In 2010, I was honored to teach a photography workshop at University of West Bohemia. To better understand the culture into which I would be placed to teach, I sought out stories. Among them was Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal. The coming of age story set in WWII provided insights and more questions. I did not watch the movie, but looked further into the history of trains in the region, particularly their role in the country and its culture. Fascinating! The flat where I stayed in Pilsen was across from the old train station. Thanks to the stories, I felt somehow connected, though it was my first trip to Czech Republic. It actually was my first out of America. I returned to teach two more times.
I developed a presentation to showcase the students’ work followed by my views through the lens. Titled Art Removes Borders: The Czech Republic Experience, it revealed to audiences how borders dissolve through art. I still watch it occasionally because of how connected it makes me feel to the young artists and the region. I get the same feeling as I learn more about the museum and its team’s efforts.
One of the quotes highlighted on the walls at the NCSML’s Faces of Freedom exhibition is from Nobel Prize-winning poet Jaroslav Seifert: “All language can be thought of as an effort to achieve freedom … What we seek in language is the freedom to be able to express our most intimate thoughts.”
Speaking of language, one of my former workshop students at University of West Bohemia had given me Povidky: Short Stories by Czech Women at the end of the session. March, Women’s History Month, seems like a good time to read the freedom of words from the selected 14 Czech authors.
Arts and culture – connection and understanding, and key to sharing stories about life.