Lucky Troy has small part of Aka Pereyma’s art


By David Lindeman

Contributing columnist

When I was growing up in Troy, I heard about Aka Pereyma’s Easter eggs. Invariably in the spring my parents would say something about her brightly colored Ukrainian Easter eggs or the newspaper would publish a picture them. So I came to think of her as the Easter egg lady.

A little later I found out she also did welded sculptures. My juvenile brain had a hard time figuring out how someone could make those delicately colored eggs, then put on a mask and use an arc welder to create a metal sculpture. The two things seemed so different. Little did I know that was just part of the story.

Even later, after I started working at the newspaper, I would talk to Aka when she came into the office for one thing or another. I heard some interesting things about her homeland and background. I remember one time she came in to correct us because we had a story that said “the Ukraine.”

“It is just Ukraine,” she said. “Not the Ukraine.” When Aka told you something, you listened. We never got it wrong again.

I bring this up because recently my wife and I went to the Dayton Art Institute to see an exhibition featuring Aka’s art. I have to admit I’m generally not an art museum kind of guy, but this visit was well worth the time.

To begin with, the list of donors who helped make the exhibition happen included many names that made me feel like I had jumped back in a time machine to the 1960s. Many of the families represented there were part of a creative group that had a big impact on business, publishing and the arts at the time. I’m not sure you’ll ever get that same kind of group around here again. It really was a unique time.

Remembering those names was only an introduction to an even bigger revelation. Yes, the Easter eggs are right there at the beginning of the exposition. But as you wander from room to room you begin to understand that Aka did way, way more than eggs and sculptures – and that they weren’t just eggs, they were part of an ancient tradition that remains alive because of people like Aka.

I guess when you grow up next to something you don’t always appreciate its value. I often think that way about Troy’s downtown square (complete with mural by Aka Pereyma on one side). I usually think of it as a traffic challenge. Visitors to Troy almost universally remark how amazing it looks.

Aka’s art is like that. She experimented in many different kinds of media and everything had a story behind it. When you read the explanations of various pieces you realize the paintings and sculptures aren’t just colors thrown together or haphazard pieces of metal stuck together. There was a lot of thought and contemplation behind everything. It’s a fascinating look not only at artwork, but also into someone’s mind.

Each room you enter provides another surprise, and there is a lot to see. One of my favorites was a piece of art near the exit of the exposition. It was like an autobiography in a frame, starting with Aka’s birthplace in eastern Poland, through World War II to meeting her husband Constantine to emigrating to the United States and coming to Troy. It included her three children, including Christina, a friend of ours from junior high and high school. If you’re from Troy, those personal connections just keep coming up in Aka’s art. I guess you could look at it as a special link between Ukraine and Ohio.

You don’t get chances to be a part of something like this around here very often and it’s something you really should see — not only if you have a connection to Troy but also if you just like to see a great story depicted in a compelling way.

Aka once said, “I think it is my duty to introduce to the world my Ukrainian culture.”

The exposition does that, and so much more. It also is a tribute to her creativity, her family, her friends and to a place she came to call her home. We’re all fortunate to be a little part of that story and to have a chance to see it displayed in such a beautiful way.

The Artistic Life of Aka Pereyma is on display at the Dayton Art Institute until May 12

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected].

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