Two Dallas-linked women offer lifeline to Ukrainian artists

As war rages in Ukraine with no end in sight, Americans are increasingly asking: what can I To do? How can I to be involved?

Two women with close ties to Dallas answered the question with a rare blend of creativity and bravery. Janeil Engelstad and Lilia Kudelia show their own leadership by providing a pipeline for Ukrainian artists.

They embrace painters, sculptors and filmmakers who cling to survival amid an invasion that has shocked the world, leaving a bloody trail of death and destruction in its wake.

Unlike other wars, this one offers a new set of weapons, one being a daily lesson in how modern technology can defeat the most ruthless foes.

The internet in particular has offered a way to tell the world what’s really going on, while funding artists through such innovative methods as NFTs – non-fungible tokens.

For Engelstad, the effort is multi-pronged, much like a general determining where and when to attack. Or in the case of Ukraine, How? ‘Or’ What tackle.

She recently recorded interviews with artists from across Ukraine, who are now seen as enemies of the Russian invaders. These interviews can be heard on his podcast, “the MAP Radio Hour”.

She and Kudelia are also recording a panel discussion with artists and art administrators in Ukraine which will be released by the end of May on ArtMargins.com, a project launched by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The purpose of these interviews “with artists and cultural producers is to see how their work has changed – and the many ways in which war affects their work”.

On the one hand, she says, Ukrainian artists are heavily involved in a daring dual mission: telling the truth about the war amid colossal obfuscation while valiantly trying to save the country’s most priceless works of art. .

“There’s a lot of pressure for that right now, to try to protect these rare works of art. The Russians are bombing cultural institutions – on purpose – in an effort to wipe out Ukrainian culture.

Engelstad and Kudelia recently hosted a show that, on the night of April 22, became a main feature of the Aurora Dallas exhibit projected on the side of a tall building in downtown Dallas’ Pegasus Plaza.

She and Kudelia have another show coming up in July at the Seattle Art Fair, where an event will highlight the importance of documentary photography from Ukraine’s frontlines. They will replicate the Dallas projection.

Engelstad is in daily contact with Ukrainian artists, of whom she said: “There is a very strong sense of resistance — and absolute confidence that they will win. Some are more emotionally affected than others. But the common theme, regardless of their mental state, is: “We can win this war, and we will be win this war. ”

Engelstad’s pedigree includes spending years as an artist living in Eastern Europe, near Ukraine.

So the show she and Kudelia performed in Dallas in April – Vich-Na-Vichwhich, in their own words, means “literally eye-to-eye or face-to-face” – carried a special authenticity, featuring Ukrainian artists working in a fascinating array of videos, animations and drawings.

“For the artists who appeared in Vich-Na-Vich, being seen is of paramount importance during this difficult time,” said Kudelia, currently a guest curator at the prestigious New York-based Residency Unlimited. “They make brave choices every day. Our ability as a creative community is to cherish the immediacy of such statements.

This is an image from “Mark Tulip, Who Spoke with Flowers”, a play by Dana Kavelina. Kavelina’s 2017 work deals with Russia’s ongoing occupation of eastern Ukraine. It was featured as part of Aurora Dallas Video Art Nights held at Pegasus Plaza in downtown Dallas on April 22, 2022. The show highlighted the work of artists living in Ukraine during the Russian invasion. (Can Turkyilmaz)

But, says Engelstad, Vich-Na-Vich is just one ingredient in a larger project that goes beyond Dallas’ exposure, including the use of NFTs, which she sees as part of a larger strategy that goes hand-in-hand with survival.

Because their work is digital, “the money goes straight back into the hands of the artists. And that’s really the key right now. How do artists make a living in Ukraine? A big problem for them is access to capital.

Janeil Engelstad of Make Art With Purpose

Janeil Engelstad of Make Art With Purpose
(Rose Baca – Staff Photographer)

Since 2006, Engelstad has worked extensively in Eastern Europe. It’s his world, it’s his people.

“Having lived and worked in Eastern Europe, I was heartbroken by the invasion,” she said. The Dallas exhibition, “which I could not have organized without my Ukrainian colleague, curator Lilia Kudelia” – who spent years as a curator with Dallas Contemporary – “was only the beginning of a response broader creativity to support Ukrainian artists”.

Presented in partnership with Aurora’s “Video Art Nights,” the Dallas screening featured Dana Kavelina’s animated video Mark Tulip, who spoke with flowers (2017) and War drawings (2022) by Alevtina Kakhidze, both of which document the daily impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Kavelina’s 2017 article is particularly relevant, as it discusses Russia’s ongoing occupation of eastern Ukraine.

Lilia Kudelia is guest curator at the prestigious New York residency Residency Unlimited....
Lilia Kudelia is guest curator at the prestigious New York-based Residency Unlimited. Kudelia and Janeil Engelstad co-hosted “Vich-Na-Vich,” which was part of the Aurora Dallas Video Art Nights that took place at Pegasus Plaza in downtown Dallas on April 22, 2022. (D Hollingsworth)

While in Europe, Engelstad worked in Prague and Poland, but especially in Bratislava. She has, however, engaged in art-related projects across the continent as a Fulbright Scholar.

The invasion kept her up at night, forcing her to keep asking, “What can I do to help?” »

So, she says, “We produce projects” – like the one in Dallas – “so that every time an artist participates, they get paid. And so far, yes, it’s going well. For example, all the artists who participated in our event in Aurora have all been paid. So, yes, it helps. Every little bit counts.”

For more information, she invites people to visit the website of which she is the founding director, Make Art With Purpose: makeartwithpurpose.net.

And for those in Dallas who want to be able to help, the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum offers its own path.

Just before entering the Memorial Hall to leave the museum, there is a “call to action,” which, according to Mary Pat Higgins, president and CEO of the museum, “allows our visitors to send an email to nonprofit volunteer coordinators to get involved and become upstanders in our community. It is not a donation but a decision to get involved.

how to help

Make art with a purpose: makeartwithpurpose.net

Call to Action at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum: dhhrm.org

"Thank you for the birthday wishes," a drawing by Alevtina Kakhidze, from the series "War time...
“Thanks for the Birthday Wishes”, a drawing by Alevtina Kakhidze, from the “Wartime Drawings” series, was part of the Aurora Dallas Video Art Nights (Courtesy of the artist)
This 9/11, 2019, file photo shows the brand new Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.

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