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UHD’s O’Kane Gallery Goes Virtual with New Speaker Series

Sept. 23 Event to Spotlight Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak


By Mike Emery

The University of Houston-Downtown has long been a center for creative discovery thanks to its O’Kane Gallery. New, emerging artists and seasoned professionals have connected with area patrons and community members through the University’s storied arts space.

As a result of the pandemic, the gallery has remained closed since March … but this month, the gallery will continue introducing Houstonians to dynamic voices in art through the O’Kane Art Gallery Virtual Speaker Series.

Hosted by O’Kane Director and Professor of Art Mark Cervenka, the series kicks off at 5 p.m., Sept. 23 with a discussion with artist Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak and an overview of her work.

The Texas-based Bodnar-Balahutrak focuses many of her works on her ancestral homeland in Ukraine. With text and images combining nature, history and topics from today’s headlines, the artist crafts two-dimensional collages using a variety of media including wood, canvas and paper.

“Lydia’s work continues to look for broader understandings of cultural history, specifically with her ancestral home of Ukraine and, more broadly, as a citizen of the world,” Cervenka said.

While Cervenka himself has participated in other recent online art talks, including Public Art University of Houston System’s “On Site x Off Site” series, this will be O'Kane's first virtual series.

“Half a year into Covid, quarantine, isolation and online education, we found it a great opportunity to reengage folks with live if not face-to-face conversation and to reconnect with artists communicating in painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics and installation,” he said.

The series is open to the public and participants can join the discussions through the O’Kane website.

The next events in the speaker series are conversations with artists Michael Menchaca on Oct. 21 and Alison Weaver, Suzanne Deal Booth, Executive Director of the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University on Nov. 11.

All events are approximately one hour in length with an audience Q&A toward the end.

“We are anticipating a great opportunity for attendees to hear directly from artists and arts professionals. We’ll discuss what goes into various projects, both from a creative standpoint and from a practical one,” he said. “We’ll consider how projects are born from the artist’s own interests and background and how cultural and current events may play a part in creativity.”

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.