Kandis Friesen, “Monuments / Monumental” 2017, still from HD video (15 minutes, color, silent), courtesy of the artist. 
Kandis Friesen, “Monuments / Monumental” 2017, still from HD video (15 minutes, color, silent).  Credit: Courtesy of the artist

Since the Russian invasion in February, Chicagoans have opened their eyes, minds, hearts, and wallets in support of Ukraine through visual and performing arts offerings presented this year. 

Cultural Shows Benefitting Ukrainian Efforts 
Steppenwolf Theatre Company, in partnership with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America – Illinois Division, raised more than $12,000 in the spring of 2022. Funds to support the war-torn country were collected during each performance of ensemble member Yasen Peyankov’s “Seagull” based on the Anton Chekhov play.

“In these stressful times, the financial contributions for humanitarian aid to Ukraine by the theater community and audiences restores our faith and hope in the better angels of our society,” said Dan Diaczun, President of the UCCA – Illinois Division.

Steppenwolf also raised more than $83,000 for Save the Children’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund by donating a portion of the ticket sales from its Broadway production of “The Minutes” by ensemble member Tracy Letts.

“We thank our patrons for their generosity,” noted Steppenwolf Theatre Executive Director Brooke Flanagan. “And encourage everyone to continue to support UCCA-IL’s critical outreach initiatives.” To donate to UCCA – Illinois Division, visit uccaillinois.org.

Lighthouse Immersive Associate Producer Valeriy Kostyuk worked with the National Museum of Taras Shevchenko in Kyiv to present the work of Ukrainian artist, poet and philosopher Taras Shevchenko in “Immersive Shevchenko: Soul of Ukraine” at Chicago’s Lighthouse ArtSpace.

“I always wanted to find a way to use my experiences producing in North America to promote Ukrainian artists,” explained Ukraine-born Kostyuk. “I have been moved and inspired beyond words by the endurance and resilience of the Ukrainian people in this moment and I am deeply thankful to the incredible team in Ukraine who partnered with me on this project, as well as to the producers at Lighthouse Immersive for standing with me in this moment.” 

The one-day showings of this exhibit in Chicago, Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto generated more than $200,000 for the National Bank of Ukraine and the Red Cross Humanitarian Crisis Appeal Fund to Benefit Ukraine.

“We were blown away by the generosity and curiosity of North Americans with this initiative,” said Lighthouse Immersive Producer Corey Ross. “The words and art of Taras Shevchenko are emblematic of the bravery we are witnessing from Ukrainians today.”

Mahyar Amir. “Make Love Not War” 2022, courtesy of the artist. 

Additional Exposure to Ukrainian-Inspired Art, Artists and Activists
Toronto-based artist Mahyar Amiri’s shows solidarity for Ukraine with “Make Love Not War,” a 5’x 5’ outdoor mural. The work was created to highlight the “innocence of a child in today’s society,” explained Mahyar. “Kids represent purity. They have no intention of war or hurting others. Their life is simply joy and happiness, and I wanted to depict that in the mural, because right now that’s what Ukraine needs. Art is a universal language that anyone, from anywhere around the world, including Chicago, can understand.”

The Kyiv City Ballet of Ukraine came to Chicago for the first time ever, dancing at the Auditorium Theatre in September, while the Weinberg/Newton Gallery and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois presented “All that Glows in the Dark of Democracy,” an exhibition that featured Kandis Friesen’s video on Ukraine entitled Monuments / Monumental (2017).

A new video from the Animal Rescue Kharkiv can be viewed online to raise awareness of the Global Compassion Fund and assist PETA Germany.

Same-sex attraction is celebrated in “The First Homosexuals: Global Depictions of a New Identity, 1869-1930” (through Jan. 28, 2023) at Wrightwood 659.  “We are particularly proud to show a collection of early Russian queer works borrowed from the Odesa Fine Arts Museum in Ukraine, amidst the ongoing war, helping to safeguard these important pieces of queer history from potential damage or destruction,” noted Chirag G. Badlani, Executive Director of Alphawood Foundation Chicago, which is presenting the exhibition.

More than 500 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures by 20th century Ukrainian artists are on permanent display at Chicago’s Ukrainian National Museum which provides workshops and other interactive events designed to preserve the country’s culture.

Janet Arvia

Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.