As the war in Ukraine spread in March of 2022, citizens in Lviv began removing paintings from museum walls and covering statues in protective material in an effort to protect historic works of art. Around the same time, an open-source list of Ukraine-based creatives circulated among global artist networks to connect people to work opportunities. Upon learning about these two very different efforts to support and preserve the artistic work, Alight, an international humanitarian organization working with those displaced by the war, decided to create a new program that would support the basic needs of Ukrainian artists and designers, while providing space for creative expression. “A life is filled with joy, dignity, connection and purpose,” the organization states in its mission. “And that’s what we aim to build.”
Titled Aid2Art, the program provided hundreds of unconditional cash transfers of $1,000 to Ukrainian creatives, giving a lifeline to families who had lost substantial income due to the war. Artists were also invited to submit works on the theme “Iconic Ukraine.” The works, including photography, paintings and graphic design, soon became part of a virtual gallery showcasing a wide variety of interpretations of the theme: A firefighter tackles a raging inferno; a curtain catches a gust of wind through a window; a little girl shelters behind wooden shutters; a person looks to the sky as if hopeful for a future without war.
The online gallery, Aid2Art.org, is open to all, and sales of the works benefit Ukrainian artists. One contributing artist said her piece was inspired by a lyric from a popular song by the Ukrainian band Kazka: “She cried and the violet blossomed again…” The song reminded her of her past life before the war; then, she would imagine women crying for various reasons. “Now, we cry more than before,” she says. “We are often ashamed of our tears or hold it back. Sometimes, we manage to break free, sing and cry, and it helps.”
“Each piece of work came with a powerful description bringing it to life,” said Shamaila Usmani, Creative Connector at Alight. “Beauty and creative expression are such a big part of our work. We see beauty and creativity as ways to bring humanity together. Just because someone is going through an unprecedented tough time doesn’t mean these things aren’t of value to them.”
Masha Raymers, “Ukranian Soul.” April 2022
From the artist: “In this photo project I wanted to show who Ukrainians are and what are values and soul state.”
Mariia Lytovchenko, “Chumaks Way.”
From the artist: “In the Ukrainian Milky Way is called the Chumaks Way. It is named after the Chumaks, Ukrainian merchants who brought salt, fish and other products over long distances. The constellation of the Milky Way has always been the landmark in their long journey — it always shown them the way). The chumak way of life set a great mark on Ukrainian folklore, language band overall culture.”