Neighborhood Ukrainians and their friends, East Villagers as well as the Citizen Bank family cluster outside the new bank branch across Second Ave. from Veselka’s, as a public artwork begins to take form.
Muralist Ukrainian-born New York-based artist Misha Tyutyunik had drawn the outlines of his mural on the E. 9th St. wall of the bank, the day before. At noon on Saturday, he sets up paints in cups and brushes, inviting all attendees to add their hand to the mural.
Misha emigrated as a child from Ukraine, attended Pratt and has created murals locally and internationally; he’s also known as MDOT. Four years ago, on a one-year Fulbright in Ukraine, this creator of public art finished six murals—two in Sumy, Kyiv, and Brovary.
Originally meant for the Museum of History there, one design was created with the help of historians and curators in Kyiv, but never brought to fruition. It is this piece, named Ukraine: A History in Solidarity, coming to life in the East Village and as Misha says, ”It was meant to be on this wall.”
“I’m standing with the people of Ukraine, and oppressed people everywhere,” the artist says, introducing the project. “I would love for you guys to join me. I have brushes, I have paints; let’s let the kids start first and then everyone can jump in.“ Misha believes if you’re doing something in the public sphere, the public should be involved, “I hope people feel they’re involved with this process. It can’t just be me; it has to be everyone.”
Velselka and East Village Meat Market fuel the event with blue and yellow cookies (in the spirit of the iconic Seinfeld-made-famous black-and-white New York cookie) and traditional soft, light and flaky preserve-filled Ukrainian donuts and coffee. Strains of Ukrainian recorded music provide ambiance as crowd participation adds pigmented color.
Citizens Bank, the new business on the block—since the end of February—is sponsoring the mural project. “Since the start of this war, New Yorkers of Ukrainian origin and others have been visiting our block to demonstrate solidarity with Ukrainians, ” says Nuno Dos Santos from Citizens. Noting that this artwork honors the resilient spirit of Ukraine, he adds, “This is one way in standing in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and the neighborhood here.”
Additionally, the bank is providing $25,000 matching funds raised by the 100-year-old Ukrainian National Women’s League of America for Ukrainian refugee relief.
The artwork in the mural represents the legend of how Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital was named. Legend states that three brothers, Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv, and their sister Lybid, founded the city. Kyiv thus takes its name from Kyi, the eldest brother. This depiction is of the famous monument of the three brothers and their sister and personifies Ukrainian storytelling and cultural history.
Other elements are: The Kyiv Funicular (Ukrainian: Київський фунікулер), a steep slope railroad on Kyiv Hills that serves the city of Kyiv, connecting the historic Uppertown, and the lower commercial neighborhood of Podil through the steep Volodymyrska Hill overseeing the Dnieper River.
Oksana Lodziuk Krywulych of the Ukrainian Women’s League reflects, “Watching the horrible and senseless destruction manifested in Ukraine and its people reduces me to tears daily.” She proposed a community project to Citizens Bank, heartened by seeing the community rally in support.
On Saturday, free-entrance tickets to the E. 6th Street Ukrainian Museum (founded by the Ukrainian Women’s League) were given out.
In another example of artistic expression of solidarity this past weekend, in Soho, the gallery a83 on Grand Street featured art prints from 15 artists for sale in a fundraising exhibition.
Entering the gallery, the visitor is faced by a huge wall in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Contributing artists were directed to create works in those colors —blue and yellow.
The sale included a series of numbered riso prints by various authors interpreting Small Acts of Reisistance, individual anti-war actions carried out over the past few weeks in Russian and beyond, amidst increasing government crackdown on protest and dissent in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
The exhibit also featured screen prints by Moscow-based artist Oleg Borodin.
Monies collected from the sale of prints are going to organizations that support cultural workers in Ukraine and those forced to relocate, temporary housing in Ukraine for internally displaced persons, and Ukrainians in need in-country and those trying to leave.
The Borodin screen prints and reasonably priced Small Acts of Resistance Risograph prints 11”x17” can be seen at www.a83.site/prints-for-Ukraine.