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Art Fri Oct 11 2013

"Hidden Gem of the West Side," Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art Blends Art and Community

The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (UIMA) is "the hidden gem of the West Side," according to its president and full-time volunteer, Orysia Cardoso. Founded in 1971 to promote the art of Ukrainian émigrés and Ukrainian-Americans, today UIMA is an art center for Ukrainian Village and West Town and a center for modernism for the Chicago region.

UIMA Facade--GB.jpg

Located on Chicago Avenue just east of Western, the institute has a striking modernist façade that stands out among the century-old storefronts, many of them now businesses owned by eastern European entrepreneurs. The building, created from four storefronts, was designed by noted architect Stanley Tigerman, and opened in 1978. The foyer and exhibit space were renovated in 2006. The original institute opened in 1971 in a three-story brownstone nearby.

Exhibits and permanent collection

UIMA shows about six exhibits each year and recently closed its blockbuster show, Chicago's Bauhaus Legacy, which presented the early work of the New Bauhaus artists and designers who came to the US from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, as well as the later work of Bauhaus students and faculty members. The Bauhaus exhibit drew more than 2,000 visitors in its two-month run and attracted many out-of-town and foreign visitors, drawn by the Bauhaus legend.

Its new exhibit, Artists Respond to Genocide, opened October 4 and honors the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor Famine Genocide of 1932-33 in the Ukraine. June and July 2013 featured the work of one of Chicago's great abstractionists, painter and sculptor Thomas Kapsalis.

UIMA-gallery-GB.jpg

Selections from the institute's permanent collection are rotated quarterly and are always on display in the east gallery. The permanent collection is composed of a variety of styles primarily from the latter half of the twentieth century, including minimalism, conceptualism and computer art in numerous media, such as sculpture, painting, prints, photography, fiber and ceramics.

children-at UIMA-GB.jpgThe institute regularly hosts other events such as musical and literary events, films and gallery talks. Beading workshops, teaching Ukrainian beading styles, currently are being held two Saturdays a month. Students from neighborhood schools visit for art history and appreciation lessons.

The institute uses online tools to promote its exhibits and collection. Curator Stanislav Grezdo points out that images from current and past exhibits can be viewed on the institute's Flickr page. The permanent collection can be viewed on the UIMA-chicago.org website.

In addition, Grezdo arranges for each exhibition's catalog to be sold via print-on-demand on a publishing site, as well as in the institute's retail store. "Our visitors can purchase catalogs much more cheaply that way," Grezdo says. "If we printed thousands of copies of a catalog in the traditional way, the price for each would be exorbitant. This way we can keep our prices low." The Bauhaus exhibit catalog can be purchased online for $45 and the new Artists Respond to Genocide catalog for $15.

Expansion plans

Cardoso is enthusiastic about the institute's future. "We're working on an expansion plan that will take about five years to complete," she estimates. The first step will be extending the museum's hours which are currently 12pm-4pm Wednesdays through Sundays; however, they will soon be open six days plus one evening a week.

Cardoso explains that they plan a sculpture garden behind the building (think of the space of three backyards). The Chicago Botanic Garden has provided design plans, which will include installing a large picture window in the back wall of the museum to display a view of the sculpture garden. The board is currently choosing a firm to do the build out.

A longer term expansion will create a two-story structure on the east side of the sculpture garden to provide space for meetings and events, workshops and classes as well as storage. What is the timing for that? Cardoso smiles and says, "We'll have a fundraising drive."

The West Town neighborhood

Ukrainian Village is part of West Town, and has long been a Chicago port of entry neighborhood. Early in the 20th century, Ukrainians, Russian Jews, Italians and Poles settled in the area. (My grandparents lived in a little red brick cottage just a few blocks from the institute building and my grandfather had an upholstery shop nearby on Chicago Avenue.) The neighborhood still has three Ukrainian churches, along Oakley Avenue.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago describes West Town like this: "With its official boundaries roughly corresponding to Bloomingdale on the north, Kinzie on the south, the Chicago River's North Branch to the east, and a shifting western boundary that goes as far as Kedzie, West Town has long sustained a strikingly diverse population mix."

In the second half of the century, the neighborhood became a port of entry for Puerto Ricans, who settled near Humboldt Park, and Mexicans, who moved in around Chicago and Damen. Recently, the neighborhood has become popular among young professionals.

In 2002, the Ukrainian Village District, centering on Haddon Avenue, Thomas Street, and Cortez Street between Damen and Leavitt Avenues, was designated a Chicago Landmark District. Extensions to the district were designated in 2005 and 2007.

Visit the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art at 2320 W. Chicago Ave., Wednesdays through Sundays, from 12pm to 4pm. Admission is free; however, a $5 donation is suggested. For more information, call 773-227-5522.

Photos courtesy Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
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