Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Q56: Help For Struggling Artist?

Doukhobor Artist in U.S. Wants to Study in Canada

From: Michael J. Koftinow, Manteca California

.. I am an artist born and raised in California but whose origins are Doukhobor. My family moved from Russia, to Canada to Manteca, CA and settled there in the early 20th century.

I am interested in the history of the Doukhobors (especially their philosophies on life) and would like to personally learn more about it all.

My artwork relates to the Doukhobor ideals (and I've been doing this for years without even knowing it, I guess the spirit thrives in me) but I was wondering if there are any outlets for a poor artist like myself to visit Canada and learn more about my cultural heritage while making artwork about the Doukhobors philosophies on life, government, and the spirit in us all (like artist residencies/ research grants/ways to get to Canada and learn more about the group).

I know its somewhat of an open ended question, but I am fascinated by the culture and would like to learn more about them. Although the Internet is good for reading about the Doukhobors, I haven't found much in grants or artist residencies for our illustrious culture. If you have any thoughts, I would love to find out.

Update May 24: My motivation for creating art is to investigate the accountability and legitimacy of global policy barons. Therefore, my art objects are about society and sustainability. I combine a variety of media such as: drawing, painting, print, sculpture and installation to create imagery that have a topical narrative to it. The imagery chosen and the way the works are presented is a discussion on contemporary life and current affairs. Topics such as water, environment, economy, waste and abuses of power fluctuate with a cast of characters that range from popes and presidents to peasants and paupers.

Too Big to Fail
In the past, my imagery has focused on challenging authority, corruption, hypocrisy and the big bank rollers who finance it all. However, lately, I am increasingly interested in exploring specific sides of these issues. In concepts that are more focused on the, who, what, when, why and how we can fix it. Nonetheless, my ultimate aspiration is to offer imagery that creates a dialogue with the viewer without jeopardizing personal or artistic integrity.

My work can be considered satirical, topical or political but I think of it as cultural commentary. It is looking at leaders and society with an inquisitive point of view. It is the way I understand the world and I illustrate it with a pop-journalistic point of view.


Michael Koftinow's request is genuine. In my experience, most aspiring artists in North America have difficulties in making a living in a free market environment which tends to favour profitability over serious creativity. I applaud Mike's intent to learn more about the philosophy, culture, and inner spirit of the Doukhobor Movement.

There are a number of Doukhobor artists (professional and striving) who are scattered mostly in Western Canada. Perhaps they or their friends can provide a place to stay for this California artist as he further explores his roots and 'the illustrious culture' as he stated. You may respond to him by contacting me at kjtarasoff@gmail.com.

Another opportunity is to attend the 66th Annual Doukhobor Youth Festival at the Brilliant Cultural Centre, Castlegar, British Columbia, May 18-20, 2013. The sponsoring group (the Union of Youth, USCC) will no doubt invite visitors on stage to say a few words of greetings. Here, then, is an opportunity for Michael Koftinow to make his intent known.

Michael is a graduate with distinction from Sonoma State University with BA's in Painting, Art History, and Art Studio. His Senior Honors Thesis was on 'Jacques-Louis David in Exile'. While working as an educator and art instructor at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in San Rosa, California, Michael was known for his skills in learning new concepts quickly and thinking outside the box. He has also worked as an assistant creative director of a nonprofit group Artstart, helping children to achieve their artistic goals.

  1. Read Koozma J. Tarasoff's Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living (2002). Find articles about many Doukhobor artists.
  2. Write to the editor of Iskra, 1876 Brilliant Rd, Castlegar, British Columbia, Canada V1N 4K2, email at info@iskra.ca, Phone: (250) 365-3613 ext 27 or (250) 442-8252. Iskra needs helpers.
  3. Many articles are online on my website Spirit-Wrestlers.com, and links and stories at Jon Kalmakoff's website Doukhobor.org, like The Manteca Russian Colony. Also search for the names of the few Doukhobor artists I named above. Check Larry Ewashen's website for other stories on the Movement.


  1. I, Fred Samorodin am a Board Member of the Lower Mainland Doukhobor Benevolent Society that manages the independent living residence, the White Birch Manor in North Delta, B.C. We are presently involved in a project to redecorate the common room, called the Harmony Room in the Manor and want to replace 2 framed picture copies of some non-descript landscapes (2 feet and 3 feet)with framed artworks that have a Doukhobor theme that could be donated (unframed) for permanent display in the Harmony Room--a central meeting place for Lower Mainland Doukhobor activities for many years. Please send your pdf files to me :fsamorod@shaw.ca

  2. Lynette R. Koftinow, San Francisco, California, USA17 June 2013 at 13:17

    Hello Koozma

    I had been so honored to receive your wonderful book from my cousin Danny Pictin in Vancouver last July and also a beautiful letter from you.

    I wanted to let you know about the artist (struggling artist from the U.S.A. who wants to visit Canada. Mike Koftinow) you had written about.
    He is one of my dear cousins here in California. Yesterday we got together to share a day of talking about art (I was an artist as well) and seeing his newest series. I thought you would enjoy a couple pictures of us and him.

    I was so happy to hear that he too is interested in learning of his Doukhobor past.

    I was an artist creating trompe l'oeil murals, faux finishes, sculpture commissions for casinos, restaurants, and homes. I also created sculptures that were in galleries. My website has a small sampling of my past work.

    The last three years I have created an organization in the San Francisco Bay area regarding Cetacean (whales, dolphins, porpoises) education and conservation.
    San Francisco Bay Area Chapter American Cetacean Society
    Protecting whales and dolphins since 1967
    American Cetacean Society (ACS) is the oldest whale conservation group in the world. Founded in 1967, it is a non-profit, volunteer membership organization with regional U.S. chapters and members in 22 countries.
    ACS is dedicated to the protection of whales, dolphins, porpoises, and their habitats through education and outreach, conservation advocacy, and facilitating research. We believe the best way to protect cetaceans is by educating the public about these remarkable animals and the problems they face in their increasingly threatened habitats.

    Thank you for all your dedication and work with the Doukhobors. It is wonderful for me to be learning more about my father's past heritage. Blessings.