An Interview with Elizabeth Martin of the National Hellenic Museum


It is such a great honor to interview Mrs. Elizabeth Martin, Executive Director of the National Hellenic Museum.  “The National Hellenic Museum is America’s only national institution that interprets the American experience through the history of Greek immigrants, and the contributions of Greek Americans to the American mosaic, while celebrating their rich Greek history and culture and the profound impact of their Hellenic heritage upon the world.”

“Located in a new 40,000-square-foot space that is both contemporary and timeless, the Museum connects all generations—past, present and future—to the rich heritage of Greek history, culture, art and the Greek American experience. Since 1983, the National Hellenic Museum, previously known as the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center, has been striving towards this mission.”

Currently the museum offers fascinating and meaningful exhibits spanning from the Greek Monsters of mythology, the history of the Akropolis, the legacy of Greek Immigration, to the story of Greek Independence (among many others).


Two of my favorite things about this museum (among others) is the vast and varied amount of educational programs they offer, and how thoughtfully child and family friendly they are.  From dancing, literature, language, art, and government, to iconography and archaeology the museum provides many opportunities to interactively learn throughout the year.


I am so very honored and grateful Mrs. Martin took the time to do this interview and am extremely thankful for all the work she is doing! I look forward to the many years ahead of visiting and exploring this wonderful museum. To learn more about the National Hellenic Museum visit their website or facebook page.


Museum name: National Hellenic Museum

Location: 333 S. Halsted St., Chicago IL  60661 in Greektown!

My name: Elizabeth Martin

My job at the museum: Executive Director

What do you enjoy most about your job? I truly love everything about this job. The mission to preserve and share Hellenic ideas and heritage is so profound. Although I am not Greek, so much of my formal education was grounded in things that came from the Greeks. Although it is not my job to plan the exhibits and programs, I love learning about them as we plan them. On top of that the Board of Trustees and the staff are so passionately committed to the longevity of the Museum that it is truly inspirational.

What do you love about the museum? I think it is the architecture. It is modern and clean, so airy and open. It is so calming.

How and why did the museum begin? The Museum was actually founded 33 years ago and was housed in at least three other locations before this building was commissioned. It was started to preserve, collect and share the story of both the Greek American as well as the culture as a whole.

What does a typical day at the museum look like? We often start with schools visiting the exhibits and participating in our education programs. Throughout the day you see guests coming through and at night you might be able to join a Greek Dance class for adults!

What does one experience when visiting? We have three floors of exhibit space. The first floor exhibits are usually larger than life and housed in the beautiful John C. Calamos Sr. Hall. You then ascend the grand staircase to the second floor which can be comprised of several interesting and relevant exhibits. Right now we have an exhibit on Street Art from Athens, a children’s exhibit about architecture and an exhibit about the Acropolis. Another grand staircase takes you to the third floor where we display the Greek American Story. The story of the immigrants, their struggles and their successes! We also have an Oral History Center where we capture and play these stories.

How do you choose the exhibits? There is an exhibit team of professionals who have their finger on the pulse of what is current, relevant and important to share.

Does the museum offer family friendly/school/children’s activities? Oh yes, in addition to our Greek Language and Culture Classes we offer children’s exhibits, programs, a sleepover, summer camps, storytimes and much, much more.

If I could tell aspiring young museum curators one (or several) thing(s) it would be: Follow your dreams. Volunteer or get an internship. And come see us!

As a child, my favorite children’s book was or My favorite children’s book is: Harold and the Purple Crayon

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An interview with Kent Russell of the Museum of Russian Icons

museumBUILDING_back-1It is such a great honor to interview Mr. Kent Russell, CEO Curator of the Museum of Russian Icons.  The Museum of Russian Icons was founded in 2006 as a nonprofit educational institution by Massachusetts art collector and industrialist Gordon B. Lankton. Including more than 1000 Russian icons and artifacts, the collection is the largest of its kind in North America, and one of the largest private collections outside Russia. Spanning six centuries, the collection includes important historical paintings dating from the earliest periods of icon “writing” to the present.”

