Irena Edwards speaks at the international Hay Festival

Do you have a copy of Ticket to the New World yet?

Extraordinary life stories of both internationally renowned and not so famous Czechoslovak artists who were forced to leave their home country at the beginning of the Second World War and settle in the U.S., and their influence on the New World’s arts scene – these are all outlined in Ticket to the New World.

Shortly before their departure from Czechoslovakia Voskovec and Werich, famous Czechoslovak pioneers of avant-garde theatre, comedians and singers, sent a New Year card to their friends which said: “One can never consider anything to be final, as one never knows what might happen next…”. The card also contained a drawing by Adolf Hoffmeister which showed Voskovec and Werich holding suitcases, and even the famous Ježek’s piano had the shape of a massive suitcase. What were their main concerns as they disembarked Aquitania, a British ocean liner which brought them to New York?

Young Thomas Messer spent six days in a lifeboat in the open sea after his ocean liner was sunk by German torpedoes. He survived and later became the director of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for 27 years.

Ticket to the New World portrays the extraordinary life stories of these and eleven other remarkable Czechoslovak émigrés who found their home on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It is bilingual, pocket-size and contains many photos and humorous illustrations. Apart from treating yourself or your loved ones by buying this book, the purchase of Ticket to the New World is also a great way to support the Czech National Trust and our projects and activities.

You can order it here.

Ticket to the New World: Project Overview

The Ticket to the New World Project took place between September 20 and October 12, 2018. It presented the extraordinary life stories of both internationally renowned and not so famous Czechoslovak artists who were forced to leave their home country at the beginning of the Second World War and ended up settling down in the United States, and their influence on the New World’s art scene.

The total of 16 Czechoslovak artists were put in the spotlight as part of the project. One of them was Jan Werich, an actor, playwright and writer, which is why the Werich Villa and the whole Kampa Park became the central venue for project events and activities. Nonetheless, as the project agenda was quite rich and consisted of one book launch, six exhibitions, multiple screenings, numerous concerts, lectures and talks, the Werich Villa simply could not host them all and therefore was not the only project venue. Visitors could attend the above listed events and activities at various other venues in central Prague as well.

All six exhibitions ended up being very successful. The most popular one was the outdoor exhibition in Kampa Park which attracted several thousand visitors over the course of the three weeks. The other exhibitions were:

  • An exhibition at the Artinbox Gallery which connected the unique photographs of Alexander Hackenschmied and Bedřich Grünzweig with the drawings of Alén Diviš, and which was supplemented with multiple screenings of Hackenschmied’s experimental movies
  • A small-scale exhibition of Oldřich Rosenbaum’s fashion designs at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague (which will remain open until the beginning of December).
  • An exhibition of Ladislav Sutnar’s information graphics and original letters at the American Centre
  • An exhibition of the famous caricatures by Adolf Hoffmeister and his friends, Antonín Pelc and Maxim Kopf, at the Millenium Gallery
  • An exhibition of Oswald Holzer’s letters and of letters of his friends, which they would send to each other across five different continents during the Second World War, mapping out the whole time period and its events in quite an intimate and unique way
  • An afternoon with Joanie Schirm, an American writer and the daughter of Oswald Holzer who travelled all the way from the United States to share her memories of her father, was a very emotional experience for everyone who attended

An integral part of the project was the launch of a book of the same name. The Ticket to the New World book, of which 800 copies have been published, is bilingual, pocket-size and contains many photos and humorous illustrations. Eva Heyd is the author of the prologue and also the editor in chief, while the Czech National Trust is the publisher. The body of the book consists of texts and contributions by sixteen different authors and experts on the given topics.

The prologue of the book assesses the historical period in question and describes the very complex impact and consequences of the Munich Agreement both on the Czech Republic and on the United States. The rest of the publication is divided into multiple sections, all of which introduce different artists:

  • Chapter 1: Architects and Designers, it is dedicated to Jaroslav J. Polívka, Jan Hird Pokorný and Ladislav Sutnar
  • Chapter 2: The World of Fine Arts, it is dedicated to Thomas Messer
  • Chapter 3: Concert Ovation, it presents the life stories of Bohuslav Martinů, Jarmila Novotná, Rudolf Firkušný and Jaroslav Ježek
  • Chapter 4: About Theatre, it is dedicated to Jan Weirch and Jiří Voskovec
  • Chapter 5: Photographers and Moviemakers, it presents the life stories of Alexander Hackenschmied, Hugo Haas, Bedřich Grünzweig and Paul Fierling
  • One of the other chapters in the book talks about fashion and the main protagonist is Oldřich Rosenbaum
  • The final chapter is dedicated to émigré publicists – Adolf Hoffmeister and an entire group of journalists and writers who arrived in the U.S. at the beginning of the Second World War.

