Posted: 4:13 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013

Artist Aka Pereyma dies at 86

Artist showcased Ukrainian heritage in her work throughout her life, was honored locally, globally


Artist Aka Pereyma dies at 86 photo
Local artist Aka Bohumyla Pereyma works on sculptures. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Artist Aka Pereyma dies at 86 photo
Local artist Aka Bohumyla Pereyma drawing an eagle. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By Meredith Moss

Staff Writer

Aka Bohumyla Pereyma, who shared her love of her Ukrainian heritage in her artwork throughout her life, died Monday, Dec. 9 at the age of 86.

The Troy resident — well-known for her delicate Ukrainian Easter eggs, large welded outdoor sculptures, ceramics and textiles — was labeled a “living cultural treasure” in 2003 when she was honored by the Ohio Arts Council in the first group of Ohio Heritage Fellows.

The Council cited Pereyma’s work within the Ohio and Midwestern Ukrainian communities as well as with communities throughout the United States and in the Ukraine.

“She has served as a creative repository of the visual symbolism of Ukrainian culture, much of which was lost earlier in the 20th century,” they said, adding that her work in the Ukrainian pysanky decorated egg tradition was “of the highest quality to be found anywhere in the world.”

Pereyma, also known for introducing the religious and secular symbolism of the pysanky tradition to ceramics and painting, was exhibited in art galleries and museums in the United States, Canada and Ukraine.

Many of her works are currently on long-term loan to the state museum of Ukraine and four books about her have been published in Ukraine. In 2001, Pereyma was awarded the “Outstanding Ukrainian Artist” medal from the Ukrainian government.

When an exhibit of her work was shown at Chicago’s Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, she told a reporter that several of the works were inspired by Ukrainian folk songs that her mother sang to her as a child.

Pam Houk, former curator of the Experiencenter at the Dayton Art Institute, was a longtime friend who exhibited Pereyma’s work at the DAI and also interviewed her for the Artists on Art project sponsored by the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Arts Council.

“She was such a hardy soul and had a robust wit,” Houk said. “She was quite a family person. Her husband was a surgeon who would throw pots on her potter’s wheel and she would decorate them.”

Houk said the couple honored their agrarian Ukrainian roots by growing their own vegetables, cooking traditional foods and “having quite a menagerie of animals including peacocks roaming around their property.”

Houk said she also made all kinds of welded whimsical creatures — especially birds — out of antique farm tools and implements.

Christina O’Neal of Troy, one of Pereyma’s three children, said her mother believed birds were messengers from God.

Pereyma was born in Poland, the daughter of Ukrainian school teachers, and in 1948 married Dr. Constantine Pereyma in Germany, where both were students. She began her formal art education in Brooklyn where the couple first settled, and continued her studies at the Dayton Art Institute and School of the Art Institute of Chicago after settling in Troy in 1959.

From 1970 to 1980, she was the artist coordinator for the Welding for Artist Program at the Hobart School for Welding Technology in Troy.

“When Ukraine became independent in 1991, she and her sister, Tanya, traveled there many times with the Cultural Minsiter of Ukraine, Oleksandra Fedoruk,” O’Neal said. “He wrote the first book about my mother and the title is ‘The Extraordinary World of Aka Pereyma.’ Everything about her was extraordinary.”

Funeral services will be conducted at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13 at Baird Funeral Home in Troy. Friends may call from 6-9 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home.


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