Cultural Fund Celebrates Tenth Anniversary
By Laryssa Courtney
Director, TWG Cultural Fund
At the same time that The Washington Group celebrates its twentieth anniversary, the TWG Cultural Fund is celebrating its tenth. The Fund was organized in May 1994 to foster and promote Ukrainian culture in the Washington Metropolitan Area, thereby enriching the community in the areas of music, art, dance, theater, film and literature. Its activities include sponsoring and organizing performances, lectures and exhibitions, facilitating the creation of partnerships between touring artists and Washington’s local arts organizations, establishing a clearinghouse for information on Ukrainian culture and funding Ukrainian educational projects in the arts. In June 1994, the newly created Cultural Fund held its inaugural event at the Embassy of Ukraine. It featured the renowned Les Kurbas Young Theater of Lviv, dramatizing the poetry of Bohdan Antonych to the accompaniment of classical music and singing of traditional Lemko folk songs.
The Cultural Fund has sought to bring the Ukrainian arts into Washington’s cultural mainstream and to take advantage of its unique location in the nation’s capital to attract members of the diplomatic and international communities, as well as political and cultural leaders. To encourage wider participation, the Cultural Fund featured its events in a variety of venues, including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Department of State, the Library of Congress, universities, museums, embassies, churches and synagogues, galleries, and bookstores.
Over ten years, the Cultural Fund has sponsored some 70 events in twenty venues. These events included concerts featuring orchestras, chamber groups, choirs, singers, pianists, violinists, cellists, bandurists and other folk instrumentalists. The Fund also developed a relationship with the International Piano Competition in Memory of Vladimir Horowitz, presenting winners of all five competitions, which were held in Kyiv since 1996. In October, 2000, the Fund inaugurated a benefit concert series, under the direction of Chrystia Sonevytsky, to raise funds for instruments and instrument repairs in music schools in Ukraine. This benefit series subsequently became our annual music series, which takes place at the Lyceum, a history museum in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.
Many of the concerts were reviewed in The Washington Post. Two reviews stand out in memory. Regarding violinist Solomiya Soroka’s recital in 2000, Joseph McLellan wrote:
“To the best of my recollection, I had never heard a note composed by Myroslav Skoryk until Wednesday night, when three of his pieces were played at the Chevy Chase Women’s Club. He should be better known in this country; he is an original, a composer with a distinct identity, a mastery of many idioms — jazzy, folk-style and moderately avant-garde — that he uses to shape works embodying piquant contrasts, convincing climaxes and sometimes impish wit… The program focused on Ukrainian composers (a sadly neglected group in this country) ….”
In another excellent review, titled Bright Voices and Bandura From Ukraine, of bandurist Alla Kutsevych’s recital in 2001, McLellan wrote: “…this unfamiliar instrument flooded the auditorium with uniquely glittering melodies.”
He went on to include a short lesson in Ukrainian cultural history about Taras Shevchenko’s life, his fight against despotism, and his influence on Ukrainian, as well as Russian composers.
The most challenging project was the Tenth Anniversary Concert commemorating the Chornobyl disaster. Presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society, the concert took place at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in 1996, and featured the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra. The many thousands of dollars needed to pay the necessary expenses required the Fund to make personal contact with individuals, organizations and corporations all over the country. The concert was very well attended and it was worth the effort. Not only did this event promote Ukrainian culture, but it also educated the audience about Chornobyl, its effects, and the many problems associated with this disaster still remaining to be resolved.
The Cultural Fund has also sponsored art shows, film screenings, book talks, lectures, theatrical presentations, and a fashion show, featuring Ukraine’s top fashion designers, to benefit breast cancer awareness and treatment in Ukraine. The photos included here offer a good sample of our presentations.
The Embassy of Ukraine has worked with the Cultural Fund from the very beginning. Honorary Chairs of the Cultural Fund Committee were Maria Shcherbak, Natalya Gryshchenko, and Iryna Reznik. Cultural attaches who have been members of the Committee include Dmitro Markov, Vasyl Zorya, Hennadii Nadolenko, Mykola Krawchenko, Olesia Bozhko, and Natalia Holub.