Each chapter always starts with a short introduction outlining the overall situation and opportunities in the given field in New York and in other states and cities in the U.S. at the time. Although the individual artist bios do describe the production and professional success of the artists in question, they are mainly focused on their life stories, the obstacles the artists had to overcome as immigrants and on their tireless efforts to integrate into the American society.

The Ticket to the New World book has successfully connected all the events and activities. One of the most significant ones was the Two Worlds, Two Sonatas concert which took place in the Czech Museum of Music. Bohuslav Martinů’s Sonata number 1 from the pre-war period as well as Jaroslav Ježek’s masterpiece titled Piano Sonata which he composed in New York shortly before his death, were both performed by pianists Daniel Wiesner and Václav Mácha and violinist Ivan Štraus. The audience at Ponrepo Cinema has also very much appreciated the film noir series by Hugo Haas, which was prefaced by Milan Hein.

The four lectures which took place at the Municipal Library of Prague were among the festival highlights as well. One of them was dedicated to J. J. Polívka, a Czech architect, and his cooperation with Frank Lloyd Wright. The second lecture focused on émigré journalists, mainly on those who settled down in New York. The remaining two lectures were mainly about screenings: Paul Fierliger’s animated film Drawn from Memory, and a movie called I was accused starring Jiří Voskovec.

The events which took place at the American Centre were also very popular: the Design in Action lecture about Ladislav Sutnar by Iva Knobloch, curator of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, was an extraordinary one, just like the New York World’s Fair 1939 lecture. The final event which took place at the American Centre was the screening of the film Thomas Messer – My Life with Guggenheim.

The book, the entire project agenda as well as the exhibitions have all been the result of endless efforts of a small CNT working group, members of which were almost exclusively volunteers. They have reached out to the experts and professionals in all the given fields, both in the Czech Republic and in the United States, who have further contributed with their knowledge and skills. Everybody has done an amazing job with an extraordinary level of enthusiasm for this special project.

The entire project was part of the nation-wide celebrations marking the centenary of the modern Czech statehood and of Czech-American relations, and it was organized by the Czech National Trust. Nonetheless, multiple other institutions have also taken part in the project preparation process, such as the Werich Villa, Czech Museum of Music, American Centre, Millenium Gallery, Municipal Library of Prague, Artinbox Gallery, Musem of Decorative Arts in Prague and the National Film Archive – Ponrepo Cinema.

Ticket to the New World – Calendar of Events

Ticket to the New World commemorates some prominent representatives of Czechoslovak cultural life who left their home country at the beginning of WWII and emigrated to the United States, where they left a significant mark on the US art scene later.

The project partially documents their unusual stories and fates, introduces their activities and work in the US and traces the legacies they had left there and which we can be proud of.

Download the program here.

Moravian brothers

The Moravian Brothers (Moravští bratři) began life following the demise of the Czech theologian Jan Hus in the 15th century. Escaping Catholic resurgence in lands of the Bohemian Crown, on the back foot of Moravian Church dialectic they found refuge in present day Saxony. This was after the war at White Mountain whereby the Hussite unity subsequently went into hiding after their defeat. Following further subjugation, this protestant church sought reclamation of Moravian heritage in the New World and dispersed missionaries to the east coast of the United States; established communities are now located in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia.

In the 21st century, we have the New York based organisation ‘Twisted Preservation’. Their work as a cultural institution and museum has proven crucial for the conservation of heritage sites through their dynamic, community centred approach. They have extensive experience in preservation of cultural sites which has driven them to work beyond their city base and throughout the country, from California to North Carolina. Most importantly, they have stepped foot into the Moravian communities of Old Salem and Bethlehem in Virginia. Franklin Vagnone, anthropologist and archeologist is the founder of the organization and is also the author of the One Night Stand blog, through which he is trying to popularize a modern approach to conservation discourse under the administration of the National Trusts. He is co-author of the Anarchist Guide to Museums of Historic Houses. The book focuses on concepts that help cultural institutions raise audience interest and work with visitors’ experiences.

