Threads That Connect project to focus on

Morning exhibit of Threads That Connect project Photo: Larisa Sembaliuk Cheladyn

Lauren McMullen.

Over the course of 2021, the Ukrainian Resource and Development Centre (URDC) and the Alberta Council for Ukrainian Arts (ACUA) will be collaborating to produce the Threads That Connect project. The initiative began with the Alberta branch of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, who approached ACUA and URDC with the proposition of creating a program to celebrate and explore the role of textiles in the Ukrainian Canadian community. ACUA was founded in 1986 and has spent the last 34 years supporting Ukrainian Canadian art in Alberta – everything from visual arts to music. Combined with the URDC’s work in facilitating relationships between communities in Ukraine and Canada, the two organizations will come together to produce a year full of learning, exploration and community connections.

The Threads That Connect project will include a variety of events, starting with the unveiling of a textile exhibition of the same name on February 14, followed by a monthly schedule of lectures and workshops, and concluding with a fashion show in the fall. The fashion show will showcase historic clothing, stage costuming, retro graduation and wedding attire, and a clothing collection curated by Ukrainian designer Olena Romanova. The programming will also include academic speakers, who will lecture and present papers; artisans, who will showcase their techniques in felting and weaving; and virtual workshops that will allow hands-on learning.

The exhibition will be curated by Larisa Sembaliuk Cheladyn, a third generation Ukrainian Canadian artist who has been immersed in Ukrainian culture and arts her entire life. Larisa has previously curated five exhibitions with ACUA, including Embroidered Memories, a travelling exhibition featuring over 750 embroidered Ukrainian Canadian pillows. In collaboration with URDC and ACUA, Cheladyn’s goal is to celebrate diverse identities expressed through textiles and explore the threads that weave us all together. The Threads That Connect exhibition will give Larisa the opportunity to focus on textiles of the past and present, sharing the narratives that connect the Ukrainian communities that exist in both Ukraine and Canada.

With the Threads That Connect project, URDC and ACUA have set a goal to introduce various forms of textile and related arts to a new generation, share the importance of textiles from the past and explore how they connect to the present day. Did you know that there are approximately 28 stitch types that originated in Ukraine that are at risk of being forgotten? Threads That Connect provides an opportunity to share these stitches with both younger generations and the wider textile art community in Canada. The events will also further an understanding of the unique history of and skills associated with various textile techniques. There is a great deal of diversity in fibre arts, which is exemplified by the many similarities and differences that can be found between Ukrainian Canadian textile arts and those created in Ukraine. However, unique textile techniques have also brought together diverse cultures and highlighted their interconnections.

Consider, for example, the relationship between Indigenous beading techniques and the embroidery techniques of early Ukrainian Canadian immigrants. The Threads That Connect programming also aims to shine a light on the individual artists and curators who were involved with the creation and preservation of Ukrainian textiles. And, to a more academic end, the project will feature events that look critically at the role of Ukrainian textiles in political, social and cultural spheres.

Threads That Connect aims to foster a sense of community among MacEwan students and members of the Ukrainian Canadian community in Alberta. Despite the physically distanced world in which we are currently living, there will be an emphasis on community development and revitalizing the importance of community, which will be achieved with the help of digital technology and virtual connectivity. The programming will be very accessible to people of all backgrounds and people from all corners of the world. There will be something for everyone, whether you’ve never experienced the world of Ukrainian textiles before, or you’re a master looking to expand your skillset and knowledge. No matter who you are, the Threads That Connect project will offer a meaningful exploration of the ways our lives are interwoven.

All Threads that Connect events will be virtual over Zoom unless otherwise indicated, with in-person events following AHS protocols. For more information or to register, please visit www.acuarts.ca or call ACUA at 780-488-8558.