History of A Ukrainian Arts Council:
27 years and counting...
Emerging from the spectacular Ukrainian cultural event, Festival '88, The Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts has been celebrating Ukrainian arts for over twenty years. ACUA was founded in 1986, and came together as a volunteer council to interest visual and performing artists in their Ukrainian identity in order that their creativity stimulate growth of Ukrainian culture in Alberta.
ACUA is a non profit Ukrainian arts organization incorporated under the Societies Act of Alberta. It is the mandate of ACUA to facilitate and encourage greater appreciation and awareness of the Ukrainian arts and their cultural significance to the greater Alberta community.
Through exhibitions, tours, festivals, educational programs, workshops, and special projects, ACUA promotes growth and provides support to the Ukrainian arts and artists living in Alberta.
The Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts also promotes the development of the Ukrainian arts and provides a communication link between members of ACUA, the Ukrainian arts community and the broader Alberta public.
ACUA: The dream becomes reality
Canada was built upon people immigrating and bringing along their unique cultures. As a response to the ever-growing diversity that is our nation, in the 1970s and 1980s the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was put in place. This law was enacted in order to officially recognise the importance of multiculturalism in Canada. Simply put, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act ensures equality for all cultures in Canada.
As a result of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, various multiculturalism policies were created. The goal was to look for commonalities and ways to unite Canadians of differing backgrounds. In addition, individual differences would still be maintained and taken into account. It was also decided that minorities need public programming. Examples of programs that came about during this time, which may be familiar to readers of ACUA Vitae, include the Ukrainian Bilingual Education programs, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, and the Ukrainian Resource and Development Centre, among others.
Another result of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was that the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) published a strategic plan, entitled “Building the Future”. Roman Petryshyn recalls that this was essentially a plan for the Ukrainian arts community, at 5-years and 10-years. It promoted a strengthening of the arts community and its capacity, as well as ensuring that the Ukrainian arts be involved, in Petryshyn’s words, “in public Canadian life”. By being involved in a more public capacity, the Ukrainian arts could become more recognised and validated. As well, by sharing all aspects of Ukrainian culture, Petryshyn adds that the Ukrainian arts could have a “right to funding from the public purse”, and not come solely at the expense of the performers. Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts (ACUA) was incorporated in 1986 as part of these initiatives as well.
This plan was also intended to help stimulate similar art councils in various provinces. It was successful in the western prairie provinces, as well as at the national level. Although the province of Manitoba once had a council, it has sadly now disbanded. Petryshyn says that in Alberta, ACUA registered itself as a non-profit society, in order to survive after many of the multiculturalism initiatives were disbanded. This registered society is essentially an interdisciplinary group aimed at professionals helping artists to advance. Petryshyn feels that “if the community learns to help the artist, it helps itself, because it gets to be better known, better appreciated.”
In Alberta, various groups can apply for casinos to earn money from the lotteries. In Saskatchewan, the province provides what Petryshyn refers to as “core funding” from lotteries. He feels that the council that the UCC developed there is very well organised, well-staffed, has steady government support, and is therefore able to provide various services.
As mentioned earlier, Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts was incorporated as a non-profit society in 1986. Roman Petryshyn recalls that he, Rena Hanchuk, and a few others organised a conference for artists, and at that time proposed what has become ACUA. Hanchuk recalls it as having been an opportunity to “gather the art forces together”. Whereas other societies and cultural groups are focused on one type of artistic medium, Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts encompasses all of the Arts – visual, performance, etc.
Roman Petryshyn also recalls that the original intent for ACUA was to have all artists working together under one umbrella. This has proven slightly more difficult to organise in real life however. With over 80 different groups, Alberta has the largest concentration of dance groups in Canada. Petryshyn reasons that it is not realistic to treat a large dance group, with a large number of members, the same way as an independent artist. Therefore, some artistic groups (music, dance, etc), with their own individual needs, fall into other groups. The remaining Ukrainian Arts activities are part of ACUA.
