We are grateful for your support regarding the Mutual Inspirations Festival 2017 – Gregor Mendel!
This year, the annual festival was an enormous success celebrating the posthumously yet internationally recognized father of modern-day genetics, Gregor Johann Mendel, who was born and conducted his groundbreaking research on pea plants on the same land he sowed and loved, today’s Czech Republic.
With over twenty events at prominent venues such as Georgetown University, the Kennedy Center, the National Gallery of Art, the US Botanic Garden, the Avalon Theatre, and many more, we were thrilled to bring science closer to the wider public audience through an intellectually stimulating symposium and several lectures on Mendel’s legacy and contemporary ethical issues and possibilities in modern genetics as well as an inspiring musical garden series, exclusive fashion show of wearable art, thought-provoking film screenings of great experimenters, and a colorful exhibition on the vast achievements of Czech scientists.
From peas to petri dishes, we personally thank you and the hundreds of people who joined us in the name of Gregor Mendel to celebrate the monumental discoveries and contributions to science and the arts by the people of the Czech Republic and the United States of America.
We look forward to celebrating our mutual influences again next year.
Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States of America
On November 8, the Embassy of the Czech Republic closed the Mutual Inspirations Festival 2017-Gregor Mendel with the lecture Stem Cells at the Dawn of New Medicine: From Peas to Petri Dishes, by Hynek Wichterle of Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Wichterle talked about his groundbreaking methods for producing spinal cord neurons from pluripotent embryonic stem cells in a culture dish. The process faithfully recapitulates normal embryonic development, providing a unique opportunity to study and experimentally probe nerve cells in a controlled environment outside an embryo. His lab also capitalizes on the unlimited source of spinal neurons to study motor neuron degenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease), with the goal of discovering new drugs for these currently untreatable and devastating conditions. Hynek Wichterle is the grandson of the famous chemist Otto Wichterle who is credited with the invention of contact lenses. The Embassy also has the exhibition, Czech Scientists and Their Inventions, on view in the main hall until the end of November. It was an inspiring night of science at the Czech Embassy.
Czech-Canadian singer Lenka Lichtenberg performed songs from her latest album Masaryk, including Láska, bože láska (Love, God Love) and Dobrú noc má milá (Goodnight my dear) on November 2, at the Czech Embassy. Guests sang along to her rendition of Anděl (Angel), originally made popular by Czech singer Karel Kryl, and the jazzy song Zivot je jen náhoda by the great Czech composer Jaroslav Ježek. She gave a moving performance of Želení hájové (Green Grove), a poetic song of reflection and love lost. She also performed one of her original songs Open My Eyes, featuring a mixture of musical influences from the people she has met while in Canada. With a voice for the ages, this award-winning artist melds innovative expressions of traditional song with her own contemporary compositions, combining folk, jazz and world into a unique celebration of her roots.
Czech pianist Tomáš Kačo performed the program Sounds of Moravia featuring such folk songs as "Čerešničky" (Small Cherries), "Maličká su" (I'm a Little Girl) and "Beskyde, Beskyde." He also treated the audience to his original composition "Hope". To finish the program, he performed the memorable classic song "Over the Rainbow" by Harold Arlen at the Czech Embassy on October 18, which he beautifully arranged. Through his performance, Kačo captivated the audience with his unigue style - an interesting fusion of folk, classical, jazz and gypsy music weaved into the sounds of Moravia.
Over a hundred guests delighted in a unique evening highlighting the scenic beauty, enchanting music, and, above all, delicious quality wines of the South Moravian Region of the Czech Republic at the Czech Embassy on October 17. The event began with photos of breathtaking landscape of chateaus and lush vineyards, with opening remarks by Tomáš Soukal, a Member of the South Moravia Council, and detailed information by Pavol Foltín, a Member of the Office of the Governor of South Moravia.
The engaging and educational exhibition Czech Scientists and Their Inventions, composed of caricatures of leading Czech scientists and their most famous discoveries, was opened at the Embassy of the Czech Republic on the evening of October 10. The opening was preceded by a very perceptive lecture by Dr. Jakub Kostal, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at The George Washington University, who provided comparative as well as personal insight into the education and research systems in the United States and the Czech Republic. The audience then had the opportunity to learn about great Czech scientific triumphs, including a Nobel Prize recognition for chemistry, thanks to the exhibit from the Czech Academy of Sciences.
Czech jazz guitarist Libor Šmoldas performed in the Embassy garden songs from his album "Blue, Smoldas Plays Ježek." Ambassador Hynek Kmoníček opened the event, speaking about the influence of the Czech jazz great Jaroslav Ježek. The evening included Libor's original arrangements of Ježek's songs, including "Tmavomodrý svět" (Dark Blue World) and "Klobouk ve křoví" (Hat in the Bushes). He further spoke about the life of the Czech jazz legend, who was blind and died at the early age of 35, but left a huge impression on the jazz scene. Libor said, "Before I fell in love with the music of Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Miles Davis and other greats of American jazz, I listened to jazz of premium quality and yet wholly Czech – music of a genius musician, Jaroslav Ježek – I loved it." Libor even performed a special song from before WWII, a reflection and meditation unfurled through the beautifully strummed strings. In the garden of the Czech Embassy, under the canopy of the trees, the audience applauded the exceptional performance.
U.S. Mandolin Playing Champion Radim Zenkl performed an unforgettable concert in the Conservatory of the U.S. Botanic Garden on September 29. During the performance, Zenkl featured original music crossing the tracks of folk, bluegrass, jazz, new age, flamenco, gypsy, and classical music, combined with Czech and Eastern European traditional songs and instrumentals. The Czech American musician played on an array of instruments: mandolin, mandola, ethnic flutes, and didgeridoo. During the intermission, guests also walked through the garden, a mystical experience at night in Washington, DC. Guests also were treated to special performances by local artists. Zenkl concluded the evening performing his “Zenkl style” technique, in which a single mandolin sounds like two. A standing ovation greeted him as he finished performing.
