To Freedom: Biographies

Special project of art and live music to humanize a region of recent conflicts
In this Section

Artist Biographies

Riivo Kruuk

Instagram | Website

Working in oils, spray paint, and digitally, Riivo Kruuk’s work represents conflict, machismo, and struggle with a presence of youthfulness and hope. Using graffiti to represent the colorful grit of where he grew up, he rejects toxic masculinity with the use of the archetypal feminine motif of the verdant. Creating a middle-ground.
Riivo Kruuk was born in 1998 and grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. He graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor in Fine Arts with Focus in Painting in 2020. Since graduating he continuously gathers a list of group shows in Charleston, Miami, and NYC. 

Currently living and working in Fort Myers, Florida, USA.

Artist statement: Reflecting on my work I notice that duality has been a constant theme. For me, this body of work is to inform but also to open discourse about the in between that gaps polar opposites. Masculine/ feminine, movement/stillness, the former/the contemporary. I feel as though this is the space which I dwell within, I have never identified as completely one thing or another and I believe that is why this theme is inescapable in my work.

In the last year, Riivo has been in numerous exhibitions including: two solo shows; 'Kalevipoeg' at Julia Deckman Studios as well as 'Il Calcio E Guerra' at Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston SC. His work was also shown in three group exhibitions, two being for the GAP Gallery in Charleston, SC as well the 'SPARK' Invitational hosted at the Public Works Art Center in Summerville, SC. He won the Young Artist of the Year Award and Grant from the Estonian Cultural Foundation this year as well. Recent publications include an interview by the EestiVabaSõna Press as well as a full-spread interview in the West Of: Free Press. 

Christina Shmigel

Instagram | Art Catalogue

Growing up as the child of Ukrainians displaced by WW II, Artist Christina Shmigel felt herself to be something of a foreigner in America; in order to understand her place in the surrounding culture, she became an observer. It is this habit of being that informs her artistic practice. As she has moved in the course of her career from place to place, she has engaged in collecting and interpreting the architecture and material culture of that particular place. Her work is informed by the experiences of loss & longing, dislocation and reinvention that define the refuge experience.

After completing a BFA in Painting at RISD ’80, Shmigel earned an MFA in Sculpture from Brooklyn College ’87 & an MFA in Metals from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale ’93. She was Associate Professor of Sculpture at Webster University from 1995-2005. From 2004-2017, Shmigel lived and worked in Shanghai, China. Her 12-year project, The Foreigner’s Cabinet of Chinese Curiosities, named after Chinese tourist guides featuring the “curiosities” of various regions of the country and housed in a cabinet for TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is an archive of the material culture of Shanghai in the years of its most radical growth. The 64 drawers of the Cabinet can be explored here.

Shmigel’s exhibitions include solo installations for the St Louis Art Museum (2002), Laumeier Sculpture Park in St Louis (2005), Duolun Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai (2006) and group exhibitions at The Ukrainian Museum in NYC (2016-2017) and the Ukrainian Institute for Modern Art in Chicago (2018-9). She is represented by Bruno David Gallery in St Louis.


Monika Weiss Artist Portrait
Polish American artist Monika Weiss / Monika Weiss

Monika Weiss


Over the past twenty-five years, the prominent New York-based Polish artist Monika Weiss (b. 1964, Warsaw, Poland) has developed a transdisciplinary practice composed of sound, moving image, sculpture, performance and drawing. Recurring material and conceptual motives in Monika Weiss’ work include sonic space, water, the body, slow movement, doubling and gestures of lament, performed and choreographed in response to collective trauma. Her synesthetic art resists closure as it explores states of transformation and oscillates, as Mark McDonald (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) noted, “between proposal and presence, the allusive and the tangible”.

