Artists That Never Give Up project part of new Czech Center New York online focus

Artists That Never Give Up in the City That Never Sleeps, photo: archive of Czech Center New York

With New York reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, the city’s Czech Center is now reaching the public online. As part of this new focus, it has created a series of interviews with well-known Czech figures in the city entitled Artists That Never Give Up in the City That Never Sleeps – and those interviews will also be appearing on Radio Prague International’s website in the coming days. I discussed the project with Czech Center New York director Miroslav Konvalina.

Artists That Never Give Up in the City That Never Sleeps,  photo: archive of Czech Center New York

“The Czech Center in New York is closed and we immediately decided to go online.

“In New York the pandemic is affecting everybody right now, so this is our first bigger online project reacting to the current situation.

“We decided that at this time it is important, not only in New York but also all over the United States, to spread hope and to inspire people.

“We thought it would have a very powerful effect to ask Czech artists in New York, who express themselves in paintings and other art, to show what they doing right now, to remind people that these Czechs are closely connected to New York and the US, where they live, and that they are trying to react to the current situation.”

Who are some of the artists that you have selected for this project?

“We have asked four artists.

“First of all is Petr Sís, a well-known and respected artist who is very popular both in the Czech Republic and New York. He has been living in the US since the mid-80s.

“Right now he is working on a book dedicated to the memory of Sir Nicholas Winton.

Hana Shannon,  Petr Sís,  Petra Valentová,  Tom Kotík,  photo: archive of Czech Center New York
“Then there is Tom Kotík, who is an artist, curator and musician.

“His work has been widely exhibited both in New York and abroad.

“The third artist is Hana Shannon. Her main focus is paintings.

“Now she’s working on a portrait of President Václav Havel.

“And finally there is Petra Valentová, who is a conceptual and multi-media artist focused on questions of identity and memory.”

The Czech Center is now primarily communicating with the public via the internet – are you planning more online projects like this?

“Yes, this is the way for the future.

“We have one ongoing project about the most played Czech opera composer, Leoš Janáček.

“Originally we had planned the opening of the exhibition, live concerts, discussions and walk-throughs.

“But we skipped to an online exhibition opening, streamed on Facebook, with a lot of people seeing our live video.

“We are preparing photo galleries, a video and other online events connected to the exhibition.

“We want to stay in touch with our audience in New York and let them know about Czech inspirations, like the Czech making of DIY face masks.

“We want to show not only art, concerts, theatre and other cultural events, but we also want to build interest in Czech science and to promote the idea that we are globally together, solving a huge problem, and that we can overcome the pandemic only by sharing ideas, inspiring each other and continuing our dialogue.”

Obviously New York is sadly now one of the world centres of the coronavirus. You are currently in Prague. How are your colleagues who are still in New York doing?

“We are in touch every day through the Zoom platform.

“They are at home and doing well, but they are affected by the situation.

“So we are trying to work on common projects, but at the same time we are wondering, because we know that the next three or four weeks will be very tough for them.

“We are trying to keep in touch with them, with our audience, with our friends, and basically support them as much as possible.”