Both Hanchuk and Petryshyn, although founding members, have continued to be involved in some manner with Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts. They both feel that ACUA has been successful in reaching out to members of the Ukrainian community, while raising awareness among non-members. ACUA has grown slowly and steadily according to Petryshyn, and has been successful in reaching out and serving the Ukrainian Arts community. This Council holds art shows, promotes Ukrainian artists and communicates publicly about the Ukrainian Arts scene. They hold special events, raise funds and according to Hanchuk conduct workshops where there is interest.
Another way in which ACUA is involved in the community is through the “Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts (ACUA) Award for Ukrainian Art in Alberta.” This is an annual award given out through the Ukrainian Resource and Development Centre. It is awarded to individuals or groups who promote the Ukrainian Arts in Alberta through festivals, projects, programs, etc.
In looking to the future of Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts, Rena Hanchuk hopes to see more outreach programs. These programs are a way to bring the artist to the audience. They are a beneficial way of getting more people involved. Hanchuk explains that people who learn by seeing and touching have an easier time if the paska (Easter bread) is being braided as they watch with their own dough in front of them, or the pysanka (Easter egg) is being created in front of them. She feels perhaps it would be more feasible to do digital workshops rather than sending an artist out to various locations. More people could be reached at a more reasonable cost, a factor very important to a non-profit society.
Roman Petryshyn feels happy with the work ACUA has done so far, and sees a bright future ahead. ACUA continues to serve the needs of the artists, and maintains a rather broad profile. It has grown and responded based on the needs at the time - ACUAVitae magazine was developed with writers in mind, while visual arts workshops cater to the performing artists. Petryshyn states that “what ACUA has achieved here stands above other areas in terms of a self-governing group of people in the arts.” Rena Hanchuk feels that ACUA’s role is in the public eye, “they [the public] need to hear about it, they need to see it, and ACUA’s role is to help them understand it.”
Both Petryshyn and Hanchuk agree that Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts should continue to be a place where artists can come to be recognised and encouraged by the community. They feel it is a powerful tool that continues to redefine itself. It is a bridge between the Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian communities.
How our logo came to be....
The beginning years of any council or committee are full of planning and setting up. A role and purpose should be laid out, as well as a clear direction in which to take the organization. The efforts of the founding members are generally focused on higher priority items such as forming the organisation, and setting it up for a successful future. Once everything else has been taken care of, attention can be turned to other things such as logos. So it was with ACUA – Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts. Although it was formed in 1986, according to one of the founding members, Rena Hanchuk, it was not until the early 1990s that the Council decided it was time to choose a logo.
Rena recalls quite passionately that the original logo design was that of a rushnyk – a Ukrainian ceremonial towel. This is an item which is present in Ukrainian life from cradle to grave. It is a revered symbol which has a role to play in nearly every major life event. It plays a part in a child’s christening; it is used multiple times during the marriage ceremony; it even plays a role during funeral services. Hanchuk feels that the rushnyk is a “powerful visual symbol that unites all stages of our life”.
In her opinion then, the connection between the rushnyk and Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts is obvious. The desire for ACUA’s future was to establish a council which would envelope and unite all genres of the Ukrainian arts. The hope was to connect the written word with music, pysanka-writing with embroidery. These elements of Ukrainian life which are so fundamental could be brought together under one large, all-encompassing canopy. Just as a rushnyk is draped over a Ukrainian person during major life events, so would ACUA drape itself over the various genres of Ukrainian art.
Over time, with the appointment of a new board, the desire for a new logo arose. It was felt that something more colourful and easier to identify was needed. The need also came about for something easier to transfer digitally; something more technologically, and visually, appealing. The image of a poppy was chosen. This flower is an integral part of Ukrainian culture, but is also more universally recognised than a rushnyk.
The hope of the current Board of Directors is that a return to the original Logo, along with incorporating the poppy in promotional material, a balance will be achieved respecting the past, living in the present and looking towards the future. As is so important in Ukrainian culture, there is a desire to honour the past, hold on to one’s roots, and in Rena Haunchuk’s words, “make it relevant today.” The reason so many aspects of Ukrainian culture have survived is that they are continually made relevant in the present; they are not re-invented to suit modern desires. The past is honoured, and the historical connection is maintained, even if it is not the most popular.