara Arts Group got together with Nova Opera, from Kyiv, and the Koliadnyky, from the Carpathians, to produce “Winter Songs on Mars.” The result was a fun and surprising performance that took place at La MaMa Experimental Theater Company in New York City’s East Village and was directed by Virlana Tkacz, with musical direction by Julian Kytasty.

Setting the traditional Koliada and Vertep nativity play on Mars led to a playful and imaginative show for the audiences. The performance on December 21, 2019, was enjoyed by both the hundreds of students of three Ukrainian studies schools that watched the show in the afternoon, and that evening’s audience, which was a more typical mix of downtown hipsters and the local Ukrainian community members Yara’s shows usually attract.

“Peripheral Visions”: A duo-exhibition of spatial transitions by the Yurchuks

NEW YORK – Art at the Institute is presenting “Peripheral Visions,” an exhibition of mixed-media artworks by familial artists Iranaeus and Dorian Yurchuk, exploring extreme visions of architectonic and topographic ruminations in two and three dimensions.

The exhibition opens at the Ukrainian Institute of America on Friday, February 21, with an opening reception for the artists at 6-8 p.m. Curated by Walter Hoydysh, Ph.D., director of Art at the Institute, this marks the artists’ first showing with the UIA.

Holderness School exhibit brings visitors to the frontline of Ukraine’s experience

HOLDERNESS, N.H. – Holderness School is hosting “Verses from a Nation in Transition: Photographs by Joseph Sywenkyj” beginning on January 24. Mr. Sywenkyj, a two-time Fulbright scholar and recipient of the prestigious W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography, is an American photographer of Ukrainian descent.

He specializes in documentary, reportage, portraiture and travel photography. Twenty years ago, he began working in Ukraine, the nation of his ancestors.

The exhibit at Holderness School features approximately 50 photographs from three of Mr. Sywenkyj’s long-term projects from Ukraine. For two decades, he focused his lens on health issues related to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and war trauma.

Vertep Fest immerses Kharkiv in traditional Ukrainian folklore

KYIV – The annual Vertep Fest took place in Kharkiv this year for the fourth time. Fifty-two musical collectives arrived on January 11-12 from different corners of Ukraine; a large number of them were from Kharkiv and the eastern region, which shares a border with Russia. More than 1,500 people passed along the city’s main street in the traditional “Vertep March.” Fifty-six cities in Ukraine, the Netherlands, Poland and Estonia supported the international performance of the beloved carol “Nova Radist Stala” at Vertep Fest 2020. The final event of the festival, the Ethno Evening Folklore Party, gathered a large number of spectators and closed the event on a high note.

INTERVIEW: Virlana Tkacz on “GAZ,” Koliadnyky and Mars

This season, Yara Arts Group celebrates its 30th anniversary. The season boasts a number of projects – from grand international productions to small intimate events. Below, Virlana Tkacz, artistic director of Yara, offers her reflections on this milestone.

Virlana, could you tell me about the history of Yara.

First of all, Yara Arts Group is not just me, it is really a group of people – like-minded artists who have worked in many functions in all our shows and events, and each of them brought very special contributions that helped create our art over the years. We started Yara Arts Group in 1990 to create a new theater piece with Ukrainian poetry, and it eventually became a piece about Les Kurbas and our own dreams. We called it “A Light from the East:  A Docu-Dream.”

REVIEW: The sound and fury of Yara Arts Group’s “Opera GAZ”

NEW YORK – “Great Balls of Fire”! Shades of Jerry Lee Lewis and his flaming keyboards! The smash-mouth destruction of a honky-tonk pianino was merely the most obvious assault on the audience during performances of “Opera GAZ,” a co-production of Yara Arts Group and Kyiv’s Nova Opera on December 19, 20 and 22 at La MaMa Experimental Theater in New York City. By itself, the violent “pianicide” concluding this “opera” might be shrugged off as passé – a “happening” dating back to the 1950s. However, this show also evoked the bleak landscape of much of today’s opera and theater productions.

Koliadnyky from Kryvorivnia present music from the Carpathian Mountains

NEW YORK – Friday and Saturday, December 6 and 7, 2019, proved to be exceptionally active days at The Ukrainian Museum in New York City. There was the annual Christmas Bazaar, where one could buy books, embroideries and woodcuts, and select from a huge variety of delicious home-made pastries, medivnyky and cookies. Lubow Wolynetz and other baking specialists led a workshop in Ukrainian Christmas Traditions. The exhibit by painter Mikhail Turovsky, “From Darkness to Light,” was available for viewing in the main gallery. “The Impact of Modernity” was up in the second floor gallery, and an exhibit of “Selected Works” by Alexander Archipenko in the entry gallery. The “piece de resistance” were the Koliadnyky from Kryvorivnia, who had last been at the museum in 2015.
“Koliada and Music from the Carpathians” presented the traditional winter ritual of songs that are performed at each household to ensure health, love, wealth and happiness for all members of the household and a bountiful harvest for the homestead in the coming year.

Celebrating 100 years of cultural diplomacy in Ukraine

KYIV – One hundred years ago, the Ukrainian Republican Capella, under the direction of the talented conductor Oleksander (Alexander) Koshetz, set out on a world tour to promote Ukraine as a newly independent state, to show the world who the Ukrainians were, and how they longed for a free and independent state.
Commissioned by Symon Petliura, the head of the Ukrainian National Republic, and funded by his government’s Ministries of Education and Foreign Affairs, the 100-member choir had a mission: to conquer the West through soft power, to tell the story of its emergence on the world stage through the melodies of such great composers as Mykola Leontovych, Kyrylo Stetsenko and Mykola Lysenko, through songs of the glorious Kozak past and hymns of Ukraine’s rich choral tradition.

“Mr. Jones” screened in Washington area

SILVER SPRINGS, Md. – Following the first of two showings in the Washington area of the new film “Mr. Jones,” describing the work of the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones in Joseph Stalin’s 1930s Soviet Union, the film’s screenwriter Andrea Chalupa discussed the story of what is now known as the Holodomor, and the hard work it took for Jones to gather the information and share that tragic history with the world. Jones secretly managed to visit Ukraine to witness and report to the Western world about the millions of Ukrainians starving to death as Stalin’s regime confiscated their wheat harvest and sold it to the West to finance his communist regime. In her hourlong discussion with the large audience on December 15 at the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Md., Ms. Chalupa (in front of the screen) also noted that she expects it to be very difficult to spread the two-hour-long historic film in theaters throughout the country.

Late 19th-early 20th century Ukrainian art, major gift to The Ukrainian Museum, on exhibit

NEW YORK – The new exhibition “The Impact of Modernity: Late 19th and Early 20th Century Ukrainian Art” opened to the public on Sunday, November 17, at The Ukrainian Museum. Nearly 100 guests attended the special event, at which guest curator Myroslav Shkandrij, professor of Slavic studies at the University of Manitoba, spoke about the never-before-seen works of art and their significance in Ukrainian art history in light of the world renown of several of the artists.
Prof. Shkandrij has previously curated exhibitions of avant-garde art and written extensively on 20th century Ukraine. The nearly 80 artworks and books on display were selected from a major donation made to The Ukrainian Museum’s permanent collection of fine art by Dr. Jurij Rybak and his wife, Anna Ortynskyj, who was present at the opening event.