June 13 meeting notes – Kiev Mohyla University

Incoming President Tatyana had a surprise for us this morning.  We assembled at the Coffee Theater assuming we would once again go across the street to meet in the park.  No!  At the very last minute, we negotiated a deal whereby we could meet in the Center for Contemporary Art of Kiev Mohyla University.   Good thing, too.  There was a torrential rain before the end of our meeting.


The exhibit hall was one of the university’s oldest buildings, several centuries at a minimum.  The ceiling of the room is a Romanesque arch.  The walls are several feet thick.  It has the feel of a wine cellar.  Cool, despite the hot summer outside.  The thick masonry provides ideal acoustics for Gregorian chants.  Not, however, for Toastmasters meetings.  With no furniture or wall hangings to deaden the sound, it is far more acoustically alive than ideal for giving a speech.  Your words echo right back on you.  Each speaker tried a different approach to deal with it.  Valya’s confidential whisper it seemed to be the best approach.


Tatyana, assuming the role of Toastmaster, chose an operatic theme for the morning.  Our agenda, she said, resembled the organization of an opera.  The overture was hers, segueing into the introduction of the evaluation team.  This was followed by three arias — the speeches — then the chorus for the table topics.  Evaluations provided the climax.


Valya’s was the first aria, delivered with confidence and poise in a quiet voice that worked extremely well in the close hall.  She questions, “what is impossible?”  In the modern world, nothing is really impossible.  We have to abandon the old notion that things are.  The four minute mile fell in 1955, to universal amazement.  In science we continue to do the impossible on a daily basis.  Valya contends the impossibility is only a state of mind, something we need to get over.


Graham spoke on the travails of getting around and Kiev for an American.  Not only is it a strange city, but it is a new way of looking at geography, maps and directions.  Yuri then spoke about criticism.  It is absolutely necessary, but it has to be delivered as the meat in the sandwich, with praise top and bottom.  See his picture.  Toastmistress Tania played upon this notion, chastening long-winded evaluators for putting too much baloney in the sandwich.


Liz, who lately has an important role in every meeting, chaired table topics.  She asked us to give plausible answer is for children to common questions.  She is obviously well read in Calvin and Hobbes.  She cited two of my favorite strips in which Calvin’s dad explains first that, although he could describe how a carburetor works, he cannot because it is secret, and that the wind is due to trees sneezing.  I love Calvin and Hobbes.  God bless you Liz!  Sergei Plasov won the award for the best table topics speech, and art talkers T-shirt signed by everybody present at the meeting.  Wear it with pride, Sergei!


It is comforting to know that we have a place to meet throughout the summer.  Look forward to seeing you next week at the Kiev Mohyla art museum..


PS: There are pictures.  It is maddeningly slow to include them in this writeup.  Look in the Links section for a link to the June 13 photo gallery.


Published in: on June 15, 2008 at 4:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Ah, sunshine! It is summer in Kiev and all is well

Sweet are the uses of adversity, Shakespeare said. Tanya arrived at the Coffee Theater this morning test to discover that they were not welcoming us. Although nobody else wants to be in their clammy basement on Saturday morning, they were going to hit us for a substantial minimum charge. We took ourselves across the street by the old churchyard at Kiev Mogila University, where we basked in the summer sun and had a wonderful meeting.

Toastmistress Olga Pogorielova first introduced Liz Korotchenko with a talk entitled “A Piece Of Art On Your Body.” Liz was strikingly dressed all in purple, with purple accessories; her topic might have been clothes. But then she opened her hand, revealing a painted zebra, who talked to us. Liz gave the history of body painting, its ceremonial uses among primitive people as they prepared to hunt, with a sly allusion to hunts conducted by the contemporary human female.

Sergei Plyasov talked on the meaning of home. In his life the only consistent definition would be where he kept his toothbrush, and even then, at times he has had more than one toothbrush. The subject worked extremely well with his dry delivery style. The talk segued into table topics, which Sergei also chaired. He asked a number of us to give our own definitions of home. It was a well chosen topic. Everybody was comfortable, and the talks were generally well-organized and fun.


