Athenian’s Society of NY Celebrates Greek Independence Day with Cultural Evening (Pics)

March 19, 2019

ASTORIA – In celebration of Greek Independence Day, March 25, 1821, the Athenian’s Society of New York presented a cultural evening which including the screening of a historical documentary, Walks in Ottoman Athens, and an art exhibition featuring works by eight artists from the community on March 17 at the Kefalonian Society of America “Kefalos” in Astoria.

The program began with welcoming remarks by the Athenian’s Society President Vana Kontomerkou who also presented an introduction to the history of Athens as a prelude to the documentary film screening. The documentary featured Dr. Maria Efthymiou, Professor at the University of Athens, discussing the history of the Greek capital city through the years of Ottoman oppression and the Greek War of Independence and into the modern era. Most of those in attendance appreciated the documentary and the professor’s perspective, but some criticized the film as being “too soft” on the Ottoman Empire.

Dr. Efthymiou’s discussion in the film was highlighted with visits to well-known and some not so well-known sites in Athens, bringing the historic city, its social strata, and its culture in previous centuries to life. Among the places visited, the Church of St. Demetrios where Athanasios Diakos, one of the heroes of 1821, actually served as Diakos (Deacon). Efthymiou noted that not only is Athens a symbol of Greece, but it is also a cherished symbol for all of western civilization.

A reception with coffee and desserts followed the documentary which was then followed by the art exhibition and a presentation by the artists.

Society President Kontomerkou thanked all those present for participating in the cultural evening and especially thanked the Kefalos Society for the space. She then introduced Dora Lagos, Athenian’s Society Board Member, who introduced the artists.

The first artist presented was Fr. Ioannis Antonopoulos, whose charming oil paintings inspired by Greek nature were on display. He noted that the couch does a great deal of harm and keeping active through the arts is important for health, well-being, and the soul. Fr. Antonopoulos pointed out that he is 85 years old and we should honor God’s gift, art, whether it is painting, singing, attending art exhibitions because these things make life worthwhile.

The youngest artist, 11-year-old Melina Cantagallo, who happens to be the granddaughter of another artist in the exhibition, Anna Neofotistos, gave her presentation next. Cantagallo spoke in Greek about her love of art and painting in particular and pointed out that most of the works on display in this exhibition were created at home, but she also has a folder of works she created at school for those interested in seeing more of her work. Cantagallo’s acrylic and watercolor paintings on canvas and paper show an extraordinary maturity for such a young artist. Neofotistos told The National Herald that granddaughter Melina has been accepted into National Youth Leadership Forum: Pathways to STEM program at St. John’s University this summer.

Dominici Chontrogiannis presented her decorative candles which she creates using soothing scents. Artist and teacher Efterpi Giatrakis then spoke about her enchanting works, acrylic and oil paintings on wood, pointing out that she makes old wood items look new and new items look like antiques, transforming them through her art.

Anna Neofotistos with beautiful acrylic paintings on canvas and classically-inspired sculptures on display in the exhibition, demonstrating an impressive versatility, spoke about how her artistic journey began at a young age on her native island of Skopelos. She noted that although the path of art may be one that you travel alone, you are never lonely, since art is always with you. Neofotistos also pointed out that this is not the first exhibition for her granddaughter Melina, who also exhibited work with her at age six. With an impressive array of acrylic, oil, and watercolor paintings in the exhibition, Yiannis Nomikos noted that he started out in ceramics and then later began painting. He studied at the Art Students League in Manhattan and has painted many works for the Greek community. His painting of fresh figs led one viewer to comment that the figs were so realistically depicted they looked good enough to eat. Nomikos has a studio in New York and in Greece where he will soon be traveling to prepare for upcoming exhibitions.

Athenian’s Society Executive Board Secretary Marianthi Papafragkou spoke about her unique copper art pieces and the ancient roots of the art form, while the final artist presentation was by the Society’s Vice President Τasos Mouzakis whose paintings feature themes from nature and life.

Society President Kontomerkou gave the closing remarks, thanking all those present for attending the cultural evening and supporting the arts in the community.


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