Artists Pat Marek and Anna Mielniczuk were organizing an exhibition about the Polish-American immigrant experience when bombs started falling in Ukraine. Suddenly, their own show seemed less urgent. They switched plans.
“We were watching this crisis unfold so quickly last Friday, and then Saturday morning, we got on the phone,” Marek said. “We both agreed that we should just drop everything and address this week. There was a sense of urgency. And we wanted to do anything we could do to help.”
Marek, Mielniczuk and around 30 other local artists are joining forces with the nonprofit Chicago Public Art Group to host an art fundraiser to support Ukraine.
Marek said Chicago’s art community was immediately receptive to the fundraiser, and artists were donating new works as late as Friday morning.
The fundraiser will be held in Chicago Public Art Group’s gallery space, 3314 S Morgan St., in Bridgeport. Proceeds will go to three nonprofits: Nova Ukraine, Global Giving Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, and Save the Children.
Works by local artists ranging from handbags to paintings will be offered for sale. It will run from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s a very important cause, so we’re thrilled,” said Chantal Healey, executive director of Chicago Public Art Group. “And quite frankly, it’s kind of amazing how quickly the artist community has responded to this request.”
Mariya Beylikova, a Ukrainian photographer and abstract painter who moved to Chicago seven years ago, is participating in the fundraiser.
Beylikova has seen her hometown destroyed, her parents flee the house she grew up in, the place she attended university devastated and her friends in Kyiv, where she lived for six years, bombarded.
She feels powerless. But through art, she’s doing what she can.
“I’ve always loved my country, my culture and my people. So everything I can do right now for them, to encourage them and send to them, I will do it,” Beylikova said. “It’s my way, with art, to bring peace and to bring help.”
Beylikova, who donated pieces to the fundraiser, will host an art therapy workshop at 4 p.m. Saturday in a studio at 1400 S. Wolf Road, Wheeling, to raise money to help Ukrainians. The workshop will give participants a chance to express their emotions on canvas. The suggested donation is $50.
“We are desperate,” Beylikova said. “We cannot do anything. We cannot be there. So we need to stay together, help each other and relax our minds, at least sometimes. To be supportive to the people in Ukraine right now.”
Healey said the Chicago Public Art Group will look for other ways to help the country.
“We are fully behind the people of Ukraine,” Healey said. “Our hearts go out to them and their families through what they’re going through. It’s very tragic. Very frightening. So we’re happy to be able to help the cause. And yes, we will be looking at other ways that we can continue.”
Editor’s note: This article was updated to correct the spelling of Anna Mielniczuk’s name.