Olga followed with a training on how to prepare the introduction to a talk. She shared about eight ideas on how to compose an introduction. Make an outlandish statement. Give a quote. Refer to something that will excite memories in the listeners’ minds. She provided information that I had not seen elsewhere. An introduction should take between five and 10% of the allotted time; 21 to 42 seconds in the case of one of our speeches. After an attention grabbing opening, it has to tell the audience why they should listen, then transitions smoothly into the body.


We do not know where we will meet next week. Tanya has a few ideas she needs to check out. Please pay attention to our website and your e-mail for details.



Published in: on June 7, 2008 at 3:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pictures from May 31.

Toastmistress Liz ran the meeting.Liz



Guest Kent Hansen with YUlia.Kent and Julia

Alex interviewing Marina for Table Topics
Alex and Marina

Published in: on June 7, 2008 at 2:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Notes of our May 31 meeting


Art Talkers had its first meeting in our summer location, the Coffee Theater.  The turnout was gratifying.  We filled the place.   Toastmaster Liza Korotchenko had a full slate of speakers and evaluators.  YUlia Usova brought a special guest speaker, Kent Hansen,who is here researching an art project promoting innovative ideas in parking.  He came to the right place; choose the appropriate sidewalk café for a Kiev dinner and you can have a Bentley as your centerpiece.


Vasiliy Topolyuk introduced himself his icebreaking speech.  Throwing up when he was a kid riding in an airplane with his dad, blowing up stuff in a science lab, and then growing up to become an automobile racer. Guy stuff.  Valentina Karabaeva followed with a speech about the danger of stereotypes.  She hates that all guys characterize blondes as dumb.  No, in fairness, she gave a balanced speech, saying that stereotypes can be quite useful. Your stereotype of firemen comes in handy if smoke is coming from your apartment.  Perhaps inspired by YUlia’s plea last week, Anna Zagornaya chose a topic related to art: The Creation Process, and of course the creative mind.


Alex Kononets chose a novel format for Table Topics.  He got YUlia, Marina, Kent and then guest Julia, another artist friend, to talk about themselves in the format of a television interview.  They offered some interesting perspectives.  When mistakenly referred to as a Swede, Kent joked that of course Denmark is the capital of Sweden. 


The meeting closed with reminders of our ongoing support for the orphanage, and that proceeds from Levon Petrosian’s training tomorrow will likewise go to its support.  We look forward to seeing you next Saturday.



Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 7:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Notes of our May 24 meeting and elections

Dear Art Talkers,


Pessimism doesn’t pay.  11:00 Saturday was pretty gloomy at the British Counsel.  It was raining cats and dogs as a dozen or so soggy veterans arranged far more chairs than would be necessary. 


Or so we thought.  But people just kept coming!  In the end we had both a full house and a full agenda.  We went past our budgeted time, of course, but for the best of reasons.  The conspiricy of rain, final exams, and Spring fever could not overcome the spirit of this group!  Great speeches, challenging table topics, and a well articulated plea from co-founder Yulia Osova to stick to our roots and talk about art. 


After the meeting we adjourned to the Coffee Theatre (Gregory Skovorody St 5 – remember that address) where we held elections for officers of the July 2008-June 2009 year.  It was a success on several levels.  About half of our 32 members could be there.  The coffee and chocolate were excellent.  And, we accomplished our mission of electing a slate of dedicated officers for the upcoming year. 


Tatiana Knyazeva is our incoming President.  She has been Treasurer for the past year.  Olga Pogorelova succeeds Maria Kapustyan as VP Education.  Olga has been working extensively with Maria on our program over the past few months, including some wonderful dramatic presentations.  Maria herself is moving to the position of VP Membership.  Other incoming officers will be Yuriy Karabach, Treasurer; Valentina Karabayeva, Sergeant at Arms; Irina Rymar, Secretary; and Graham Seibert, VP Public Relations.


As we enjoyed having the basement of the Coffee Theater to ourselves for elections, the thought occured to one of our better minds that it would be an ideal place for meetings, this summer when the British Counsel is closed.  Why not?  Our officers concluded the deal on the spot, and that is where we will be.  It will be even better.  They will let us in before 11:00, and they serve coffee and tea.  Bring some griven ;-).


Look forward to seeing you there next week.


Your incoming PR guy,



Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 6:59 am  Leave a Comment