By VICKI J. YIANNIAS
2004 will be another great year of wonderful programs at the Onassis Cultural Center and at The Foundation for Hellenic Culture for those interested in, and even passionate about, ancient and contemporary Greek cultural accomplishments.
The New York Times has cited The Foundation for Hellenic Culture, located at 7 West 57th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City, as “one of the highlights of 57th Street.”
Rightly so. In a setting that suggests the neo-classical, the Foundation’s sophisticated yet casual ambience is a warming backdrop for presentations of high-quality exhibitions, concerts, film festivals, music and dance festivals.
The first event of the season is a not-to-be-missed recital of songs by the critically acclaimed international singer, Savina Yannatou. Noted for her vocal improvisations, art songs, and traditional Greek songs, Ms. Yannatou combines elements of different musical styles and traditions that connect the modal East with the music of Western Europe and the Mediterranean. On January 8, at 7 pm.
Mrs. Ekaterini Myrivili, the Foundation’s Director of Programs, in a recent interview with the Greek News, brought the good news that “Americans are welcoming warmly the demonstrations of high-caliber artistic production that we are introducing at the Foundation.”
“Although Greece is a small country,” she went on to say, “there exists a certain dimension that we could project here. And again, the American public is extremely receptive, and what can be brought here is to the great advantage of the American public.”
“As you know, ancient Greece is covered more or less in very many ways. There are university classics studies everywhere. Even on TV you have programs inspired by ancient myths. Ancient Greece is covered, in art and letters, but what is not as known, is contemporary Greece…what has Greece become today, what are the people in this country creating?”
For this reason, Mrs. Myrivili has focused on bringing creative people from Greece who could speak about their art, their expression, and about life in today’s Greece. “For me, that was the most important point. I hope that my successor will follow the same trend…to continue presenting our country of today.” Mrs. Myrivilis’ very successful three and a half year appointment as Program Director of the Foundation will close at the end of February.
Mrs. Myrivili’s successor at the Foundation is not yet known. Leaving will be difficult, she says, “I will miss New York, which I really love, terribly.” Returning to Greece to be close to her family, however, takes precedence. Speaking about her blond, blue-eyed granddaughter, Ariadne, she noted “I don’t want to miss any more of her childhood, it’s not repeatable!”
Asked what she feels would benefit the Foundation most, Mrs. Myrivili answered without hesitation. “A bigger space. We need to have a bigger space in order to bring musicians from Greece to perform here.
Now, we have to rent, which becomes very expensive.”More space would facilitate larger scale performances. “With a bigger space we could bring theatre…we have wonderful theater in Greece. We could bring ballet…there is a great development in the field of ballet in Greece, young people, talented people that do miraculous things, and group exhibitions that we just don’t have enough space for here.” She added that additional personnel are needed as there is always much to be done. A director’s assistant and a receptionist are not enough.”
Mrs. Myrivili has accomplished much. After studying literature at the University of Thessalonika, her interest in writing brought her to work closely with Karolos Koon at his Art Theatre, where for twenty years she did prolific translations of the most noted plays into Greek.
Following this, Mrs. Myrivili was Greece’s Ford Foundation arts and humanities consultant for twenty-two years, a position which brought her into contact with the creators of the finest arts production in Greece, developing close friendships with many.
The daughter-in-law of the famed Greek writer Stratis Myrivilis, a leading figure in Greece’s 30’s Generation writers whose work has been published in English and 48 other languages, Mrs. Myrivili noted that “He was a fantastic person, so full of life. He was a patriot, and he loved the sea and women.”
Mrs. Mirivilis’ daughter Eleni, a graduate of Columbia University, teaches Social Anthropology at the University of the Aegean in Mytilene on the island of Lesvos “She writes very well,” says Mrs. Myrivili, “Living in Mytilene, she is in touch with her grandfather’s roots, his beginnings.”
The Foundation for Hellenic Culture is a non-profit organization established in Athens in 1992, for the purpose of promoting and disseminating Greek language and culture. There are branches in Odessa, Berlin, Paris, and London, as well as New York.