Art News

Lighthouse Immersive to Raise Funds for Ukraine With Special Exhibit

Immersive Shevchenko: Soul of Ukraine comes to Lighthouse Immersive for one time on Tuesday, March 15.
Immersive Shevchenko: Soul of Ukraine comes to Lighthouse Immersive for one time on Tuesday, March 15. Carol Fox and Associates Public Relations
Lighthouse Immersive, the Canada-based company behind the internationally renowned Immersive Van Gogh exhibition, has produced a new exhibition that will come to the United States for a one-night-only event. Immersive Shevchenko: Soul of Ukraine is a fifteen-minute exhibition featuring 200 works by Taras Shevchenko, a nineteenth-century artist, poet and activist who fought for Ukrainian values against imperial Russian control.

Profits from the showings on Sunday, March 20, at Lighthouse Immersive locations across the U.S. will go to the Red Cross Crisis Appeal Fund to Benefit Ukraine and the National Bank of Ukraine Fund. Visitors will select donation tiers ranging from $30 to $90 in place of purchasing a ticket; the show will be projected within the existing Immersive Frida Kahlo exhibition, allowing viewers to see both exhibits during their hour-long visit. The Kahlo exhibition is forty minutes long.

Immersive Shevchenko was not scheduled to debut in North America until September 2022, but the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine propelled the release forward. The show will be developed into a longer format that will see a more formal release sometime in the future.

Valeriy Kostyuk, associate producer of the show, studied in Ukraine until grade four and recalls seeing Shevchenko’s portrait in every classroom. He estimates that thousands of the artist's likenesses hang in schools around the country.

“Shevchenko is for Ukrainian culture a step above what Shakespeare is for the English language,” Kostyuk explains.

In 2020, Kostyuk channeled the inspiration he felt from Lighthouse’s other immersive exhibitions into Eastern European artists, around whom the company had not yet developed shows.

Shevchenko’s tumultuous life saw him create upwards of 1,000 paintings, 800 of which survive today, and countless pieces of literature. He was imprisoned by Tsarist Russia in 1847 for ten years and was not allowed to write or draw for most of that time. He died four years after his release.

The sensory experience utilizes a fraction of these paintings — the “highlights,” as Kostyuk says — to create an audiovisual display that blends and morphs them against an original musical composition by Timur Polyansky to create a landscape of nineteenth-century Ukraine.

Similarities between the plights of Shevchenko’s Ukraine and the present-day country are inescapable. Servers located in Kyiv hold the exhibition's files, which are being remotely extracted by producer Natalia Delieva, creative director Tais Poda and curator-consultant Dmytro Stus. Simultaneously, Shevchenko’s works are being shipped out of Kyiv and Odessa in shipping containers that were used 81 years ago to transport the very same works away from Nazi destruction. Such parallels don’t escape Kostyuk, who, as he speaks with Westword over Zoom from New York, is bombarded with text messages and emails every few minutes.

“In 200 years, nothing has changed,” he laments. “[Ukraine is] still struggling for their culture, our language, our freedoms. Freedom to do what is best for the greater good in their own home.”

In spite of the dire circumstances under which the fundraiser is being staged, hope, rather than despair, is the goal.

“A lot of Ukrainians consider [Shevchenko] a dark, sad figure,” notes Kostyuk. “However, when he was young, relatively free to creative his art, he was a flamboyant, free man who loved, who had humorous elements in his life, who had positive notes. It wasn’t only sadness and sorrow.”

Immersive Shevchenko: Soul of Ukraine, on view Sunday, March 20, at Lighthouse Immersive Denver, 3900 Elati Street. Tickets are $30 to $90 and available at 5, 6 and 7 p.m.; get them here.
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