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Springville patrons take an evening stroll through Soviet Russia

By Karissa Neely daily Herald - | Apr 14, 2016
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The Utah Regional Ballet performs for museum goers during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Yulia Gorbunova, middle, eats a pickle, a traditional snack of Russia, in front of a Soviet painting during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art.  DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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The Utah Regional Ballet performs for museum goers during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Museum goers admire Soviet paintings and works of art during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Museum goers enjoy Russian snacks during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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The Utah Regional Ballet performs for museum goers during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Museum goers admire Soviet paintings and works of art during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Museum goers enjoy Russian snacks during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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The Utah Regional Ballet performs for museum goers during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Museum goers admire Soviet paintings and works of art during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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The Utah Regional Ballet performs for museum goers during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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The Utah Regional Ballet performs for museum goers during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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The Utah Regional Ballet performs for museum goers during the "An Evening in Russia" event on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at the Springville Museum of Art. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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A taste of Russia

Yulia Gorbunova, middle, eats a pickle, a traditional snack of Russia, in front of a Soviet painting during the "An Evening in Russia" event on April 13 at the Springville Museum of Art. http://bit.ly/20OsTxf

Using everything from strollers to walking canes, patrons took a stroll in Soviet Russia at the Springville Art Museum Wednesday evening.

In addition to viewing, questioning and discussing the Museum’s “Russian Stories, Soviet Ideals,” exhibit, visitors to Wednesday night’s event also sampled pieces of Soviet culture.

At one station in particular, participants were encouraged to learn their assigned career and make paper tools to do their job, an experience that taught a small lesson about communist Russian economy. In another area, families made clay vegetables and food and “planted” them in the community garden, another common activity of the culture. In still another, patrons learned about the physical climate of Russia and the clothing needs of the people living there.

“There is always something new to see here, and we wanted to invite the public to see this collection,” said Rachel Blumer, the museum’s educator over outreach and elementary programs.

The Springville Art Museum has a large collection of Soviet Russia artists, and the focus of the evening was to help visitors engage with the art in a new way.

“Most of the artists working then could keep working because the government allowed it. So their paintings had to touch on Soviet ideals. The paintings, each in their own way, show the difference between those Soviet ideals versus the real experience of the Russian people,” Blumer said. “As with most times in history, there is always propaganda. But I feel like, if you look for it, you can see the reality, or ask interpretive questions that get to the truth of the paintings.”

Possibly the most authentically realistic paintings of the evening were two depicting a very dark time for the Russian people. One was a scene from during the German siege and blockade of Leningrad from 1941-44. The color and lines are stark, and the few Russian people within have a hollow grayness to their faces. It accurately shows the era’s devastating conditions but also inner strength of those Russian residents cut off from outside food and support for 872 days.

The second painting, called “The Impassioned Years: My Brothers in Arms,” by Semen Aronovich Rotnitski, portrays the Russians’ victorious efforts to wrest Leningrad from the Germans. It also successfully shows the dichotomy between the determination and will of the Russian people, and the horrible cost of the war to the soldiers and their families.

But not all paintings dealt with war. Many touched on scenes of family life, streaked in light, joyful colors.

The evening was also highlighted by two performances of selections from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” by members of the Utah Regional Ballet. With arabesques, plies and pirouettes the white tutus of the ballerinas and bold navy coat of the cavalier shone amid the backdrop of splashes of colored oil on canvas in the museum’s Grand Gallery.

Another popular draw was, of course, the food. Samplings of breads, jams and jellies, were joined by Russian pickles that went faster than museum employees could restock them.

While the food, dancing and activities are now gone, the exhibit still remains, and welcomes visitors to contemplate a not-too-distant era of Russian history.

“Our goal, of course, is to get people looking at the art,” Blumer said.

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