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Uplifting Their Voices: Ukraine Takes Spotlight During Fall Arts Events

Ukraine

Ukrainian music, literature, art comes to Dickinson

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

As the U.S. president urged world leaders to stand firm in support of Ukraine during this week’s U.N. General Summit, Dickinson prepared for two major arts events celebrating and exploring Ukrainian culture and arts.

The Prometheus Ukrainian Male Chorus of Philadelphia will perform on campus Sept. 23-24, and the works of Ukrainian translator and artist Veronika Yadukha will be exhibited Nov. 1 to Dec. 1.

Rich musical tradition

The Ukrainian Men's Chorus of Philadelphia performs in 2014.

One of the oldest Ukrainian male choirs in the world, the Prometheus Ukrainian Male Chorus was founded in 1962 to preserve and celebrate the Ukrainian culture and its choral tradition. In 2014, the chorus received an award, in recognition of its artistry and advocacy, from Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture.

The chorus has performed across the country and internationally, at times appearing in top venues such as Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In 1995, the group presented its first concert in a free and independent Ukraine. Since the 2022 escalation of the Russian war in Ukraine, performances have focused on raising awareness about the ongoing conflict and on fundraising for related humanitarian aid.

Their Dickinson visit is sponsored by the War, Peace & Justice Project, honoring the late J. Sherwood McGinnis, a former Foreign Service officer who taught at Dickinson and at the U.S. Army War College after his retirement from the U.S. Department of State.

A champion of community-based civil-military dialogue, McGinnis was committed to the idea that informed, inclusive discussion on national security was critical to democracy. Accordingly, the War, Peace & Justice Project aims to encourage audiences to reexamine the nature and purpose of war and the meaning of peace and justice; expand perspectives; and explore the roles and responsibilities of being a global citizen. Programs related to the yearlong project began last spring and continue through spring 2024.

The Prometheus Ukrainian Male Chorus will perform in Rubendall Recital Hall on Sept. 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Sept. 24 at 2 p.m.

Translating literature into music, visual art

Artwork by Veronika Yadukha

Yadukha is the first artist-in-residence to visit the college through Dickinson’s Beyond the New Normal: Disability, Literature and Reimagining Social Justice initiative, funded through a three-year, $350,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A native of Ukraine, she specializes in intersemiotic translation, the practice of reinterpreting an artistic work into a new work of a different art form.

Before the February 2023 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Yadukha curated the annual Translatorium literary and translation festival in the small city of Khmelnytskyi and was part of the VERBatsiya translation collective. She left Ukraine after the invasion and now resides in the United States. During the past academic year, Yadukha served as an M.A. fellow in comparative literature through Dartmouth College’s program for Ukrainian refugee scholars.

Throughout her Dickinson residency, Yadukha will create a new body of work. Her forthcoming series of ceramic tea bowls will express Zen Buddhist and American counterculture influences in Richard Brautigan’s poetry collection All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. An exhibition, Intersemiotic Translation: Literature to Ceramics, opens Nov. 1 at 5:30 p.m., in Gallery 204 of the Weiss Center for the Arts.

Yadukha will also interact with students and faculty across several departments. That includes students in Professor of Music Jennifer Blyth’s First-Year Seminar, who will have an opportunity to use instruments Yadukha created last summer in collaboration with ceramic artists in Oaxaca, Mexico. The instruments use water to produce music Yadukha describes as “a narrative sound translation” of Sofia Andrukhovych’s novel Amadoka, which explores traumatic periods in Ukrainian history.

The exhibition is supported by the Mellon Foundation and cosponsored by the Department of Art & Art History. Additional fall events funded through the Beyond the New Normal initiative include a Sept. 14 faculty personal essay and memoir workshop led by Sharon O’Brien, professor emeritus of American studies.

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Published September 20, 2023