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400 People Visited the Czech Center New York in One Day

For the fifth time, the Bohemian National Hall opened its doors to the public on Sunday, October 20, an event organized by the Czech Center New York as part of the Open House New York project, including more than 100 New York City landmarks and providing free access to unique buildings of architectural value to the general public. This year’s enticement was, besides the information-packed tour, a presentation of a unique large-format book project by photographer Jan William Drnek, who created a true-to-life digital copy of Alphonse Mucha’s Slav Epic. During the tour, Open House visitors learned about the history of the Bohemian National Hall, key figures of Czech history and the events relating to them.

Like in the previous years, the tours started on the rooftop of the building, where visitors learned about the Little Bohemia neighborhood, inhabited primarily by Czech and Slovak émigrés. The tour continued on to the Ballroom on the fourth floor, often referred to as the hidden gem of the building, which is adorned with the words “Národ sobě” (The Nation For Itself) above the stage curtain. The same words are written above the curtain in the National Theatre in Prague as well. The tour’s participants were also shown the third floor, where the theme was famous Czechs in the US. They toured the library of the Václav Havel Library Foundation, one of two libraries in the building, visited the presentation of Jan W. Drnek’s work mentioned above, and attended a brief talk about the composer Antonín Dvořák, prepared by the Dvořák American Heritage Association in the Dvořák Room. On the second floor, where the Czech Center is located, the participants had a chance to see our gallery and view an exhibition focused on the premieres of Václav Havel’s plays. At the end of the tour, they could choose to watch a short presentation video made by the CzechTourism agency showing the beauty of the Czech Republic.

About four hundred people participated in over 50 tours during the course of eight hours. “New York City appreciated our efforts and it was a great pleasure for us. We were glad that the organizers of Open House New York thanked us for our openness and kindness with which we welcomed our guests immediately after the event ended. They confessed that many of the OHNY volunteers working at other spots in New York hurried to the Bohemian National Hall to see this extraordinary landmark,” says Miroslav Konvalina, director of the Czech Center in New York, about the successful Open House.

Open House New York, a project founded by Scott Lauer in 2001, is focused on engaging New Yorkers with the city’s architecture, public spaces, and the future of urban life. The project as we know it now first took place in 2003 and 84 sites in all five boroughs were included. More than 300 volunteers helped out. Since the inaugural year, the event has grown exponentially, increasing its outreach and audience participation, the number of sites, talks, and tours, and developing additional thematic and interpretive programming. The 2017 OHNY Weekend had more than 250 participating sites and tours with an estimated 80,000 visitors and more than 1,000 registered volunteers.

foto: Jana Drnkova


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