From January to June 2018, Prof. Rachel Stevens (New Mexico State University in Las Cruces) stayed on her Fulbright program in Lviv. Jointly with the Lviv National Academy of Arts and the Center for Urban History, Rachel was implementing a project "A Forest Grows in the Synagogue: Reimagining the Galician Jewish Landscape through Sculpture". The project was also interesting for the Center since it includes a research focus of public history, such as engaging art formats .
In western Ukraine few obvious features of Galicia’s Jewish culture remain, as the Holocaust effectively erased Jews from the region's human geography. However, remnants of Jewish culture can still be seen in the Ukrainian landscape. Rachel Stevens’ Fulbright will focus on creating artwork based on these sites
Stevens engaged in a qualitative geographic exploration of former eastern Galicia in order to locate and emotionally respond to the region’s rich, but visually cryptic, Jewish history. She divided her time between fieldwork in Lviv and towns and countryside of western Ukraine. In Lviv, she collaborated with the Center of Urban History of East Central Europe and the Lviv National Academy of Arts. Through her research, she began a body of artwork that served as a secondary witness to the Holocaust. Through her interactions with the landscape, architecture, and community members, she was visually transcribe the vernacular fragments of Galicia's rich Jewish history into new artworks. These shards may survive as ruined synagogues, cemeteries, monuments, land use patterns, forest patches, artworks, archival records, memories, and mental maps. The latter was of particular significance, as cognitive cartography - how regions persist within people's imaginations long after they disappear from atlases – was a focus of the project.
Rachel Stevens is committed to fostering collaboration with the communities where she conducts her research and furthering multicultural understanding. She hopes to establish a long-term relationship with communities in western Ukraine, similar to what occurred with the Nepalese icon makers during and after her Fulbright there in 2006.
Rachel Stevens is a Professor of Sculpture at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. She received her MFA from Syracuse University in 1993 and her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1985.