NEWSLETTER, SEPTEMBER 2020
In 2020, ASEF applied for and received a grant from U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program of Eurasia Foundation https://www.eurasia.org/Programs/p2p that envisages the establishment of a cultural exchange and communication with Siberian cultural institutions in Akademgorodk such as the Integral Museum and developing and exhibition of Minnesotan artists on environment to be presented in Novosibirsk in the summer of 2021.
Read about our current project.
Artistic and Cultural Exchanges Between Minnesota and Akademgorodok, Russia
Goals, Objectives, and Participants
The long-term goal of the project is restoration and revitalization of cultural ties between Minnesota and Siberia.
The Twin Cities used to enjoy a strong sister-city relationship with the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, Russia—a relationship that was established at the end of 1980s and has grown strong during the 1990s. Both the Twin Cities and Novosibirsk had a significant influx of immigration of various ethnicities. Geographic location and historical development brought about unique cultural and ethnic landscapes. Business and educational relationships thrived during the period of perestroika, as did cultural contacts.
Educators, artists and musicians traveled between our cities establishing long-term relationships, including those between non-government organizations and people-to-people diplomacy. After 2000, these relationships became less and less active, which was due, to a large extent, to a cooling political climate between the two countries and the loss of government support on both
ends. Now, it is the people-to-people diplomacy and NGO contacts that provide the main support for the cultural ties between our regions.
American Siberian Education Foundation (ASEF) www.americansiberian.org was established in 1995 as a non-profit corporation registered in the State of Minnesota according to Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, with the board of directors representing both Minnesotan and Siberian business and educational communities. As formulated in its articles of incorporation, “the specific purposes of this corporation are to promote friendship between the people of the United States and the people of the Siberian region.”
ASEF is the only non-profit organization directly connecting Siberia and the United States through business and cultural workshops, academic exchange programs, symposia and exhibitions. A gateway to the United States’ academic, business and cultural community for visitors from Siberia, as well as surrounding regions in Asia and Russia, ASEF facilitates learning, bilateral collaboration and impactful relationships.
In the past, ASEF has facilitated joint educational projects in Siberia funded by the Eurasia Foundation and USAID, research collaboration between the U.S. and Siberian universities in the fields of small business and entrepreneurship studies and expanded cultural appreciation programs and initiatives. In addition, ASEF had taken on the role of the official liaison for the sister-city relationship between the cities of Novosibirsk and Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
Akademgorodok is a district of Novosibirsk with a population of about 100,000 located 20 miles from the city center. It is one of the principal scientific and educational centers of Russia, hosting 38 research institutions of Russian Academy of Sciences and Novosibirsk State University, one of the top research schools in the nation.
Integral Museum of Akademgorodok (Integral 2.0) www.integralmuseum.ru, established in 2014 and incorporated as an autonomous non-commercial organization in 2019, is dedicated to the memory of German Beznosov, one of the cultural icons and prominent independent thinkers of Akademgorodok of the 1960s. The museum’s collection is based on the archives of the famous social club “Under the Integral.” The museum’s collection is replenished in a variety of ways—residents of Akademgorodok donate items, then stories about them are stored as valuable historical evidence of a bygone era. At the museum, these mementos get a second chance to tell the stories of the daily life of the Akademgorodok inhabitants.
The Integral Museum of Akademgorodok is the center of many cultural activities including exhibitions and tours, and it can serve as a hub for establishing contacts between our countries and artistic communities.
The main objective of the project described in this proposal is to establish an ongoing partnership between our two organizations to incorporate the non-government, non-commercial, cultural and artistic activities in Akademgorodok, joining the forces of our cities’ communities to pursue this goal.
We see other organizations in Minnesota as additional participants and stakeholders in the project. Two organizations have already agreed to participate and facilitate activities: the Museum of Russian Art (TMORA) www.tmora.org (Executive Director and President Mark J. Meister), an established cultural center located in the Twin Cities with an impressive roster of art exhibitions and educational events in the area; and the American Russian Chamber of Commerce of Minnesota (ARCCoM) www.arccom.org (Director and Chair of the Board Dr. Anatolii Korkin), an organization offering links to Russian-speaking community and more broadly, the local business community in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN.
Establishment of new non-government partnerships and people-to-people contacts between Minnesota and Siberia seem to be the most effective way to foster sister-city and country-to-country relationships in the absence of government support. Cultural and artistic exchanges provide avenues for our communities to learn more about each other and help to
open new educational, economical and business opportunities.
Between summer 2020 and summer 2021, we plan to organize a series of artistic and cultural endeavors, both in the Twin Cities and Akademgorodok, which will help to establish a new relationship between Minnesota and Siberia similar to the one which existed in the 1990s.
