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Culture and Connections

Imagine the very act of creating art being an act of dissent. At a  68.77.89 presentation and discussion held at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Washington, D.C., on March 16, the topic was the art of dissent and the message was as surprising as it was poignant.

Art and artists that did not conform to Communist ideology were suppressed; their work is instrumental to understanding the lessons of oppression and censorship, key to the 68.77.89 program.

The 68.77.89 program is a curriculum created by NCSML professionals and advisors to help teachers guide students regarding lessons learned during the 21-year period between the Warsaw Pact invasion of Communist Czechoslovakia to becoming a free country without a violent revolution. The program was launched at the D.C. event with a panel presentation of experts who have studied that period and/or lived during it.

As described in NCSML’s 2016 Samizdat: The Art of Czech Resistance exhibition overview, “Creating and disseminating ideas or art–even if non-political–that did not conform to official ideology was considered to be an act against the state. This could, and did, lead to imprisonment for many of those found to be participating in this ‘unofficial culture.’”

For a long time, NCSML board member Lee Freeman (see the Stories of Generosity posting below), has collected art created by artists when they were supposed to be saying nothing other than approved messages. Elements of his donated collection were on display for the presentations and will be traveling next to New York City for another showing at Czech Center New York. I hope that viewers understand the message: express yourself. The other side of the coin is that in the framework of civil discussion, all voices are supposed to be allowed in the glorious noise of people sharing ideas.

The museum participates in, and catalyzes, the sharing of ideas in its many programs. Just as the dissent art ranged from realist to cubist, landscape to abstract, and so on, the ideas formed by museum program attendees cover a range of perspectives and insights.

Art is voice, and shared voice can lead to greater understanding.

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