For many years, the history and artifacts of Saskatchewan’s Ukrainian community have collected at Musée Ukraina Museum in Saskatoon. But the collection long ago outgrew the space, and aggressive fundraising began for a new museum.
One of the fundraising strategies for the past four years has been a lottery calendar. Last year’s calendar, which featured Ukrainian centenarians, raised $26,000. This year the spotlight is on Ukrainian artists and artisans throughout the province.
Martin Hryniuk is first vice-president of the museum’s board of directors and says the organization has about 60 per cent of a goal of $3.6 million. The target date for breaking ground on the new museum site is summer 2009.
“We know there are many Ukrainian artists in Saskatchewan who are not adequately recognized,” Hryniuk said. “The committee felt this would be a good way to celebrate these people and their art forms, and encourage others within our community, especially the young people, to recognize and appreciate them. Artists often work in relative obscurity.”
We put out a call in the Ukrainian community and “in so doing,” Hryniuk said, “we found some incredible treasures.”
One is 90-year-old Helen Kushner who lives in Moose Jaw; a painter who began sketching at a very early age. As a young girl, Kushner had the unique opportunity to help renowned Manitoba painter, Jacob Madonyk, who was hired to do iconography in their church. Madonyk would draw outlines of the ornamentation and Kushner would fill them in paint.
Another artisan featured is woodcrafter and sculptor Stan Wychopen who lives in the Battlefords. Wychopen is best known for his detailed Concord stagecoach replicas which have over 2,000 handcrafted parts. He was also responsible for the carvings on the iconostasis of All Saints Ukrainian Catholic Church in North Battleford.
Edward Diakow grew up in the Dobrowody district northeast of Rama. He first began building violins from a do-it-yourself instruction book and his handcrafted masterpieces now include other instruments as well as furniture.
Johanna Bidulka of Prud’homme is a master wheat weaver. She grows her own blackbearded wheat, harvesting it with scissors to keep the shafts straight and unbent and demand for her work is so strong that she had to open a craft store on the Bidulka farm.
Doris Sawchen of Wynyard is a potter who is renowned for her Trypillian and wheat motif pottery. She is one of the few Ukrainian Canadian potters to create Trypillian-style pottery which is an ancient design style that originated in western Ukraine.
The 2009 calendar sells for $20 and the purchaser’s name is entered in a daily draw for cash prizes that total $11,990.
“Each day of the week a name is drawn for a specific cash prize,” Hryniuk said. “The name is then put back into the mix, making the person eligible for future cash prizes.” Draws are done monthly.
Darlene Polachic writes from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.