CAN ART HELP FIGHT A WAR?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
Gainesville, Florida-based public art curator and producer Iryna Kanishcheva (native of Lviv, Ukraine), along with The Florida-based public art platform, Monochronicle, with the support of Shepard Fairey, organised a mural project to fundraise for Ukraine. The design ‘Make Art Not War’ was executed by a team of local artists called Visionary Fam. All the raised money was sent to Ukrainians directly, without any big charities involved.
The war in Ukraine started in 2014 following the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity. The first eight years of the conflict included the annexation of Crimea, cyber attacks, political tension, and the war in Donbas… But it wasn’t covered by the media all the time. That’s why the public art project Art United Us was launched in 2016-2017 to remind people that the war was still going on. About 50 big-scale murals were created, including a mural by Guido van Helton in Avdiivka, a hot spot in East Ukraine. Many artists painted in that dangerous area for the next several years. Read more here.
Famous artists can make a huge impact. Following the success story of attracting media attention to Ukraine through public art, Iryna Kanishcheva decided to create another mural as soon as Russia’s assault with a series of missile attacks began on February 24, 2022. Shepard Fairey, well known for his involvement in social issues, would come to Gainesville in 2020. He had some political ideas for a mural, but it never happened because of the Covid. When asked to paint a mural for Ukraine, they replied that they couldn’t but were releasing the Make Art Not War design for free for non-commercial purposes to support Ukraine. As anybody with the design and a wall could act, the Can Art Help Fight a War team chose one in the most visible location of the town. The mural was painted by local artists, Visionary Fam, with the following unveiling event. The whole project took several months to complete. Some property owners didn’t want to provide space for a mural or support the project financially as it was not benefiting their business. The city of Gainesville’s process does not allocate any money for such a project, and any requests must go through a committee and city commissioners. The wall for the mural was provided by Scott Shillington of The Top, who has been supporting public art in the community for a long time. The mural is at 20 N Main St, Gainesville, FL 32601, by the Wooly event hall.
Apart from this mural intervention, Iryna offered visitors free Borscht (typical soup) and Ukrainian vodka to introduce people to Ukrainian culture. People discussed the situation in Ukraine and were very supportive. As a result, money was raised and immediately sent to some individuals in Ukraine. That helped them get some military supplies and contribute to building repairs.
PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE
Because of this initiative, $3,000 was collected. This money was sent to some individuals directly to provide immediate support instead of choosing big charities. The idea was to show how people can contribute directly by sending small amounts of money and also show Ukrainians that people care here, on the other side of the world. Direct action for direct effect on Ukranians’ life.
● Some individuals could rebuild their homes
● An activist like Vadim Bulik (volunteering since 2014 by evacuating people and delivering medicines and military supplies to the most dangerous areas, also helping to evacuate abandoned animals from the war zone) could buy helmets and other equipment to protect the fighters
● Marina, a volunteer at the humanitarian aid hub in Lviv, could buy shoes and clothes for the soldiers on the frontline, as there is a shortage of such, and better help people coming every day (around 600 refugees)
“One person at the event said, “this mural is not going to help”. And I agreed. Sure. But it’s a great tool for connecting people and raising awareness. Public art can deliver a message, save a moment in history, remind people what’s important and, if used wisely, influence and motivate. Even in a small town like Gainesville, Florida, a small group of people were able to collect some funds and help to buy a helmet, shoes for the frontline soldiers and also contribute to fixing the damaged roof of an apartment complex. Maybe it is just one insignificant action, but there are many of us and we are powerful together.” Iryna Kanishcheva Founder, Monochronicle
A CALL FOR ACTION
Iryna Kanishcheva and all the team of Can Art Help Fight A War sincerely hope that the initiative can be followed in other places worldwide through forums and panel discussions, various media and designs, and public art programs. Highlight the problem of war and misinformation through propaganda, and encourage people to stand against human rights and freedom violations. For example, Iryna Kanishcheva introduced the Can Art Help Fight A War project at The Concert of Colors Forum on Community, Culture & Race in Detroit, MI. It is one of the Arab American National Museum’s signature annual events, a dynamic gathering of artists, activists and advocates who use art and dialogue as a tool for advocacy and community building. This year’s program featured the NO WAR ANYWHERE | How Artists Are Advocating for Peace panel. As the war is not likely to end soon, all the people involved in this project wish to see this powerful image inspiring people worldwide. Let’s make it happen…
Credits Monochronicle, 2022 Music: DakhaBrakha – Khima Vadim Bulik – The War and We Will Win
Click here to learn more about how you can support Ukrainians.
Photo Credits Charles Alan Rye