This was Ludy Dobri’s and Kosa Kolektiv’s summer of 2010 project encompassing folk music and visual art in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.
Some information can be found here: organic streetscape projekt
Here is a short introduction of the Organic Streetscape Projekt, written by Anastasia Baczynska:
Many people will tell you that the purpose of art is to express. Good art will not only do that, but it will stimulate conversation, evoke emotion and give pause for reflection. That is why initiating a project like this takes a lot of guts…
A project of this nature requires a lot of courage because of art’s potential to induce intense responses. Here in Toronto, any good Ukrainian will tell you, in no uncertain terms, exactly what a Ukrainian is. Over the past fifty years or so, there has been a hugely successful socio-political movement that has solidified Ukrainian identity into an all-or-nothing deal: either you are Ukrainian or you are not.
But being Ukrainian is not only an ethnicity thing in Toronto — it means that you have certain ideas and attitudes toward Ukrainian language, culture, and most importantly, homeland politics. Here, being “really” Ukrainian means that you belong to a pretty large and powerful club. That is, if you make the cut.
The Organic Streetscape Projekt is the brainchild of some forward thinking realists. They believe that this all-or-nothing attitude towards Ukrainian identity in Canada does not correspond with reality, especially since the collapse of the USSR (which made travel to Ukraine much easier and a huge Fourth Wave of immigration not only plausible, but actual). Going back and forth from Ukraine to Canada, as well as interacting with Ukrainian Canadians, they realized what was identified as “really” Ukrainian here wasn’t unequivocally “really” true. They realized there are many versions of Ukrainian identity, and that to block this reality is to delude oneself. They realized it was high time for a fresh discussion on the subject.
It is important to remember that this project is not meant to persuade anyone into reformulating their personal beliefs about their own Ukrainian identity. It is rather an exercise meant to open a dialogue about the dynamic and multi-faceted nature of Ukrainian identity. The artists in this exhibition are drawing upon elements of the canon of what is accepted as “Ukrainian” to express a variety of identities outside of that canon.
This is, to my knowledge, the first grassroots project to unite young Canadian-Ukrainian and Ukrainian artists across a variety mediums in a forum discussing identity. And this is highly important, considering that Ukrainian identity is on the brink of big change, both here and in Ukraine. New generations, globalism and geo-politics are forcing the winds of change, and it is about time that this is acknowledged and appreciated.
This project is long overdue. There has been little space for Ukrainians in Toronto to view Ukrainian art, not through a patriotic or nationalistic lens, but through the eyes of those who are not necessarily part of the “Club,” those that are trying to break the bonds of the canon. This is especially valuable coming from the younger echelons of our community; the Organic Streetscape Projekt is a youth initiative. It demonstrates that our youth are interested in expressing Ukrainian identity but not necessarily the one their forebearers imagined for them. Though this may seem destructive at first glance, it is actually
healthy. Breaking “acceptable” boundaries allows room for Ukrainian artistic expression to breathe. If we want Ukrainian youth to become prominent in the artistic world in general, we can’t tell them how and what to express; that is, in fact, the antithesis of creativity. If you want Ukrainian arts and culture to grow, you must let it live.
Ukrainian identity is so much more than meets the eye and I encourage you to approach the exhibition with this in mind. If you are “really” Ukrainian or are coming into this space with some preconception about what “really” Ukrainian entails, some pieces may perplex you. However, this project is not meant to show you what you already know and understand — it is meant to show you the exact opposite.
Anastasia Baczynskyj holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Toronto and specializes in Ukrainian Canadian History. Her thesis, “Learning How to Be Ukrainian” has raised awareness about the incongruence between the identities of post-Soviet Ukrainian immigrants and the established Ukrainian community in Toronto.