Thursday, January 15, 2009

Music and Art

Yesterday was a day filled with music and art. I began the day with a meeting at the Ivan Honchar Museum to discuss ideas about an exhibit about kalitka--Ukrainian doorways, as shown in a Russian example below, that will be the subject of an exhibition there this fall. It was great to begin working with Ukrainian colleagues and to learn from them about their work and as well, I hope, begin to share some ideas from American museums. We have much to learn from each other. The plans include actually going out to some villages in March to collect these doors and I hope to be able to join the team on at least one fieldwork trip.

After the meeting, Irina and I visited the Decorative Arts Museum, all part of the same complex. Incredible textiles and costumes, but I was blown away by the work of Maria Prymachenko--one of her works is at the top of this entry. She was an untrained artist from a small village, but it was great to see, in an exhibit, how her work changed over time and she became bolder and bolder in her approach. Her 100th anniversary is this year and there are many exhibitions --this was just one. The museum owns more than 650 works and I'd say perhaps 75 were in the show. I'd love to see more.

That evening, thanks to the generosity of Ihor Poshvailo at the Honchar museum, Irina and I went to a concert of the National Men's Choir at the National Philharmonic. Appearing with the choir was Nina Matvienko, one of Ukraine's most famous singers. The music was all acapella, and everyone had the most beautiful voices. After a long day of listening and thinking, it really was transporting to just sit in the balcony and listen. I was intrigued by the mix of people--young and old, there, although few children. The concert was a formal one, with bouquets presented to singers, shouts of "bravo," and as always I'm finding in Ukraine, enthusiastic singing when given the chance to join in. It was a Christmas concert (yesterday was Old New Year), so I think it finally signals the end of the holidays for me!

Top to Bottom: Maria Prymachenko painting
Performance at the Philharmonic


edvarno said...

Hi Linda:
I have two questions.
1. Is there freedom of expression when it comes to art and culture or are these matters governed by state values and oversight?
2. How are musuems funded? Perhaps these two q. are linked.
Ed Varno

Linda Norris said...

Hi Ed--

Several answers, such as I know them--which is to say that I may be wrong or hopefully, my knowledge will increase over time. In conversations with both museum professionals and my students, they say the state does not clearly regulate freedom of expression, but of course taste and community values play a role as they do in any society.

Museums are primarily state-run organizations except for new ones founded, and supported financially by oligarchs. That's a term not really in use in the States, but certainly that old 19th century robber baron money is much the same thing--so the Frick, the Guggenheim, and even Sonnenberg Gardens--would be considered new and different in today's Ukrainian society.

Because of the financial crisis in Ukraine (the hrivna devalues against the dollar more every day), museums that rely on state funding are at a critical point, with very little funds to do anything and as well, not necessarily the experience with the kind of resourcefulness so familiar to small American museums. Despite all that however, I've found some passionate, committed colleagues here, struggling to do their very best, and very excited to learn new ideas and approaches.