We know the East Village to be a transient community occupied by a multitude of cultural groups and the odds and ends of the Lower East Side. Many of these groups enjoy a brief stay, but leave their marks so strongly that they can never be completely swept away. Take, for example, the East Village’s Ukrainian culture…
During the 1950s and 60s, a huge wave of Ukrainian immigrants populated the area that then became known as Little Ukraine. Remnants of the country’s heritage still remain in the nooks and crannies of the East Village. Tucked away between a couple of Ukrainian churches and Taras Shevchenko Place (a street named after Ukraine’s most famous poet) lies a hidden cornerstone of Ukrainian culture in the community – The Ukrainian Museum.
Image via The Ukrainian Museum’s official website
The museum was established in 1976 by the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America in its NYC headquarters, a townhouse located at 203 2nd Ave. Members of the UNWLA jump-started the museum’s collection with Ukrainian folk art originally exhibited in the Ukrainian pavilion at Chicago’s 1933 World’s Fair. That first exhibition in the pavilion also featured a major display of fine art by Ukrainian avant-garde artist Alexander Archipenko.
Image via CityProfile.com
It wasn’t long before The Ukrainian Museum recognized that its 2nd Ave. location was much too small to house its immense and rapidly increasing collection of folk art. The museum then began to raise funds to afford a new property in Little Ukraine. With burgeoning property prices and the low funding of arts facilities in the city, this was not an easy task. However, the museum prevailed, and kept firm contact with its cultural community through its exhibitions, and by hosting lectures, book presentations and ethnic cooking workshops.
For nearly 30 years, the Ukrainian museum continued its quest for a larger space and patiently collected donations of small sums from New York’s Ukrainian American community. It is principally these collected $5 and $20 donations that allowed the museum to finally afford to build a new, state-of-the-art facility at 222 East 6th St. This new location, designed by Ukrainian-American architect, George Sawicki, first opened its doors on April 3rd, 2005 and has since been wowing visitors with its beautiful collections of folk and fine art as well as an archive of Ukrainian immigration history in the United States. The first exhibitions at the new address were reminiscent of the displays in the pavilion at the 1933 World’s Fair. The Museum opened with an impressive museum-wide exhibit of works by Alexander Archipenko, followed by an extensive exhibit of folk art that contained many of the original objects shown in 1933.
With the approach of the Independence Day of Ukraine, August 24th, we at FABnyc encourage you to go visit this little Museum that could, and DID become a cornerstone of Ukrainian culture for this community so dear to our hearts. Though the Museum will be closed on Independence Day in observance of the holiday, you can catch their current exhibitions Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11:30AM to 5PM.
Currently on view at the Ukrainian Museum is the exhibit Out of Tradition: Contemporary Decorative and Applied Art. This show features the work of 35 contemporary decorative artists of Ukrainian background and aims to showcase pieces of art and design rooted in the Ukrainian folk art tradition and aesthetic. Out of Tradition includes ceramics, jewelry, textiles, high fashion clothing and accessories and an array of decorative items crafted from wood, glass and silver. The exhibit will run until October 6, 2013.
At the exhibit’s culmination, The Ukrainian Museum organized a runway show of contemporary Ukrainian wearable art. The show will feature works by fashion designers currently on view in “Out of Tradition,” such as Oksana Karavanska and Katya Pshechenko, both from Ukraine, as well as jewelry designs by
Ukrainian-American Elena Vasilevsky. It is a Museum benefit event that includes a meet and greet with designers, silent auction of selected pieces and a Viennese cafe reception. Mark your calendars for Sunday, September 29th, 2013 at 2:30 pm for Fashion, Ukrainian Style!
To learn more about The Ukrainian Museum, please visit http://www.ukrainianmuseum.org.
Written by Yuliya Skurska, Intern @ FABnyc