The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (UIMA) preserves and promotes contemporary art as a shared expression of the Ukrainian and American experience. UIMA develops, utilizes and encourages artistic talent through exhibitions, concerts, readings, lectures and films to serve the cultural needs of our community and city, and thereby strengthen cultural understanding and diversity.
The Institute was founded in 1971 through the initiative of art collectors Dr. Achilles and Vera Chreptowsky, and sculptors Konstantin Milonadis and Mychajlo Urban. They wanted to fill a void in the public’s understanding of nationally and internationally recognized Ukrainian artists engaged with contemporary art. Like so many independent artist organizations across the United States of the early 1970s, they emerged as an alternative exhibition venue, featuring art unsupported by large-scale mainstream art institutions. These included works by Canadian artists, Chicago artists beginning their professional careers, Ukrainian, Polish and Lithuanian artists, as well as first generation computer art, book art, fiber and ceramics. Approximately eight exhibitions were shown each year, accompanied by literary and music programs, artist workshops and programs for children. Studio space was also rented to local artists.
Located in the heart of Ukrainian Village in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, UIMA originally occupied two floors of a three-story brownstone building, in what today is a parking lot on the southeast corner of Oakley and Chicago Avenues. Within a couple of years, it became apparent that larger space was necessary, not only for temporary exhibitions, but to house a quickly growing permanent collection. A new location, diagonally situated from its original home, was purchased and renovated, its minimalist façade designed by noted local architect Stanley Tigerman.
Since its move in 1978, UIMA has undergone several renovations, increasing exhibition space, library and archival facilities. Its permanent collection has grown to include works by such notable Ukrainian artists as Alexander Archipenko, Alexis Gritchenko, Mychajlo Andreenko, and Soviet era Ukrainian Non-Conformists, as well as many artists of Ukrainian descent. Works by Jerzy Nowosielski, Jules Olitski, Patrick Caulfield, Elisabeth Frink, Mary Fedden, are also featured, as well as Chicago artists Richard Hunt, Thomas Kapsalis, Michiko Itatani and others.
The Institute Today
In existence for over 40 years, UIMA continues to offer a robust schedule of exhibitions, musical and literary events, films, and gallery talks, including the annually anticipated Live and Silent Auction. Musical programs have included evenings with distinguished opera singers Samuel Ramey, Paul Plishka, and pianist Valentina Lisitsia, while the MAVerick Ensemble has filled the galleries with experimental and innovative jazz regularly. Writers and actors have showcased their work, and a variety of artist workshops are offered throughout the year.
As in its early days, UIMA’s programs and events connect an international network of artists, musicians, and writers with West Town’s diverse local community, offering intellectually and artistically rich experiences that enhance and expand Chicago’s cultural life. The Institute holds extensive partnerships with both national and international art organizations and museums. As a core member of the Chicago Cultural Alliance we were instrumental in developing a wide coalition of ethnic museums which partner to promote the grand diversity of our multi-cultural city.
The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art has pledged to serve as a leader in developing West Town into a vibrant art destination. Our strategic goals currently focus on developing an educational center for students pursuing careers in art and design. As Ukrainian Village has gentrified and diversified, we continue to grow as a vibrant fine art center dedicated to community engagement, and shaping the artistic legacy of the community and our city.