Twisted Preservation practice innovative methods whereby restoration alone is enhanced by dynamic transformations of how the site itself is used. Most importantly the organisation advocates ‘cultural consultations’ such as public presentations, strategic planning and board retreat facilitation yet the organisations true merit is the creation of contemporary cultural spaces within sites of invaluable historical importance. Breathing new life into these sites provide an animus for the persistence of conservation. The Bryn Athyn Cathedral project (1998-2006) involved the restoration of the historical complex which has since been completed whereby the site is used for community workshops. The Old Salem ‘living museum’ represents the encumbrance of a journey that spanned from the old to the new world; an embellishment of the odium that divided Christianity in the Bohemian crown.

We at The Czech National Trust wish to cooperate with Twisted Preservation for reasons that have spanned time, conflict and borders; the fruit of heritage preservation can be wholly seen within our shared cultural memory of these sites of old. The establishment of a project between the two organisations puts this under the gaze of the international Moravian community through which conservation of historical sites will provide remittance and effective management. It is in best interests that this collaboration allows for the recognition of the Moravian Brothers legacy, that not only exists in the history books-the project will be intrinsic to Czech heritage itself.


Prague College (PCU) to further extend its partnership with CNT

The Czech National Trust is extremely pleased to co-operate with Prague College now Prague City University (PCU), one of the top private higher education institutions in the Czech Republic. The partnership has been constantly developing, and two new areas on which PCU students could collaborate with the Czech National Trust to the benefit of both parties have recently been identified. The Czech National Trust has been constantly growing and developing since its founding in October 2013, and is currently in need of a substantial rebranding strategy and strategic management. And this is where the PCU newly steps in.

As part of extending its partnership with the Czech National Trust further, PCU has assigned the following task to its students at the School of Art & Design: to review and improve the overall CNT strategy, while taking into consideration the use of the current online marketing tools such as videos and blogs, and to come up with new ways of improving the CNT website so that it would address the two key audience groups better: the volunteers and the donors. As an NGO, the Czech National Trust relies on volunteers who assist with CNT projects, and on donors who provide the necessary funds for these projects.

The second part of the partnership extension will be based around designing a campaign to raise the public awareness of the Czech National Trust through efficient copywriting, slogans, taglines and promo videos. It is expected that this part of the partnership will launch at the beginning of 2018.

Ondřej Fučík, Programme Leader for BA (Hons) in Graphic Design at PCU, has said the following on the topic of the PCU/Czech National Trust partnership: „Our School of Art & Design students are extremely talented and creative, and of course approach their work with fresh and modern ideas in order to ensure that their work is in compliance with the newest technology standards. This is one of the main reasons why our students are highly competitive once they enter the job market. Nonetheless, regardless of the quality of instruction at Prague College, there is nothing more beneficial than work on real projects which will help our students understand what a full time job in the field is actually like. The opportunity to work on branding and marketing projects, such as this one which is part of the Prague College/Czech National Trust Partnership, is definitely a priceless work experience for them.“

Dr. Irena Edwards, the founder and Chairman of the Czech National Trust, says „When Prague College approached us with the offer of partnership on specific projects, we immediately saw it as a great opportunity for both parties as there has already been a natural bond between the two entities. Both the CNT and Prague College are Czech entities with strong connections to Great Britain. Nonetheless, the biggest part of our synergy is the fact that both institutions are constantly working on supporting the heritage of the Czech Republic, its beautiful architecture and exceptionally talented individuals. We are looking forward to cultivating our partnership with Prague College further and in various new ways.”

*)In 2021 Prague College merged with Akcent College to become Prague City University (PCU) and as a result its programmes have Czech and British accreditation.

World Monuments Fund

The World Monuments Fund (WMF) is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1965 that is dedicated to the preservation of sites that hold unequivocal cultural importance; “The stories sites tell are universal. The dangers they face are immense”.

For more than half a century the WMF have paved the way in conserving sites of special cultural interest which are irreplaceable to the communities that value them. The organisation identifies architecturally important sites from all periods of human civilization, as well as unique cultural customs and traditional crafts.