In addition to the Museums vast collection of icons they also have a Russian Tea Room, Prosopon School of Iconology, the Center for Icon Studies, hands on adult and children’s learning projects and events, and so many other exciting offerings.  One example of a way they provide hands on learning is during February school vacation week.  The museum will have crafts, games, music and dancing to help children learn more about Ethiopia, while also viewing the exhibit on The Vibrant Art and Storied History of Ethiopian Icons.

I am so excited to go visit the Museum of Russian Icons very soon and wish I had known about it while we lived in Boston! I am also VERY thankful to Mr. Lankton for creating the museum, and am extremely grateful to Mr. Russell for taking the time to do this interview. 

The following video is such a great look into what happens at this wonderful museum.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 12.43.43 PMMuseum name: Museum of Russian Icons

My name: Kent Russell

My job/role at the museum: CEO Curator

As a child, my favorite children’s book was or My favorite children’s book is: Babar the King

What do you enjoy most about your job? The changing nature of it, every day brings new challenges, also being close to magnificent art all the time

What do you love about the museum? It’s the finest collection of Russian icons outside of Russia, internationally recognized so we meet people from all over the world.

How and why did the museum begin? The Museum was opened here in Clinton in 2006 it’s here because the founder plastic industrialist Gordon Lankton had his corporate headquarters here and felt that he should give back to the community that made him wealthy.

What does a typical day at the museum look like? We open at 11 and the crowds come in, volunteer tour guide line up and greet visitors. We are very visitor focused, we feel that this is the most important function we have, access to this magnificent collection in a friendly and non- threatening atmosphere.

What does one experience when visiting?   The finest collection of Byzantine style painting in American, you’ll see paintings of rich colors, and precious metal and jeweled encrusted frames, a feast for the eye, a challenge to the intellect and a balm for the spirit.

How do you choose the exhibits? We choose exhibits that reflect our mission to open a conversation about Russia and its culture, so all sorts of shows that bring people closer to understanding Russia, Russians and mostly icons.

 Is there anything in particular you look for in an icon when choosing it for an exhibit? Quality. Icons are very common, even the humble ones have an authentic spirit to them but there are some that reach the level of extraordinary and timeless art and we like those.

What are some of the most interesting icons at the museum? Our earliest one, St John the Baptist from 1420s is a treasure. Hard-won at a NYC auction about 5 years ago. It belongs in any museum anywhere in the world. Very moving image of this extraordinary person. We are over 800 icons so there are at least 20 % that are very unusual and that you could only see here or in a museum in Russia.

What is, and how old is, the oldest icon at the museum? early 1400s, we have a few on a Tenderness Mother of God is considered a fine painting by the Russian curators at the Tretyakov Museum in Moscow, she is very small but almost intact from the time she was painted for private devotion almost 600 year ago.

 What is the Center for Icon Studies? It’s one of the premier academic center for the study of icons in the world. The Center publishes ion line (and soon in hard copy) a journal of Icon Studies that brings together academic papers from scholars around the world on the subject about and around icons. The Center is collaborating with the University of Rijeka Croatia to present a scholarly conference here at the Museum June 2th and 13th 2015 in conjunction with our upcoming Byzantine Origins of Russian Icons show with the participation of the British Museum 9London) show. There is no other such enterprise focused on Russian icons in the world except here at this Museum.

 Does the museum offer family friendly activities? Lots, hands on activities throughout the galleries, an award winner booklet (AWARD NEM 2009) of activities and treasure hunts for kids, each temporary show has a family and kids corner.

 Does the museum offer special programs for children? Yes, egg decorating, workshops throughout the year for kids on all sorts of subjects that are challenging and fun to do. We work a lot with schools too.

 I noticed you have a Kids Corner, what will kind of books, toys, and activities will you find there? Russian stories by Pushkin and fairy tales are of course famous and are the basis of many ballets…so we have book about sleeping beauty and swan lake. We have language books and coloring books and reference books and atlases (we like kids to know they geography!).

