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Ties celebrated through art

THE UNITED States is home to a large community of Slovak immigrants and their descendants, which has created a unique cultural connection between the countries.The immigration of Slovaks, who moved in great numbers to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries in search of work and a better life, is one of the themes of an exhibition entitled Slovakia, Slovaks and Connections on Historic Postcards and Photographs, which opened in the Bratislava University Library on June 17.

From the opening of the RomaDrom exhibition.(Source: Courtesy of US Embassy)

THE UNITED States is home to a large community of Slovak immigrants and their descendants, which has created a unique cultural connection between the countries.The immigration of Slovaks, who moved in great numbers to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries in search of work and a better life, is one of the themes of an exhibition entitled Slovakia, Slovaks and Connections on Historic Postcards and Photographs, which opened in the Bratislava University Library on June 17.

“This exhibit – which began in Martin, then travelled to Košice, then back across the entire country – will travel next to the United States, where it will be shown in Pittsburgh and Cleveland,” Lawrence Silverman, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, said at the opening.

The historic photo project is the result of an international collaborative programme to conserve photographs at the Slovak National Library, funded by the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles.

The exhibit tracks the Slovak-U.S. connection over the years, highlighting the contribution made by the pioneers of Slovak life in the U.S., explaining Slovaks' social and sports life there, and the role of Slovak-Americans to the beginning of Slovak cinematography and Slovak literature in the U.S.

The exhibition is one of many events organised by the U.S. Embassy.

“We have tried to examine the long and fruitful relationship between the U.S. and Slovakia,” Keith Hughes, Information Officer at the U.S. Embassy, told The Slovak Spectator. “Almost all of our cultural activities try to showcase U.S. and Slovak connections, both direct and indirect. To that end we have helped publicise the grant between the Getty Conservation Institute, the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, and the Slovak National Library in Martin to restore and preserve old photographs in Slovakia.”

Another project that touches on common points between the two nations is the presentation of the original Pittsburgh Agreement to mark the 90th anniversary of its signing.

The Pittsburgh Agreement was a declaration by Czech and Slovak Americans and Czechoslovak statesman Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, signed on May 31, 1918, that set out their aspiration for an independent republic, and that paved the way for the creation of Czechoslovakia. The historic document is on display as part of the Slovak National Museum's Ako sme žili? (How did we live?) exhibit until the end of September.

Art is an inexhaustible tool for bringing nations closer, Hughes said.

“Art helps us explain, explore and understand our culture, our world and our history,” he told The Slovak Spectator. “That is, of course, the main purpose of cultural programmes sponsored by the U.S. Embassy. We hope to present a complete picture to Slovakia of what America is and how we see ourselves. Because of this, there are as many points of interest in culture between Slovakia and America as there are Slovaks and Americans.”

Out of such programmes organised by the embassy Hughes highlighted exhibits of Slovak and American student work “that explore the question of our relationship to each other”, such as Bridges/Mosty, Autovízie and RomaDrom.

While the first one dealt with the theme of collaboration and education across cultures via the medium of clay, Autovízie was a contribution of design students to industry. RomaDrom was an art exhibit about the life of Slovak-Roma. The exhibit featured images by two award–winning American photographers, Julie Denesha, and Michael Robinson-Chavez, as well as artwork by Roma children of the First Elementary School in Jarovnice.

“Among the projects that have caught the biggest interest of Slovaks were the exhibit of Edward S. Curtis photographs of American Indians called Sacred Legacy and the exhibit of African American murals: Celebrate! Commemorate! Communicate!” Hughes told The Slovak Spectator.

Topic: Foreigners in Slovakia


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