Skip to main content

From Latvia to America

A Christian refugee agency earns a mention in a Met Breuer museum exhibit featuring acclaimed artist Vija Celmins

From Latvia to America

Vija Celmins (screen grab from video)

A New York moment: 

The Met Breuer (the contemporary arm of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art) has a wonderful show now from artist Vija Celmins, who draws intricate pencil renderings of waves, paints the sky, and makes replicas of rocks. She also has drawn airplanes exploding, and painted a man running from a burning car, allusions to her war-torn childhood. 

Celmins was born in Latvia in 1938, and Soviets invaded soon after she was born. Her family had to flee when she was 5 years old, toward the end of World War II. They lived in various refugee camps in Germany until a Christian refugee organization, Church World Service, sponsored their resettlement in the United States. 

A Lutheran church group helped the family settle in Indianapolis. Celmins was 9 when she arrived in Indianapolis, where she eventually attended an art school. In the decades since, her star has ascended in the art world. New York press salivated over this new exhibit. 

What surprised me is that the Met exhibit has a section that credits the Christian organization that brought the Celmins family here and the Lutheran church that helped them settle. Now with refugee levels at a historic low under the Trump administration, Church World Service has had to close many of its long-running offices around the country.

Worth your time:  

The Museum of Modern Art has rare footage of New York in 1911, when the streets were still filled with horse-drawn carriages and newsies.

This week I learned: 

New science suggests you should wait until a little later in the season to get the flu shot, because the shot loses some of its effectiveness over time. 

Court cases you might not know about: 

Johnson & Johnson is swamped with litigation over everything from opioids to baby powder to hip implants. 

Culture I am consuming: 

October baseball. It is pure delight to read The Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell, whose childhood as a Washington Senators fan and then career as a baseball writer has led to this moment. It’s the Nationals first trip to the World Series since 1933. 

Email me with tips, story ideas, and feedback at