Artists use their work to support Ukrainian resistance

The violence and suffering in Ukraine as the country is under siege by Russian forces is painfully personal for artist Carolyn Stich, because she knows one of the refugees fleeing the war. 

She remains in contact with a former exchange student whom her family hosted briefly as he was waiting for placement in the Holland School District.

Carolyn Stich is selling merchandise with her sunflower designs to raise funds to support Ukrainian refugees.

“Oleh made such a huge impact on us because he was the nicest young man that we ever met. He was so sweet,” says Stich. “I just feel for him and his family and the people there, and that could be any one of us going through that. I tried to do what I can, which is create art and then hopefully sell a few cards.”

Featuring the sunflower – which has become the symbol of the Ukraine resistance – the cards have sold out and she’s ordering more. She’s donating the proceeds to an organization recommended by her daughter, Rachel Stich, who lives in Atlanta, is a paralegal working on behalf of children coming across the southern border.

“I looked into it and it's pretty amazing. They have teams in all of the different countries that are being accepted into all the neighboring countries. They are really doing a great job helping people,” says the Holland artist. 

Grateful for assistance

Oleh and his wife, and their families, have left their homes and are trying to get to a safer place. 

“He sent a verbal message on my birthday a few days ago. It makes me cry every time I hear his voice, but he wanted to wish me a happy birthday and he wanted to thank me and my family for our support. And he also wanted to thank America for our support. He knows that some of our tax dollars are going toward providing aid for Ukraine. He said that he and his neighbors really, really appreciate that.”

Artist Joel Schoon-Tanis, who was on the road with a show in Florida, hasn’t been able to create new art, but he has been dedicating some of his paintings that feature sunflowers to the Ukrainian resistance. He plans to paint new work in support of Ukrainians and peace.

Joel Schoon-Tanis renamed this painting "Ukrainian Guardian Angel" in support of the Ukrainians under attack by Russian forces.

He understands why artists are playing a role in fostering a conversation about the conflict in Ukraine.

Images stir emotions

“We're visual people, and images become so important,” Schoon-Tanis says. “Images of Ukrainians standing up for themselves and standing up for democracy have become really powerful. The images coming out of different individuals from the top down, from President Zelenskyy on the streets with his troops to common people doing their part, help embolden the Ukrainians and honestly, demoralize the opposition.”

Joel Schoon-Tanis shares his painting with the message, "Praying for Peace."

Schoon-Tanis has been amazed by how his images are stirring emotions and conversations online. Many people are asking permission to share his images on social media to show their support for the resistance and spark a conversation. 

“The sorts of images that Carolyn and I are sharing remind us of hope, but also what's going on,” he says. “The greatest value, and why I continue to post things, is that we can so easily turn off our news feeds, and while there's a time for that, the Ukrainians don't get to turn off their reality. And so if artists can help draw attention and continue to draw attention, then I think we're being helpful.”

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