Vermont Arts Council

Arts and Culture Under Siege: Shining a Light on the Spirit of Ukraine

As the Russian forces continue to attack Ukraine, millions of artworks and historical monuments are at risk, jeopardizing a thousand-year-old culture.

The deliberate destruction of the Ivankiv Historical-Cultural Museum, a museum of archaeology, history and visual arts north of Kyiv which was burned to the ground, has drawn international condemnation. Some 25 works by the self-taught Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko (1908–1997) were destroyed in the fire.

Ukrainian scholars are warning of an “unfolding cultural catastrophe,” noted the global arts organization Getty in a statement from James Cuno, the president and chief executive officer of the J Paul Getty Trust.

There are seven world heritage sites in Ukraine, including St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, which contains unique mosaics and frescoes from the early 16th century, and Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, an Orthodox monastery founded in 1051.

As the invasion began on Feb. 24, the Mystetskyi Arsenal National Art and Culture Museum Complex in Kyiv published a list of five actions that international museums can take to show solidarity and support, including highlighting Ukrainian art as a way to communicate the nation’s spirit, ideas, and values.

Here are a few artists we’re highlighting:

Yevgenia Belorusets is a Ukrainian writer, journalist, artist, and photographer who lives between Kyiv and Berlin. She has been documenting the Russian-Ukrainian conflict since 2014 and won the International Literature Prize for her work. She recently published her first work of fiction in the U.S., Lucky Breaks, about women living in the shadow of war in Ukraine. The work was recently featured in a story on National Public Radio.

Alevtina Kakhidze from Donbas documents in sketches the impact of war since the Russian invasion, which began there in 2014. Her work has been exhibited widely in Europe, and she is considered one of the most important figures in the artistic presentation of east Ukraine.

Maria Kulykovska from Crimea who became known through her pro-Ukrainian protest in the St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum. In her project “Crimean raft,” she canoed along the river Dnipro with a raft in 2016 to draw attention to people who had fled from Crimea.

Closer to home, Vermont artists and cultural organizations are doing their part to support Ukraine.

Emerson Gale of Strafford, VT, plays the Ukrainian national anthem as a part of the Ukrainian Play-In from Seven Stars Arts Center.

A Concert to Benefit the Ukraine People. Pianist Boris Berman performs Valentin Silvestrov’s music for solo piano in a performance at 7:30 p.m., May 26, at The Big Barn in Putney. Berman writes, “Undoubtedly, Silvestrov is the most important Ukrainian composer of our time. He attracted attention in 1960s as one of the ‘underground Soviet modernists,’ a group of young composers, which included Schnittke, Denisov, Volkonsky, Gubaidulina, Part, Mansurian, and others. These talented musicians were keen on discovering new ways of musical expression, different from those approved by the Soviet officialdom. They were experimenting with the techniques developed on the other side of the ‘iron curtain.’ Among these diverse musical voices Silvestrov’s was a lyrical, introverted one, looking for delicate shades and nuanced sonorities. In his later years he moved away from modernist techniques, his music became even more introspective and intimate.” The event is hosted by Yellow Barn. Tickets are $35 with 100% of ticket sales benefitting the Ukrainian people. In order to provide support where it is most needed at the time of this event, the benefiting organization will be selected and announced by Yellow Barn on May 22. Proof of Covid-19 vaccination, including booster, is required for attendance, and masks are currently required. Capacity is limited to 70%. Details and tickets.

Clothing for a Cause. When the next batch of Ukrainian-inspired bowties, knotted headbands, and other accessories go on sale at Beau Ties of Vermont, you’ll need to act quickly. Last month, the Middlebury-based apparel maker began creating its signature apparel out of blue and yellow fabrics, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, to raise money for Ukraine. They sold out almost immediately. Profits from the sale are donated to Ukrainian based organizations. Owner Greg Shugar reported in a Seven Days article that the company raised $5,000 with the first fundraiser in early March.

Past Events

Fifty+ Pianists Piano Marathon Benefit Raises $90,000. Sonatina Piano Camps in Old Bennington hosted more than 50 adult amateur pianists (and a few professionals) from across the US and around the world, streaming 50 different compositions by various Ukrainian composers in a marathon session on Saturday, April 23. The live stream lasted for nearly four hours. The music was prerecorded, and a donation of $30 or more to the Ukrainian Crisis Relief Fund was welcomed. The event raised nearly $90,000. “What is unusual about this project is that typically, amateur pianists need many months to learn their music and most are very fearful to perform at all. But, this project helps them feel like they are doing something positive, and music is such a perfect way to express how you’re feeling,” said organizer Polly van der Linde. View the video. And here’s the news story on CBS News.

Play-In for Ukraine. In solidarity with the musicians of Ukraine and to raise awareness of the scope of Ukrainian musical history, in March, Seven Stars Arts Center in Sharon invited people to an unusual opportunity to both listen to and play Ukraine music together while being apart. Musicians could add their pieces to the collection by sending a pre-recorded performance of a Ukrainian composer. Seven Stars Arts provided sheet music on the “Play-In” web page.

Ukrainian Youth Sing to the World. Music to Life in Wilder co-hosted an online event, Brave Troubadours: Ukrainian Youth Sing to the World, on March 24, featuring the work of Music Camp International, which since 2001 has brought music to thousands of children in Romania and Ukraine. A specially curated showcase of live music videos from MCI’s work was shown as well as inspiring reflections from MCI founder Connie Fortunato’s relentless drive to use music as a tool to foster dignity and love in children from all situations in life. Donations will support MCI’s Humanitarian Project for Ukrainian Refugees.

Highland Center for the Arts hosted a Ukrainian Refugee Benefit concert and Slavic singing workshop on March 19. The Marshfield Slavic Singers and FarmSong of Craftsbury/Greensboro/Albany presented a short concert of songs from the Ukrainian region, followed by a workshop of easy to learn two- and three-part songs from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Proceeds benefit Grupa Granitsa, a Polish-based NGO that provides supplies, legal aid, and support for refugees and migrants at the Polish border, and that has a long term record of aiding refugees from Africa, the Middle East, and most recently Ukraine. Bread and Puppet Theater street performers also presented a small show after the concert. Listen to the VPR story.

ArtsRiot in Burlington hosted a Ukrainian benefit show on March 19 with a night of live music plus raffle and silent auction. Among the performers were Barbacoa, Ivamae, Brett Hughes, Ryan Ober & The Romans, Moira Smiley and Lowell Thompson. Proceeds went to Razom for Ukraine and World Central Kitchen.

Have you heard of a Vermont creative project or cultural event to support Ukraine? Please drop us a line and we will help to spread the word.