The beloved Ukrainian Pioneer Women series of 12 paintings by William Kurelek was commissioned by the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada in 1965. As we reported in our last Newsletter, in August 2022 we removed these paintings from the walls of the Museum, where they had been on permanent display for the past 18 years. It was time, after two decades of constant exposure, to have these works professionally inspected and assessed for potential damage.
After an extensive search and RFP process, the Museum hired Bethany Jo Mikelait, Conservator of Fine Art at Toronto-based The Art Conservatory. Ms. Mikalait has a BFA and Master of Art Conservation from Queen’s University, Kingston, and has completed apprenticeships with the Canadian Conservation Institute, the National Gallery of Canada, and Restorart, where she worked under the guidance of master conservators Laszlo Cser and Dragan Jankovic. She has experience conserving other paintings by Kurelek, and was keen to help the Museum.
Ms. Mikalait spent two days in the middle of a cold snap in November carefully inspecting Kurelek’s paintings. She found the paintings, overall, to be in excellent condition, due to the high quality of materials that Kurelek used along with his extraordinary craftsmanship.
All six large, unglazed paintings require minor repairs and restorations — Ms. Mikalait was able to touch up small areas of missing paint while at the Museum, but other repairs will require us to send these works to a conservator’s lab. The six small, glass-fronted paintings only require deframing and dusting of the matts.
The Museum has applied for funding to cover the costs of crate construction and will shortly solicit quotes from conservators for the minor restoration work required on the large paintings. We will keep our members informed of our progress, and hope to celebrate the return of these paintings for public display in the next year.