We plan three main directions of activities:
1. Establishing a communication platform.
A joint online presence of our organizations, conferences and webinars attracting attention to our goals and special projects will begin in August, 2020 and extend beyond the project term.
Main components and steps of development of the communication platform are:
• Establishing working communication between the partnership organizations, determining points of contact and means of delivery, including remote communication services and social media;
• Developing a structure for ongoing information exchange and software/hardware configuration facilitating further activities;
• Organizing two major synchronous sessions (tentatively September, 2020 and February,2021) with an extended list of participants and stakeholders:
ASEF, Integral 2.0, ARCCoM, TMoRA, University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas, Macalester College, etc.;
• Conducting online polls and surveys in the Twin Cities and Akademgorodok communities;
• Finding sites for joint cultural and artistic expositions;
• Establishing guidelines and schedule for on-site visits and exchanges;
• Determining means to highlight project activities in the media;
• Dissemination of the results of the project.
2. Participation of ASEF, ARCCoM and TMoRA in the efforts of the Integral Museum of Akademgorodok to lead the cultural and artistic activities in Akademgorodok. This includes four visits of key personnel to Novosibirsk: two planning visits in August-October,2020 and the coordination of the “Sustainable Acts” exhibition in April-July, 2021.
In recent years, Akademgorodok became home to several small museums and cultural hubs, which are ready to participate in the process of formation of a new cultural medium. However, they are mostly disparate, with separate administration and financing, and lack of common communication resources. Integral 2.0 aims to spearhead these activities. During the first planning visit of two key project personnel Novosibirsk for 10 days in August-October, 2020 (subject to travel restrictions), we plan to discuss the format of major events to be organized at the Integral Museum in Akademgorodok with the help and coordination of ASEF.
We plan to begin with visual arts installations and photography exhibitions, which require relatively low cost of shipping. Projection equipment will be reviewed and new leases or purchases will be included as part of the project budget. Exhibitions will be accompanied by master classes in art and culture led by the participating artists either online or traveling to the partnership site in Novosibirsk.
One of the current plans is to bring to Siberia the “Sustainable Acts” exhibition by Minnesota artists. Its approach has been inspired by the growing interest across disciplines seeking to improve environmental policies and understanding information, which neither the arts nor scientific systems can do alone to influence and foster sustainable change. Art and science interact to form a gateway for community engagement that has the power to sustain and communicate societal issues regarding nature and culture through an aesthetic/creative lens. We find these intersections in the work of artists Joyce Lyons, James Brenner, Joel Carter, Jonee Kulman Brigham. They are painters, multi-media sculptors, engineers, doctors, and educators whose works can be brought to galleries and museum spaces in Akademgorodok to be viewed electronically on large screen projections. Our goal is to bring the artists to Siberia for a series of presentations and workshops, panel discussions, and gallery talks as funding process and detailed planning progress.
The goal of “Sustainable Acts” is to investigate the important role of the artist in communicating critical and pressing environmental issues. Art is a vehicle for
igniting conversation that stimulates human connections to inspire action for change and behavioral transformation in our cultures today. It is foremost an invitation to a conversation about ideas. Positioned within the construct of the exhibition are fundamental questions such as:
What is it to be human in relationship to the environment and its ecosystem?
What is our responsibility to the natural and built environment?
How can art in partnership with science advance awareness of the crucial issues of pollution and global warming?
Together, we seek to find understanding, gain knowledge and define ethical and holistic practices to become stewards of planet Earth.
A preliminary agreement is established with the artists of SAMEE group https://www.facebook.com/pg/joinSAMEE committed to travel to Siberia. The second visit to Novosibirsk of the project personnel for 10 days in April-July, 2021 will coincide with the exhibition and include artists and members of SAMEE group (cost-sharing options are being discussed with the University of Minnesota).
There are also a number of visual artists and photographers in the Twin Cities associated with TMORA, who can participate in this activity. If travel restrictions are still enforced, the plan can be scaled down to guarantee remote delivery. Detailed plans determining the schedule and scope of the exhibition will be discussed with the hosts in Novosibirsk during the planning visit in the fall of 2020.
3. Participation of the Integral Museum of Akademgorodok in the cultural life of the Twin Cities area in Minnesota. This includes two planning visits of Siberian partners to the Twin Cities in winter/spring, 2021 to discuss exhibition of museum collection from Novosibirsk in Minnesota, with ASEF, ARCCoM and TMORA as hosts and local organizers.
During winter/spring of 2021, we plan to organize the visit of two project participants from Akademgorodok to Minnesota (each visit is for 10 days, simultaneously or separately, depending on the project needs). We have established preliminary contacts with several Siberian artists enjoying high international reputations, who committed to exhibiting their works in Minnesota. ARCCoM and TMORA will provide exhibition sites in the Twin Cities, and the Siberian partner Integral Museum of Akademgorodok will be responsible for necessary coordination in Novosibirsk. The goal of these visits is to plan and accompany exhibition activities in Novosibirsk.
