SLA is the acronym in Lithuanian for LAA, the Lithuanian Alliance of America.
SLA/LAA is the oldest American Lithuanian Organization still active today. The exhibition displays SLA/LAA’s unique and original artifacts and memorabilia, which contextualize the rich historical evolution of the organization from its inception in 1886. SLA/LAA germinated via Dr. Jonas Šliupas’s editorial: Lietuviškas balsas/Lithuanian Voice, where mutual ideas and concerns were shared and the concept of SLA/LAA was born. Eastern Europe’s turbulence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries displaced many Lithuanians from their homeland. This amplified the importance to safeguard language and culture, endow Lithuanian organizations to prosper, and advocate for an independent Lithuania. SLA/LAA became a significant conduit for preservation and political activism establishing chapters across the United States. As a cultural hub, the organization attracted notable Lithuanian activists such as Jonas Basanavicius, Žemaite, Martynas Yčas, Tumas Vaižgantas,. With as many as 350 chapters, the primary dissemination of information took form in the newspaper: Tėvynė.
Launched in 1896 Tėvynė was printed in SLA/LAA’s headquarters and was intended to keep American Lithuanian’s abreast of pertinent information related to Lithuanian culture, politics, economics etc. In more recent publications the use of both Lithuanian and English languages are present. Original copies of Tėvynė will be on display in addition to SLA/LAA insurance forms, member lists, medals, seals, accounting books, photos, correspondence between SLA/LAA members, albums, cultural pamphlets, original Tėvynė printing plates and a selection of books from SLA/LAA’s Collective Library. The library is rich with Lithuanian Literature, especially dating from 1901-1915, when Russian occupied Lithuania was banned from publishing in their native language. This provoked the SLA Collective Library to print their own Lithuanian literature and unify with other American-Lithuanians: the older generation of Idealists, Patriots and the Community to preserve the written language for future generations. As part of the exhibition, you will have an an opportunity to see Jonas Mekas' film Was There a War? - a glimpse into everyday life of Lithuanian immigrants in 1950-1953 America. NY premiere! The film is in Lithuanian language only.
In the graphic arts, photoengraving is used to make printing plates for various printing processes, reproducing a wide variety of graphics such as lettering, line drawings and photographs. These where used for the newspaper Tėvynė.
Over the years SLA/LAA has reshaped itself according to its cultural needs. At one point it transformed from a fraternal coalition to an insurance company, fiscally aiding those in need and investing capital into Lithuanian cultural activities. The organization bought property, built churches, created Lithuanian schools, supported students, orphans and Lithuanian culture. In 2015, SLA/LAA created Sla307 Art Space as an art department, that organizes art exhibitions, literary events, concerts, lectures and film screenings.
Today, the building is more then an archive, it is a living organism of a very old culture and a vital component that makes up part of New York City’s culture and history. Next year, February 16, 2018, marks the 100th Anniversary of Lithuania’s Independence, a milestone for all Lithuanians and of SLA/LAA 130th anniversary, who was a seminal advocate for Lithuania’s independence and preservation.
We hope to see you at the exhibition!