Iryna Kovalchuk teaches 21G.S08 Intro to Ukrainian Language and Culture, an interdisciplinary introduction to the unique cultural and linguistic features of Ukraine. The class was held over IAP in January 2024. On January 19, as part of the class, she invited the artist Hanna Melnyczuk to present a workshop for students.

Iryna Kovalchuk explained, “Hanna Melnyczuk is an artist of Ukrainian descent. Her parents left Ukraine in 1944. In 2014, Russia occupied Crimea. In February 2024, for already two years, Ukrainians are fighting in the unjustified full-scale Russo-Ukrainian war.”

The artist shared with the students what influenced her art and curator’s work, which techniques she uses, and how she sees her role, as an artist of Ukrainian descent, in support of Ukrainians.

The artist also shared her experience of co-creating an exhibition Don’t Close Your Eyes showcasing contemporary Ukrainian artists’ works as a reaction to the war. She also recently had a solo exhibit of the same name, Don’t Close Your Eyesat Fitchburg State University, featuring her drawings in response to the Russo-Ukrainian war.

Students were invited to try their hand at painting on a specific topic, such as land and its importance for Ukrainians, war, Donbas, Crimea, volunteer, dignity, Europe, freedom, resilience, solidarity; copying an existing art works, “A Girl in a Red Hat” by Oleksandr Murashko, “A Walking Beast” by Mariia Prymachenko, or a “Moving” by Danylo Movchan; or copying any landscape, photo from the albums about Ukraine.

Students ended up choosing all of the above, creating unique art works, and referring to the topics studied during the course: a photo of the defender of Azov plant in Mariupol, city building during war, the “Girl in a Red Hat,” a painting of the Kamianets-Podilskyi fortress, etc.

Iryna Kovalchuk said that the workshop was a very enriching experience for students and became one of the most important parts of the IAP course. “It was a pleasure to work with Hanna!”

The class was also offered a year ago in IAP 2023, about which MIT News wrote an article: “Building bridges to Ukraine through language, art, and community.” See below for links to learn more about Ukraine and its culture.

Above: Ukrainian instructor Iryna Kovalchuk (left) with artist Hanna Melnyczuk (right)

Iryna Kovalchuk teaches Introduction to Ukrainian Language and Culture at MIT over IAP. The class is an interdisciplinary introduction to the unique cultural and linguistic features of Ukraine. Her pedagogical interests are focused on enhancing and enriching student language learning by incorporating art, body movement, and cross-cultural experiences into language classes. She also teaches at Harvard in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Kovalchuk is a linguist, community organizer and cultural manager.

Hanna Melnyczuk is a Ukrainian American artist. She received B.A. degrees in Art and Psychology from Beloit College. She continued her studies at The Art Students League of New York while simultaneously attending Columbia University where she received an M. Ed. in Counseling Psychology. She later moved to Boston where she attended The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and later received her M.F.A. from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She teaches in the Foundation Department at University of Massachusetts Lowell and also teaches at Fitchburg State University. Her first book Don’t Close Your Eyes was published in May 2023, containing her war drawings and quotes that go with the drawings.

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