It is unfortunate that museum exchanges between the U.S. and Russia are currently impossible on the level of government museums. That is why it is extremely important to attract art, historical and ethnographic material from Russian private collections. This will help to maintain the presence of Siberian culture on the Minnesota museum scene. Immense popularity of a recent Russian photography exhibition at the Weisman Museum at the University of Minnesota illustrates existing public interest in such events.
The scope of suggested expositions goes beyond purely artistic endeavors. The Integral Museum of Akademgorodok has compiled unique collections of artifacts, which can be presented in a Minnesota museum or other venue either physically or using modern projection technology. The scope and focus of such expositions can be determined by a study of the potential of public engagement, which can be carried out using online polls, but also requires on-site visits.
Outcomes and Beneficiaries
A tangible outcome of the project will be the direct impact of artistic exhibitions exposing our communities to different cultures. These events will have a long-term eye-opening effect for our communities, like re-raising the Iron Curtain again, years after the end of the Cold War.
Another important intended result is the establishment of long-term partnerships and channels of cultural exchanges, which will extend well into the future, opening ways to people-to-people diplomacy, educational and business connections.
We think primarily of three distinct group of beneficiaries:
1. On the Siberian side, it is the community of Akademgorodok (and more generally, Novosibirsk, a city of 1.5 million). The main beneficiaries will be high school and university students, taking part in online activities, getting involved in cultural and artistic endeavors, and attending exhibitions and master classes of visiting artists.
2. On the Minnesota side, it is a huge student population of the Twin Cities (University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas and other local colleges, as well as high schools. Getting American students involved in the humanitarian mission of our project will have a deep cultural and educational impact on the community.
3. We also have in mind the Russian-speaking community of the Twin Cities, mostly comprised of Russian-speaking immigrants from Russia, the Ukraine, and Belarus. By a current estimate, this community includes
from 50 to 75 thousand people. It is important for this community to get involved in cultural activities related to their heritage and provide a natural link between the two countries’ cultures.
What Is New?
As far as we are aware, this project is unique in its scope and direction. On the one hand, it will use the experience of twenty-five years of education and cultural exchanges that ASEF brings into the partnership. On the other hand, it will be founded on the new grass-roots effort of emerging non-government organizations in Siberia.
Sustainable Acts: Mother Earth’s Embrace
SAMEE, Sustainable Acts: Mother Earth’s Embrace, investigates the common trail among artists and scientists to discover ways to encourage deeper understanding and advance ideas about preserving and conserving equitable uses of resources to sustain the planet. Through the intersection of the arts and sciences, as demonstrated in interactive workshops, public forums and a comprehensive exhibition, SAMEE seeks to ignite conversations about sustainable agriculture, social justice, pollution, climate change that inspires public participation and action
Ann Ginsburgh Hofkin: the artist's eye.
During these times of social distancing due to caution and fear regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an acute awareness of continuing gross and immoral racial injustice, I find myself looking for and listening to small things to gain a new sense of balance. My eye catches on a section of tree bark, my ear fastens on a poignant sound bite, my mind on evidence of the continuing existence of things still familiar to me even If they evidence a new and different rhythm. I can’t help but notice that during this period of somewhat arrested human activity, certain aspects of the greater natural environment have been healing due to the slowdown of human-generated polluting practices. For example, wildlife activity has exploded in a way that reminds me of my childhood during the 1940’s and ‘50’s. And yet, to some degree, we are all out of synch with regard to our normal routines, and that is uncomfortable in and of itself.
Moira Bateman: waxed silk.
Waxed cloth assemblage with waterway stained silk;
“It is important to me that I give some control of my artistic process away to nature.”
I leave silk to soak in water, mud, and sediments from rivers, lakes and bogs throughout Minnesota. Silk, dyed naturally with sediment and water, is cut, placed, and heat set with wax to make large scale artwork. My waxed cloth assemblages combine organic shapes, earth colors and unique textures to create abstract patterns. Inspired by microscopic images of algae and diatoms found in water and sediment used to dye the cloth, I render the rhythms, shapes and forms viewed under the microscope to a larger than life scale. Uniting science and art, the work offers a unique way to “see” what is hidden to the naked eye and the conscious mind.
I enjoy experimenting with process and have left the cloth for variable lengths of time, submerged at various on-site locations and the titles of my works relate to those waterways. I also collect water and sediments from sites, and then let swaths of cloth soak in my studio, experimenting with fermentation and other natural dye processes. I search specifically for natural sources of both tannin and iron rich water and mud. Depending on the time of year the tannins in the water will vary. How long the silk is submerged in the lake or in the studio effects the colors and marks left on the fabric. These interactions of place, season and time interest me and add degrees of randomness to the
process while imbuing the essence of these natural waterways into the artwork.