We live in a world where cultural treasures are facing immense pressure due to the fiat of ongoing natural and human ensued processes such as earthquakes, landslides, floods as well as issues such as conflict and lack of care. The WMF will act accordingly to such pressures and protect sites from further degradation with a plan of recovery.

The protection of cultural heritage has been the primary motivation for the WMF and together with its local partners they can provide financial and technical support for areas that need it most (to ensure sustainability). Since the beginning of its existence, WMF has managed to support more than 600 projects in 90 countries. Today, together with affiliated organizations based in England, India, Peru, Portugal and Spain, the WMF sponsors projects for the preservation of cultural heritage around the world.

Furthermore, the WMF works right in the heart of the communities who are the true guardians of such cultural treasures. They are provided with the infrastructural means to counteract degradation through local and participatory projects; sustaining such sites will bring enjoyment and appreciation for future generations. WMF teams are composed of international specialists who lead pilot projects, organize training programs, and plan a long-term management strategy for the projects.

The Worlds Monument Watch is the pilot project founded by the Worlds Monument Fund, which aims to identify sites of interest. Every two years, a list of monuments is published of that are under threat because of their isolation and widespread social disregard for cultural value. Organisations around the world have the opportunity to nominate projects that deserve attention. Czech National Trust signed projects last year: Beniess Villa in Litol and Cibulka Mansion in Košíře. We did not get our picks this year, but the CNT plans to draw attention to the WMF sites in the Czech Republic in the coming years as well.

CNT enters a partnership with Prague College (PCU)

Prague College now Prague City University (PCU), one of the top private higher education institutions in the Czech Republic, has entered a partnership with the Czech National Trust (CNT).

The partnership should bring multiple exciting opportunities and benefits to both parties involved. It will start with a team of PCU School of Art & Design students reviewing the entire CNT branding strategy and the current position of the Czech National Trust on the local market, and continue with these students devising and presenting their suggestions for upgrading the CNT marketing policy, materials and the website while making the website more user-friendly at the same time.

The Czech National Trust will be joining the PCU Industry Network in return. This will provide PCU students with the opportunity to intern at the CNT outside of term time, and will enable the two institutions to further cooperate on other marketing and educational activities.

„Entering this partnership has always felt very natural to us, mainly because both Prague College and the Czech National Trust are Czech institutions with very strong connections to the United Kingdom. Prague College is the only higher education institution in the Czech Republic offering courses taught in English which holds accreditation from a British university (Teesside), while the Czech National Trust has been founded with the very same mission and vision as the British National Trust. We always find it very beneficial when we can provide our students with real work opportunities, and we are sure that our Art&Design students as well as our Communications students will be very excited and interested in this work opportunity.“ – Douglas Hajek, Prague College Founder and Director

„We are absolutely thrilled about this partnership. Not only it will give us the opportunity to benefit from the extensive knowledge and expert skills of Prague College students, but it will also give us the opportunity to show the younger generations the importance of supporting one’s cultural heritage in both practical and educational ways.” – Dr. Irena Edwards, CNT Founder and Chairman

*)In 2021 Prague College merged with Akcent College to become Prague City University (PCU) and as a result its programmes have Czech and British accreditation.

Festive Evening Reception at the Residence of Austrian Ambassador to the Czech Republic

We had the wonderful opportunity to present the Czech National Trust, our mission, activities and projects as part of a festive evening reception which took place on May 17, 2017, at the Residence of the Austrian Ambassador to the Czech Republic in Prague. The event was opened and hosted by Alexander Grubmayr, Austrian Abassador to the Czech Republic.

As many as 80 guests have attended the evening reception, which was also a fund-raising event. The guests have made donations and pledges amounting to the total of 400 000 CZK which will be used for our pilot project in Zdislavice, for creation of a nature trail and for our Prague projects.

Among the reception guests were Jan Thompson, British Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Catherine Leonard, Secretary General of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO), and almost all our main donors and supporters: Eduard Kučera (Avast), Magdalena Součková (Ernst&Young), Milan Šimonovský (Sigma), Eliška Kaplický (Chair of the Prague Culture and Monument Care Department), and many other CNT volunteers and friends.