If I could tell aspiring young iconographers one (or several) thing(s) it would be: Work hard, learn the trade, there are rules and if you respect them and learn then you can become a master

If I could tell aspiring young museum curators one (or several) thing(s) it would be: Get an art history degree, join NEMA or a regional professional organization and net work, volunteer at a museum, travel, publish, organize shows, try to get a job in a museum…

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An Interview with Artist Heather Sleightholm

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 1.36.00 PMI am so excited and honored to interview one of my favorite artists, Heather Sleightholm of Audrey Eclectic.  She is an American folk artist who paints the most beautiful and endearing works of art.  Her work, categorized by portraits, works of faith, and traditions and folklore, tell stories rooted in family, tradition, faith, and love.  Each piece encapsulates an enchanting multilayer story, kindling a sense of family tradition and heartwarming memories.  One of my favorite things about her art, is her use of icons within some of her paintings.  These pieces in particular, personally create such a sense of home and peace.  In addition to her captivating art, she has a lovely blog where she shares her process, stories, projects, artwork, life, explorations, faith, and the things which inspire her. I am so very honored and thankful she took the time to do this interview, and can’t wait to see what’s ahead for (as well as continue gifting and decorating our house with) her beautiful and meaningful artwork.

-4My Name: Heather Sleightholm

My Patron Saint : As a member of the Episcopal Church, I didn’t receive a Patron Saint upon Confirmation. However, I have several saints I love (St. Francis, St. Lucia, Julian of Norwich) but I have an especially strong affinity for St. Nicholas!

Company Name: Audrey Eclectic Folk Art

What I make (do): I consider myself a folk artist. I make illustrations, family portraits, card designs, and sometimes I dabble in art dolls and little holiday accents.

Why I love it: When I paint I feel calm and peaceful. It is very much like a meditation when all is going well. I also love that I am able to create meaningful pieces for others to enjoy. Whether it is a gift for a friend, a family portrait, or a holiday post card, I am honored when people choose to use my artwork to adorn their homes or share with those they love.

How it started: Well, I have drawn and painted things since I was very little. My mother took painting lessons when she was expecting me, so perhaps it began then? But art was always my favorite part of school and I took art classes all the way through college.  My business, Audrey Eclectic, began in the fall of 2007 after I left my job as a newspaper writer/photographer/editor/phone answerer/ everything in between to be home with our infant daughter, Audrey.  It was a big adjustment to go from working full time to being at home full time, and I felt like I needed a creative outlet. What began as just painting at the kitchen table during her nap times eventually turned into me taking part in my first craft show— Indie Emporium in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over the next several years I started doing other regional shows, gallery events, and then print work.  It has been so wonderful to be able to explore my passion for art while being at home with my family, which now includes a one year old son, Robbie. Every show and every project has brought more wonderful opportunities and connections. I’m still a little in awe that people like what I make, and I’m more than happy to keep making it!

 Where you can find me: Website: Blog: Etsy: Facebook: Instagram: audreyeclectic81

-16How I use Icons in my work: Especially when I’m doing family scenes, I love to include icons tucked into the piece, a little ‘art within the art.’ I greatly admire those who can ‘write icons’ as its called, as I don’t know if I have the patience or skill for minute detail that those artists have! But I love icons, and have them in my own home and love to use them in my art.  To me, placing an icon in a painting lets me quietly tell a little bit about the inner lives of the people I’m painting. It quietly reveals their faith and brings the presence of something Holy into an every day scene, which is a concept I love; to me, there are Holy things in the small things of every day, if you stop to really look for them.

-13How my Faith influences my work: I feel like my faith and my artwork go hand in hand. Many times, my art will reveal the things on my mind before I even realize I’m thinking about them. As my faith has grown, so has my faith inspired art. I’ve gone from someone very bashful about painting anything remotely religious to having my religious paintings be some of my most favorite pieces.  My intention with my faith influenced paintings is to create something that is peaceful or evokes a happy childhood memory. I love to create pieces that involve families doing something together that is part of their faith— whether is preparing an Easter Basket or walking home from Pascha at midnight. I like to paint people living their faith in honest and simple ways— and also create paintings that are calming, including, and give a sense of peace.  There is so much difficulty and sadness in the world. I feel like my contribution is to create a little light and hope where ever I can.

-12What inspires me: SO many things! Faith, stories, family, good books, history.  Legends and folklore have always fascinated me, and I love to learn about different cultures and far away places.  I’ve been known to paint to Christmas music all year round, I find that it is so soothing and usually has such an uplifting and hopeful message. Perhaps that seeps into the art I’m making, I hope so!