My work has evolved since I had the opportunity to collect and view microscopic specimens from lake bottom sediment alongside paleo-limnologists. These lake scientists pull up tubes that are several feet long, filled with layers of sediment that date back hundreds of years. This mud is rich with diatoms, single-celled algae, whose dead cells and resting cells one can see under the microscope. The scientists “hatch” these resting cells in their project called resurrection ecology. This fascinating project along with the fact that twenty-five percent of our oxygen is generated by diatoms inspired me to represent their shapes and cell division in my work. The resulting tapestries evoke expressions of birth, death and regeneration – the perpetual cycle of life.
Inspired by the land, water, and cycle of life, I work with a sense of movement through inter-lacings of textures, shapes, color, light and design. As an abstractionist, I hope my assemblages evoke the grandeur of life at all levels. Literally made in collaboration with earth, rivers and watersheds of Minnesota, the art merges with nature, allowing us to explore the fragile, yet tenacious existence of life.
“A leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole. Each particle is a microcosm, and faithfully renders the likeness of the world.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
John Schuerman: humans on control and environment.
Humans are the most successful animal if measured by the ability to control one’s environment, or extend lifespan, or the ability to adapt or invent. We have been so successful that it sometimes feels like we are something different all together, maybe an anomaly, maybe a higher power. We make things that look like nothing else we see in nature. We think up stuff that doesn’t exist (fiction) and perhaps most puzzling, things that can’t exist (a perfect square, a Mobius strip). Our physicality and mortality bring us back; they prove to us that we are natural beings. However, we can avoid thinking about this most of the time and remain in our perceived separation and buffered experience of nature, an illusion upon which we depend.
Have we gone too far? Not far enough? Almost certainly some of both.
As an artist I try to remain aware of both my humanity and my animal dependency on the rest of nature. I’m fascinated by both. The forms and patterns of nonhuman nature are so intricate, chaotic, and iterative and yet
without exact repetition. Even as I feel at home with them around me. The forms and patterns of human expression are easy to see by contrast. Ideas and concepts such as language, models, mathematics, abstraction (abstracting something is a very human thing to do) and human mark-making are all easily distinguished from the rest of nature’s patterns.
I use drawing as a way of locating human ideas in nature. I map out concepts, for example a mathematical model or a game diagram, and compose them of natural patterns. I’m corralling the physio in conceptual forms and conversely, deconstructing the forms with the patterns of nature. I draw as realistically as I can to emphasize the contrast between human and nonhuman expression. I wonder (and enjoy) how the products of human consciousness are so different from the natural world producing them.
Drawing feels right for my current artistic inquiry because drawing is one of the developments that set humans on our anomalous evolutionary path in the first place. What it means to be human is inextricably linked to language, and drawing is believed to be the earliest form of visual communication (at least 40,000 years old). I hope my art will help others wonder why and what it means to be human.
Jacqueline Ultan: conversations with nature.
Conversations with nature: A musical dialogue inspired by the landscape and acoustics of the South Dakota Badlands.
The majority of my travels are centered around being in the wilderness, outdoors and camping. I bring my cello on these trips whenever I can. Several memorable trips in recent years led me to discover some places that offered surprisingly dynamic natural acoustics. The seed for the Badlands video came out of a trip I had taken to The South Dakota Badlands several years ago, where I played my cello at the top of a hill overlooking the vast expanse of the Badlands. I was struck by the astounding view and haunting sonic quality of the environment. As the sounds of the cello bounced off the rugged sandstone rocks and into the canyon, I felt an immediate musical and spiritual connection with the landscape, unlike anything I’d experienced before. This beautiful conversation with the natural environment was an unplanned event that came about by circumstance and therefore it was not recorded. I vowed that I would
return to this exact place to record both audio and video, in the hopes of capturing this surprising relationship created between me, my cello and the visual and sonic dynamics of the landscape.
With support from an MRAC Next Step Fund Grant, I was able to return to The Badlands in September 2015 to fulfill this wish. We spent three nights and two full, splendid days in a remote area of the park, under a toasty 90 degree+ desert sun, recording audio and video of my solo cello improvisations. This deeply personal collaboration between cello, cellist and landscape represents my relationship with the natural environment and is informed by an awareness of and a need to remain connected to our sensuous world as we evolve in an increasingly technology- based culture.
Beginning with the natural overlap between the arts and sciences as both involving curiosity to investigate beyond the known and take risks to bring about new ways of understanding and knowing through exploration. Art borrows and intersects with science as science borrows from the arts. The central goal is to provoke interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary thinking to advance ideas for change and transformation in the light of being socially responsible citizens.