50 Years of Multiculturalism: Shumka Dance Centre adorned with “Common Threads” mural

    Participants at the unveiling of the “Common Threads” mural on the South wall of the Shumka Dance Centre. Photo: Mat Simpson

    Bottomline Productions, Edmonton.

    Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Edmonton and Alberta Branches, the Ukrainian Benevolent Society, Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts, and the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers have undertaken a mural project on the South wall of the Shumka Dance Centre based on the theme of “Common Threads” of culture, community, and multiculturalism. On August 20, 2021, a committee made up of representatives of each partner organization in addition to the North Edge Business Association and Queen Mary Community League, chose Sofia Lukie to paint the mural from a number of artist submissions. Lukie worked on the mural throughout September leading to a ribbon-cutting event of the final product on Sunday, September 26.

    The theme of the mural is “Common Threads.” Said Shumka Executive Director Darka Tarnawsky at the event, “2021 marks two milestones in the Ukrainian diaspora: The 130th Anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada and the 30th Anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence as a free country in Eastern Europe. With these milestones, comes the reinforcement of the importance of heritage and tradition, our belief in freedom and democracy, and a celebration of the diversity that multiculturalism brings to Canada. We want the mural to represent the ties that bind us as diverse peoples; the common threads that connect us to our roots and to each other as neighbours in our land of many cultures.”

    Artist Sofia Lukie is a Ukrainian Canadian visual artist, art educator, and theatre designer based in Edmonton. She obtained a Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Alberta and a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Theatre Production and Design from the University of Winnipeg. She is currently studying her Post Baccalaureate in Elementary Education at Vancouver Island University. Her freelance practice is based in Ukrainian culture, the arts community, and multimedia expression. Said Lukie, “I am grateful for Shumka and their perseverance in fostering, preserving, and promoting Ukrainian art in Canada.”

    Lukie explained her inspiration for the project. “Common Threads, the celebration of the anniversary of 130 years of Ukrainian immigration in Canada, and 30 years of Independence of Ukraine brings excitement, connection and acknowledgement. I recall seeing my Baba’s signature at Pier 21 in Halifax. Seeing a physical manifestation of my family’s life, the moments before they entered Canada and what this meant for us, was life changing. I asked about the journey in which my family took to get to these lands, and learned it came with strife, sickness, and loss. I also remember the first time I recognized the distinct similarities in Metis and Ukrainian patterns, woven into my Baba’s babushka, and beaded into my sister’s moccasins that she picked up from the annual Franco Festival in Winnipeg. Then, I moved from Manitoba to Alberta. A land of hills, of mountains and thankfully, of culture! I felt my Carpathian Mountain ancestors whenever I hiked in Jasper. I could hear the Rusalka from the Dnipro River when I was at Abraham Lake. I wrapped myself in fake furs as though I was wearing a keptar from the Hutsul region. I could feel connection….from here to there. Our threads are borderless. Our textiles are interchangeable. Our lands are more than just us.”

    City of Edmonton Councilor Scott McKeen brought greetings from the city which supported the project through their Community Mural Matching Grant Program and Sparks Community Grant. McKeen spoke of the beautiful contribution the mural will make to the neighbourhood revitalization program currently underway in the area, just as the Ukrainian diaspora has done in many ways for the city over the years.

    Representatives from the partner organizations including Yuliia Marcinkoski of UCC – Alberta Provincial Council, Khrystia Kohut of Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts, Dorianne Martyniuk – Chair of the Shumka Board of Directors, and dancers from the Shumka School and professional company, were on hand to hold a long red ribbon cut by Lukie. “This project has been a dream for the Shumka Dance Centre since we moved here five years ago,” said Tarnawsky. “We are so excited to see it become a beautiful reality.”

    Shumka will be launching a Mural Merchandise program in mid-October. Online presale orders of buttons, magnets, prints and more will be offered for a limited time, with a portion of proceeds going to the Boyle Street Community Services which offers help to the homeless in Edmonton’s downtown core. “We believe in their vision, to see that all people grow healthier through involvement in strong, accepting and respectful communities,” added Tarnawsky.