'Czech and Slovak Americans' theme of international conference at UNL

Released on 03/16/2010, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Wednesday, Apr. 7, 2010, through Apr. 9, 2010

WHERE: Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q Street, and Nebraska Union, 1400 R Street

Lincoln, Neb., March 16th, 2010 —
A Jean Lewis photograph,
A Jean Lewis photograph, "Morse Bluff, Czech Cemetery," in her "Czech Memories" exhibition at the Great Plains Art Museum.
Title for
Title for "Czech and Slovak Americans" Symposium

"Czech and Slovak Americans: International Perspectives from the Great Plains," is the theme for the 36th international conference hosted and sponsored by the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The conference April 7-9 at the Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q St. [map], and the Nebraska Union, 1400 R St. [map], will examine Czech and Slovak immigrants and their descendants in the North American Great Plains region, their relationships with other Czech- and Slovak-Americans, and with Czechs and Slovaks in Europe and other parts of the world. Keynote addresses will be presented by Toni Brendel, author of books on Czech and Slovak heritages; Martin Mejstrik, a pivotal student leader in the "Velvet Revolution" and former senator in the parliament of the Czech Republic; Daniel E. Miller, professor of history of the University of West Florida; Frantisek Gal, deputy consul, Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Chicago; and Milada Polisenska, vice-president for educational development, chair of the School of International Relations and Diplomacy, and provost at the New Anglo-American College in Prague, Czech Republic.

"We are excited to bring these national and international speakers to Nebraska. Their presentations on the past and current history of Czechs and Slovaks in North America, the former Czechoslovakia, and the present Czech and Slovak Republics are important to understanding past as well as current immigration to the U.S.," said conference co-chair and UNL faculty member Mila Saskova-Pierce. Bruce Garver, professor of history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, is the other co-chair.

In addition to the keynote speakers, 34 scholars will present their research in sessions April 8-9 at the Nebraska Union. A special plenary session will use video conferencing to connect Robitschek scholars and students at UNL to students in the Czech Republic.

Organizers say the symposium will bring an awareness of the history of Czech and Slovak immigrants beyond the annual community festivals, which play essential roles in retaining cultural ties. The Kramer Sisters and several past and present local and national Czech Queens will appear at the opening reception April 7 at the Great Plains Art Museum. An exhibit of Czech costumes and cultural objects will also be showcased that evening.

The evening event April 8 will take place at Sheldon Museum of Art, 12th and R streets [map], and will feature highlights from operas by Czech composers presented by the UNL School of Music and sponsored by Friends of Opera and the Nebraska Arts Council.

Keynote speaker Mejstrik will present a talk at a banquet April 9 at the Nebraska Union along with presentations by Gal, Sharon Valasek, honorary consul of the Czech Republic for the Midwest, Ross Marine, honorary consul of the Slovak Republic for the Midwest, and music by local Czech musicians.

In conjunction with the symposium, the Great Plains Art Museum presents through April 18 "Czech Memories: Ethnicity and History Preserved in the Built Environment," an exhibition of photographs by Jean Lewis, featuring scenes from Wilber and other immigrant communities around Nebraska.

A second art exhibit will be shown in the Nebraska Union's Rotunda Gallery April 5-16. "Continuity/Kontinuita: Prints from Czech/Slovak American and International Artists," is co-curated by Karen Kunc, Cather professor of art at UNL, and Simon Brejcha, artist and educator from Prague.

A complete program and registration information can be found on the center's Web site: www.unl.edu/plains. Advance registration is $55 for adults, $15 for students before March 26. Tickets for the luncheon, banquet, and opera must be ordered by March 26.

The symposium and the exhibitions were made possible with the support of the Nebraska Humanities Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment; Nebraska Arts Council; Consulate of the Czech Republic for the Midwest (Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri); Nebraska Chapter of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences; Nebraska Czechs Inc. chapters in Lincoln, Omaha, York, Butler County, Nebraska Panhandle, Prague, South Central of Hastings, Clarkson, and Wilber; T. J. Sokol Hall, Czech Language Foundation; an anonymous donor; Department of History at the University of Nebraska at Omaha; and at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Komensky Club, Department of English, School of Music and Friends of Opera.

The Center for Great Plains Studies is an interdisciplinary, intercollegiate, regional research and teaching program chartered in 1976 by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. The center's mission is to foster the study of people and the environment in the sparsely populated Great Plains. For more information about the conference, call (402) 472-3082 or visit www.unl.edu/plains.