Czech American Radim Zenkl, a Slavic tree enthusiast, gave a lecture about Central and Eastern European trees to an intimate gathering at the U.S. Botanic Garden on September 29. He specifically spoke about the Slavic trees: oak, linden, and birch. Over the years, he mentioned that trees have impacted our lives. For example, leaves have a long tradition of being used for medicinal purposes. Hollowed out trees have provided secret storage or hiding spaces. Zenkl mentioned how trees were a refuge for those trying to dodge the military draft. He further continued speaking about how trees are entwined in our folklore and the cycle of life. "The linden tree (tilia cordata, small-leaved linden/lime tree) is the national tree of the Czech Republic. The tree itself lives for many years and has heart-shaped leaves," he noted. Zenkl passed around to the audience a variety of leaves from the different types of trees. He finished the lecture performing on instruments made from a selection of wood from the trees. The roots of our past and present are connected to these trees, keeping and sharing secrets for generations to come.
The Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Czech Republic, held a symposium with an overview of the founding of genetics by Gregor Mendel as well as today’s most pertinent issues in genetics and healthcare and their ethical implications inside the stunning Fisher Colloquium at Georgetown University on September 28, 2017.
Photo (left to right): Kevin T. FitzGerald, Susan L. Crockin, Beth N. Peshkin, Ondřej Dostál, LeRoy B. Walters, and Laura Bishop
Director of the Mendel Museum Ondrej Dostal and Dr. Marnie Halpern of the Carnegie Institution for Science captivated the audience at the Czech Embassy in the evening on September 27 with fascinating lectures on the work of the founder of genetics – Gregor Mendel – and his impact on America and the world, raising endless possibilities in genetics and medicine as well as ethical questions.
The 8th annual Mutual Inspirations Festival began with nothing less than a big bang on September 21! Before a full hall of green pea color dressed audience, Ambassador of the Czech Republic Hynek Kmoníček opened the festival with remarks about this year’s celebrated Czech personality and founder of modern genetics, Gregor Mendel. Then, Villanova University Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Edward Guinan gave a fascinating lecture on Beyond Peas and Genetics - Gregor Mendel’s “Other” Sciences: Bees, Sunspots, Meteorology and Tornadoes.
Dr. Renata Laxova, a Holocaust survivor and renowned Czech-American geneticist, shared her life story at the Czech Embassy in an intimate setting of over 100 people on September 18, 2017.
Laxova, who was born into a Jewish family, began with her tragic memories of life in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1938 as her “normal” childhood was uprooted and destroyed while Hitler’s power strengthened. She recounted meeting a couple, whose children were cold-heartedly murdered by the Nazis during Kristallnacht in neighboring Vienna. Fearing the worst, her parents put Laxova, who was just 8 years old, on a train along with other children in August 1939, the 8th and last special transport organized by Sir Nicholas Winton which safely made it to England. “To this day, every time I meet an 8 year old, I think about that time,” Laxova said, contemplating the difficult decision her parents made as they sent her off into the unknown, blindly trusting the “British Committee for Children in Prague,” an entity they never met. Laxova then detailed her life in refuge with her foster family and her eternal bond with them. Laxova’s parents miraculously survived the Holocaust, albeit seeing and enduring sheer terror and inhumanity.
The Washington Diplomat published an article in their online Diplomatic Pouch about the recent fashion collection TRANSLATIONS by Iva Pfeiffer held at the Ambassador's residence. In the article, Iva said the best comments she got after the fashion show were from people who praised the pieces for their wearability. The article further reveals the inspiration behind the new collection.“I’m very much inspired by travelling,” she said. “This time, I was inspired by India, the block print and [the color] indigo. We have the indigo dye in the Czech Republic as well. I find it sort of intuitive in a way because I grew up with the blue print.” Check out the article by reporter Carrie Snurr online.
Photo: Fashion Designer Iva Pfeiffer and Ambassador Kmoníček
Czech designer Iva Pfeiffer held an exclusive fashion show at the residence of Czech Ambassador Hynek Kmoníček and his wife Indira Gumarova on September 12 in Washington, previewing her newest collection TRANSLATIONS: Design Moving Between Cultures, which will be featured at Milan Fashion Week later this month. “I want to create wearable art,” says Iva Pfeiffer, who graduated last year from Raffles College of Design and Commerce in Sydney, Australia. Already, she has made a name for herself at New York Fashion Week and as one of only fifteen designers throughout the world chosen for a Mater Class at the Arts of Fashion Foundation in Paris in 2014. At the residence, fifteen multicultural models strutted down the grand staircase showcasing 20 garments in indigo blue, white, and silver, ranging from jumpsuits, to cocktail and evening wear, in the spring/summer 2018 collection. The fashion show was a prelude to the Mutual Inspirations Festival 2017- Gregor Mendel, focusing on the inspirations between Czech and American Cultures.
For the year and in the fall of 2017, the Mutual Inspirations Festival honors Gregor Johann Mendel, the father of modern-day genetics.
Although his revolutionary deductions were not recognized in his lifetime, Mendel died convinced that his conclusions would one day be accepted for their contribution to "the developmental history of organic forms." Today, the brilliant Augustinian scientist, hailing from what is now the Czech Republic, is posthumously recognized worldwide for his years of tedious experimentation, utter detail and, of course, pioneering principles of inheritance, the foundation of genetics. His work has inspired every continent, even Antarctica is home to the Mendel Polar Station, the Czech Republic’s research base.
The Mutual Inspirations Festival hopes to inspire all this fall.