Weiss’ work has been featured in over 90 international solo and group exhibitions. It has been written about in numerous books and publications including The New York Times, ARTnews, and Art in America. Weiss’ solo museum exhibitions include the 2005 retrospective at the Lehman College Art Gallery (CUNY) Five Rivers, reviewed in The New York Times, as well as Sustenazo, commissioned by the Centre of Contemporary Art Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw, Poland (2010), later travelling to the Museum of Memory & Human Rights, Santiago, Chile (2012-2013) and the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami (2014). In 2004 Remy Toledo Gallery, New York, in cooperation with Galerie Samuel Lallouz, Montréal, organized a two-person exhibition of Carolee Schneemann and Monika Weiss. The artist’s works have been shown in group exhibitions alongside artists including Louise Bourgeois, Ana Mendieta, Mona Hatoum and Shirin Neshat, at venues such as Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Athens, Greece (international video art survey directed by Robert Storr, 2016); Eyebeam, New York (with Alan Sondheim, 2012), Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation/CIFO, Miami (Forms of Classification: Alternative Knowledge and Contemporary Art , 2006; The Prisoner’s Dilemma, 2008), Drawing Now: Between The Lines of Contemporary Art, Loughborough University, UK, and was part of Prague’s Muzeum Montanelli (MuMo) ’s inaugural show in 2010. Weiss’ recent sound installation Metamorphosis (2021) has been featured in a survey of Polish feminist art at A.I.R. Gallery, New York (2022) and reviewed by ARTnews.

In 2021 a new bi-lingual monograph Monika Weiss - Nirbhaya was published by The Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko, with texts including feminist art historian Griselda Pollock, The Met curator Mark McDonald, and the acclaimed Indian American poet Meena Alexander. Other recent publications include a chapter in Guy Brett’s The Crossing of Innumerable Paths: Essays on Art (London: Ridinghouse, 2019). As part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art series Artists on Artworks, a 30 min. film with Monika Weiss speaking on her work and on the work of Goya, premiered in 2021. Since 2011 the artist divides her time between her New York studio and her professorship at Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University in St. Louis.

Devoted to forgotten victims of everyday gendered violence Weiss’ monument/antimonument Nirbhaya is planned to open in 2023 at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, the Gateway to the United Nations in New York, for several months duration.

– Written by Katarzyna Falęcka


Performer Biographies

Ganna Berge, dancer and choreographer
Ganna Berge, UW-Stout lecturer of mathematics; also dancer and choreographer / Ganna Berge

Ganna Berge, dancer and choreographer

Ganna founded Swan Lake Ballet Studio in May 2011. Starting at a young age, she began practicing classical ballet six hours a day, four days a week in Ukraine. She won first place in the festival Pearl of Crimea in Foros, Crimea. At 14, Ganna moved to the United States where she attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and performed with the Bay Area Houston Ballet Theater (BAHBT) in Houston, TX. She received the Graded Division Award and Certificate for successfully completing skill level three in the art of ballet in May 2003. After relocating to Wisconsin, Ganna volunteered for the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Chippewa Valley in 2007 to organize the program Move It. While attending University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, she participated with the Concert Dance Company where she choreographed and danced classical ballet. Ganna earned a Master in Education with a dance Minor degree from the UWEC. She teaches at UW-Stout and at Swan Lake Ballet Studio after graduation.

Ganna Ensemble & Swan Lake Ballet Studio


Swan Lake Ballet Studio brings the community new opportunities to see the beauty of classical ballet by performing at the Downtown Eau Claire community International Fall Festival and more! Students learn dance choreography and perform at local festivals.


Jerry Hui, conductor


Jerry (Chiwei) Hui is the founder, director and conductor of many ensembles throughout the years; past affiliations include early music ensemble Eliza's Toyes (Madison, WI), contemporary performance arts group New Music Everywhere (Madison, WI), the Menomonie Singers, and the Madison Early Music Festival. He is currently teaching choir, general music, and arts administration at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and is the director of Schola Cantorum of Eau Claire and the Chippewa Valley Festival Choir. Besides being an active vocalist and conductor, Mr. Hui is also an award-winning composer of chamber music, choral works and opera, whose music has been performed in the United States, Germany, France, Scotland, Indonesia, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Schola Cantorum of Eau Claire performing at Woodlake Nature Center, Minneapolis MN.
Schola Cantorum of Eau Claire / Karl Koehle

Schola Cantorum of Eau Claire


Schola Cantorum of Eau Claire is a 12-voice chamber ensemble in the Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley area dedicated to the historically informed performance of a cappella vocal music of the medieval, renaissance, and baroque.

Founded in fall of 2014, Schola has been presenting two programs per year, with themes ranging from the sacred to the profane. Besides performing in Eau Claire, Menomonie, and Chippewa Falls, the ensemble has been invited to sing for the Madison Diocese, and featured at the Madison Early Music Festival and Wisconsin Choral Directors Association Winter Conference.