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Photo: Courtesy of Lee Freeman
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Panel & Exhibition: 68.77.89 - Arts, Culture and Social Change

Date: 16 March 2018 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Venue: Czech Embassy

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact invasion, the Embassy of the Czech Republic, in collaboration with the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, presents the panel discussion 68.77.89 - Arts, Culture and Social Change, followed by the exhibition opening Artists Caught Behind the Iron Curtain on March 16, 2018, at 6 pm.   

Event Details: 
Date/Time: March 16, 2018, at 6 pm       
Location: Embassy of the Czech Republic, 3900 Spring of Freedom Street, NW, Washington, DC 

RSVP by March 14: https://68-77-89.eventbrite.com

Embassy Security Policy: For entrance, all guests will be subject to security screening. Photo ID is required and must match RSVP confirmation for each individual. No admittance will be permitted without proper registration. Bags and suitcase are not allowed. Only small purses are permitted but must be opened for inspection. Coat check is not available.            

Panel Discussion:        
The panel will focus on 1968, 1977, and 1989 as key moments in the dissident movement in Czechoslovakia and how these actions contributed to the collapse of the Communist’s oppressive regime.

Tomáš Vrba, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Forum 2000 Foundation. He was a member of the Civic Forum and a signatory of Charter 77. 

Michael Kraus, Frederick C. Dirks Professor of Political Science. He directs Russian and East European studies at Middlebury College. 

Lee Freeman, Honorary Consul. He befriended artists and collected art during the communist years.

Jonathan Bolton: Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University, Author of Worlds of Dissent about the dissident movements in East Central Europe under Communism.

Exhibit: Artists Caught Behind the Iron Curtain      
The exhibit features selections from the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library (NCSML), which were donated to the museum by Lee Freeman, and includes short bios of dissident artists whose talents were hidden for decades.       
In 1960s Czechoslovakia, artists struggled to make ends meet under the oppressive communist rule. At the time, American college student Lee Freeman became the lifeline of these artists to audiences in the West. He first visited Prague in 1964. By chance, he met artist Jiří Mrázek and thus began a lifelong friendship and passion for collecting contemporary art from artists who sought a wider audience for their work. Many of the artists banded together and formed the group UB 12, a collective of artists who defied the government mandates on artistic expression. Freeman transported works of art out of the country and sold the pieces in the U.S. He sent almost all of the money from sales back to the artists and supplied them with paints and other materials they could not easily obtain in Czechoslovakia. Freeman purchased many of these pieces for his own collection and later donated 30 works from his collection to the NCSML. Many of these donated works are featured in the exhibit.               

Only after the fall of communism in 1989 were these artists recognized by their country. The exhibit not only gives overdue attention to the contributions of cutting edge artists from communist-era Czechoslovakia, but also tells the stories of the artists who struggled to express their talent, even risking imprisonment, at a time when socialist realism was the only government-sanctioned approach to art.