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City’s new festival to highlight culture

By Deirdre Fernandes
Globe Staff / April 15, 2012
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Russian artists, musicians, and authors will have a venue to showcase their work next weekend at Newton’s first Russian cultural festival.

The three-day event is designed to highlight the burgeoning influence of Russians in the city and Greater Boston.

“We have a pretty sizable Russian community in Newton,’’ Mayor Setti Warren said. “We should be able to celebrate it.’’

Putting sentiment into action, the Mayor’s Office for Cultural Affairs is hosting “From Russia with Arts and Culture’’ from Friday through Sunday at the Newton Cultural Center, 225 Nevada St. in Newtonville.

Festival organizer Olesya Koenig said she was surprised by the community of Russians in the area when she arrived in the United States several years ago with her husband, who is American.

But after the couple opened an art gallery in Cambridge, Russian-speakers frequently stopped by. The festival is a way to expose more people to the area’s Russian-speaking community, Koenig said.

Mariya Gershteyn, a filmmaker whose documentary on the Boston years of “Lolita’’ author Vladimir Nabokov has been shown on Russian-language cable television stations throughout the world, said she is looking forward to the opportunity to talk about her work and showing clips to a local audience.

Gershteyn, who has lived in Newton for 22 years, will be part of a discussion and screening with Russian filmmakers on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the cultural center.

Paintings from almost a dozen Russian-born artists will be on display throughout the facility, including bright canvases depicting Russian dolls and Venetian gondolas by Anatoly Dverin, an oil painter who immigrated from Ukraine to the Boston area about 30 years ago.

Works by Misha Lenn, whose watercolor “Joy of the Finish’’ is being featured on ornaments, boxes, and mirrors to commemorate this year’s Boston Marathon, will also be displayed.

The festival will include a performance of Russian folk dancing at 11 a.m. Saturday and folk songs by Berklee College of Music students at 5 p.m. Sunday.

The festival also hopes to trace the historical connections between Russia and the United States, which date back centuries, said Margaret Coleman, the founder and director of the Russian American Cultural Center in Boston.

John Quincy Adams, the sixth American president, was the first US envoy to Russia. He and his wife had their daughter in St. Petersburg, although the baby died soon after her first birthday. Coleman has been working to get a memorial plaque at the gravesite.

Boston and St. Petersburg were also robust trading partners in the years between the American Revolution and the Civil War, Coleman said.

“It’s called the Baltic trade, but it really should be called the Russia trade, because that’s the destination,’’ she said.

Coleman plans to display a collection of Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls, along with other handicrafts at the festival.

The event will also include Russian food.

The festivities begin with a reception from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday featuring music by Newton pianist Tatyana Dudochkin, with the New England Conservatory. Events are planned through Sunday. Admission is free, but artwork will be available for sale.

For more information call the Newton Cultural Center at 617-796-1540, or visit its website, www.newtonculturalcenter.org.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@ globe.com

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