A group of 10 students from Elementary and Intermediate Russian classes traveled to Manhattan for a Russian cultural enrichment day on Friday, December 4, 2009. They were accompanied by Professor Elena Syssoeva, Fulbright Teaching Assistant of Russian Language Elena Sergeeva, and Dr. David McFadden.
The trip, sponsored by the Humanities Institute of the College of Arts and Sciences, intended to bring language learning in close touch with the larger living and breathing Russian culture of New York City. The day began at the spectacular Kandinsky retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, where the group received a guided tour of the more than 50 years of artwork of the seminal Russian master, a pioneer of 20th century abstract art and an inspiration for the Guggenheim.
The day was capped off by a delicious family-style Russian luncheon at Uncle Vanya’s Café, where the group feasted on vinaigrette (beet, carrot and potato salad), olivie (chicken salad), borscht, pelmeni (Siberian dumplings), golubtsi (stuffed cabbage) and varenniki (potato and mushroom dumplings), accompanied by spirited conversation in Russian and English.
The students share their experiences:
“The museum trip and the restaurant offered a glimpse into two essential aspects of any ethnic culture – art and cuisine. I took away a better understanding of the Russian way of thinking through both food and art.”
~ Kelly O’Mealia
“I learned about the role of color in Russian culture. I also learned that Kandinsky’s art is a way to the soul. Or a least that was his desire – to get to your soul. He began to paint more abstract shapes after painting the rider and the horse (symbolizing freedom and power), to show a freeing of the self from constraints. This concept of freedom through color, and circles (especially), transcends cultural boundaries and speaks to people on all levels because it is a human idea.”
~ Gabrielle Arens
“Kandinsky’s art transcends national borders and transforms him into a world artist because he reshapes our perception of abstract painting. He is able to intertwine emotion and meaning into his artworks as well as give glimpses of events he experienced through his paintings. His colors change from time of peace which varied from light and cool colors to black, blood red, and white in the time of war.”
~ Alexander Duggan
“The colors in Kandinsky’s art spoke the most powerfully to me. I really enjoyed seeing how the vibrancy of his colors changed as his art went through various stages. My favorite paintings were some of the early ones with extremely strong colors, and actually I thought some of the most beautiful colors in Kandinsky’s work were present in his “work on paper,” which was exhibited in a separate gallery. I did not see the connection between the art and the language of music as Kandinsky attempted; instead I saw motion and life.”
~ Kelly O’Mealia
“I loved going to the Russian restaurant!! It was so much fun trying new foods and tasting typical Russian dishes. It was interesting to see how often beets and potatoes are used in Russian food. I found this particularly funny because in American food we rarely ever include beets! Also, I found it fascinating that they use sour cream and parsley as a garnish on practically everything. I love sour cream so I thoroughly enjoyed its presence in the meal. I’ve been studying the history and language of Russia for a while now, however this trip gave me a new perspective on the Russian way of life. I really enjoyed it and hope we go again next semester or next year!!”
~ Laura-Leigh Neville
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