The centerpiece for the project was inspired by a bombed-out classroom. It’s surrounded by recent paintings and drawings made by the children aged 3 to 18
SARASOTA, Fla — An art exhibition featuring artworks by Ukrainian children has opened in a Sarasota gallery. The art reflects the children’s expressions, interpretations and thought processes of the ongoing war launched on Ukraine by its larger neighbor Russia.
“This is the newest work in the collection. It’s from a school in Poland where there are around 77 Ukrainian refugees,” said Wojtek Sawa, an artist and the installation’s creator.
Sawa who is of Polish origin worked with partners home and abroad to set up the exhibition. The centerpiece for the project was inspired by a bombed-out classroom. It is surrounded by recent paintings and drawings made by children aged 3 to 18. It includes refugee children in shelters in Poland or living with host families as well in the less impacted Western region of the country.
“They [children] come from all over the country and different backgrounds,” said Sawa. “Some of them are from towns which were very heavily destroyed, like Bucha and areas close to Mariupol.”
The children’s artwork is a commentary on the war as many of them have lived through and witnessed the aftermath of bombings and watched as their soldiers, many of them family members, have continued to repel the invaders. They have also seen gory sights such as corpses along the road as they fled their homes to safety.
“This is therapy for them, it’s therapy for the families, it’s therapy for us. They create magnificent artworks and in doing so they summarize their feelings or emotions, their thoughts, it’s an outlet for them,” Sawa said.
Sawa said he could relate to some of what the children were going through and feeling. At the age of 11, he said his family fled political persecution in Poland due to the communist government there.
He later returned briefly to the country in his late 20s but was kicked out again.
“I was told I have 24 hours to leave and then I was literally displaced and in a way similar to how these people are displaced,” he said. “I lost my wife-to-be at the time, my best friend, my work, everything was just boom, it was gone. It’s this sense of being uprooted by winds of history which is so powerful than an individual person you know has nothing to say and I think that is a common feeling.”
The exhibition runs from May 3-21 at the Chasen Gallery II inside the Westfield Siesta Key Mall on 3501 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. Visitors are also encouraged to leave a note with feedback or messages of encouragement for any of the young artists whose work speaks to them. The note, which is on colorful paper, would then be posted on the walls of the gallery and become a part of the exhibition. Folks who donate above $35 can get a printout of artworks of their choice. The money would be disbursed equally to the children.
The exhibition is in partnership with UA Kids, a Kyiv-based organization that has been uploading and displaying Ukrainian children’s art online since the war began. The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County also contributed to setting the exhibition up.
The exhibition would also hold ‘An Evening of Ukrainian Music’ on Tuesday, May 17th, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the gallery. The event would feature vocalists Natalya Bratash, Nadia Sawa, Bandura virtuoso Ivan Schmilo and the Sarasota Middle School – Joyful Voices Select Ensemble.
Click here for more information about the exhibition.