-14As a child, my favorite children’s book was or My favorite children’s book is: I’ve always loved “old timey things’ so some of my favorite books were the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was always drawn to books with wonderful pictures, and still am!  As an adult I will take a moment to pause over Bernadette’s “Varenka” and I love “John, Paul, George and Ben” by Lane Smith and also “The Miracle of St. Nicholas’ by Gloria Whelan. I am also a big fan of the illustrators Tasha Tudor, Carl Larsson and Patricia Polacco.


If I could tell aspiring young artists one (or several) thing(s) it would be: If art is your passion, embrace it. Life is too short to save what you’re passionate about for “someday.” When I worked as a newspaper writer, I was always interviewing artists or other creative people and trying to figure out their ‘secret.’ I came to realize that the real secret was— they dared to follow their creative passion. They finished that painting. They completed that novel. They didn’t push it aside for a perfect time. Even if its just 10 minutes before class, or before bed, take some time for yourself to let your creativity have free reign. It will add so much joy to your days, and even if you just create for yourself, it will be so satisfying. But you have to start!

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Orthodox Made – Irina Hubbard of Purl Lamb


-16I’m so thankful and honored to have the opportunity to interview the wonderful and very talented Irina Hubbard. She is the creator and owner of Purl Lamb, an adorable clothing line for children. The company which was created three years ago, is named “after the Lord, the Lamb of God.” In her shop you will find the very cutest pants, shorts, sleepers, and one of my personal favorites the Delux Ear Hoodie. In addition to her talents as a designer, she is an incredible photographer, knitter, and Orthodox Christian. She is such a wonderful example of living our faith, and especially through our work. I so am excited to continue to shop at Purl Lamb in the years to come, and am so thankful she took the time to do this interview! You can see the whole collection here at the Purl Lamb store.


-12My Name: Irina Hubbard
My Patron Saint: Saint Irina
Company Name: Purl Lamb
What I make: Children Clothes
Why I love it: I love creating things with my hands. I love seeing a finish product wrapped and sent out the door.
How it started: Purl Lamb started as a newborn photography business five years ago. I taught myself how to knit in order to create new props for my photo shoots. Soon thereafter, I started having a large demand for my knits from other photographers. Knitting turned into sewing and the rest is history.


Where you can find me: Facebook/Instagram – @purllamb
How being Orthodox impacts my work: I rely on God to guide me and inspire me. Without Him I can’t do anything.
As a child, my favorite children’s book was or My favorite children’s book is: Hans Christian Andersen – The Snow Queen
If I could tell our youth one thing it would be: Never be ashamed of the One who made you. Put God first. Always. 


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An Interview with Olympian Christina Loukas

I can’t express what an honor it is to interview the incredibly talented and inspirational Christina Loukas! She is a two time Olympian and a nine-time US National champion who currently devotes her time to studying Physical Therapy in graduate school.  Christina is a gifted athlete with a very long and accomplished list of awards and metals she has earned through many years of training, hard work and perfecting her gifts and talents.


I first heard Christina speak this past spring at the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago Junior Olympics.  It was so inspiring to hear her discuss the importance of her faith and to hear her share how she too had once participated in these events as a child.  She is such a wonderful example of what you can accomplish when you work hard, develop your talents and gifts, and follow your dreams.


10807928_10104879758786139_1259158656_nHello my name is: Christina Loukas

My patron saint is: St. Christina

As a child, my favorite children’s book were: Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are

My Job/what I do: Used to be a springboard diver for the USA. Retired from that in 2012 after the London Olympics. I am now in graduate school for Physical Therapy at Northwestern University in Chicago.

What I love about it: I want to become a physical therapist because I want to help people recover from injuries. I am also fascinated by the human body and how it works. I would also love to work with elite athletes to help them accomplish their goals.

How being Orthodox impacts what I do: My faith guides me in life and helps me make decisions. Orthodoxy has taught me to be more loving and giving towards other people, and I think this is what lead me to become a physical therapist. I have also received so much support from other members in my church throughout my life. Being Greek Orthodox has brought so many people into my life that I now consider my extended family.

If I could tell our youth one thing it would be: Dream big! And go after your goals.


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