By Tom Tolen /

It’s time to talk about beautiful, colorful and intricately crafted Ukrainian Easter eggs.

You say Easter is over, and that’s old news? Actually, it’s very current news. Most Ukrainians - 71%, in fact - identify themselves as Orthodox Christians, and this year the Orthodox faith doesn’t celebrate Easter until this Sunday, April 24th - one week after other branches of Christianity.

Local artist Cindy Mitchell, along with partner Victor Bertl, are co-owners of the Art Learning Center and Gallery in Pinckney. Bertl is an engineer, not an artist, and invested in the venture to help Cindy, a long-time friend. He tells WHMI it’s his first entrepreneurial experience, and he did it “to give (her) a chance to show her art and be a teacher, they are her joys.”

Mitchell and Bertl originally opened the Art Learning Center in March of 2019 but were forced to shut down just a short time later due to the COVID pandemic. Since they have reopened, they have enjoyed a steady stream of clients, with many people enrolling in their classes, including students from the nearby Light of the World Academy.

In addition to Mitchell and Bertl, artist Carol Paison holds art classes there and recently finished conducting classes in Ukrainian egg making at the studio. Fashioning Ukrainian or other varieties of decorated eggs is an ancient art form called pysanky. It's an involved process, for which one needs several tools, including a wax pen or stylus, a beeswax candle, six dyes of varying colors and beeswax.

With Ukraine having been invaded by Russia almost two months ago, interest in preserving the classical art form is increasing. According to legend, the more people in the world who continue to teach and make pysanky, the less chance evil will prevail.

While the ancient craft - up to 5,000 years old - started in what is now Ukraine, Mitchell stresses that decorated eggs are not uniquely a Ukrainian tradition. Creating pysanky is also practiced in other Slavic and Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and Belarus.

The studio, in addition to displays of pysanky, also shows and sells paintings, pottery and other creations by area artists. Toward that end, periodic art shows are held, and this Friday, the Second Annual Student Art Show will take place. Over 30 students from kindergarten to high school are entered in the competition, with the show to take place from 4 to 7 p.m. The competition will be broken into age groups, with the winners to receive certificates and art supplies.

The Art Learning Center and Gallery is located at 125 Pearl St., a half-block north of M-36, in Pinckney.