East End Arts Scene Stands Up for Ukraine

National flag of Ukraine. Kyiv Aerial view
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As the Russian assault on Ukraine, so too does the East End community’s support of Ukrainian families in need of food, shelter and peace. One particular subset of Hamptons and North Fork culture, local arts institutions, have raised incredible sums of money thus far and show no signs of slowing down.

The Suffolk Theater in Riverhead announced that its sold-out All for Ukraine concert on March 27 brought in $35,000 for relief efforts through ticket sales and an auction featuring items from dozens of local restaurants and hotels, as well as East End Arts.

“The support from our Long Island community has been nothing short of spectacular,” the announcement reads, noting that in addition to auction items, several businesses donated their services for the event, allowing it to happen at no cost to Suffolk Theater.

Also on the North Fork, Greenport Art & Design Emporium owner Walter de Groot was practically fated to help relief efforts. Having purchased more than 20 oil paintings by Ukrainian artists a decade ago, he knew it was finally time to sell them in his gallery, with 100% of proceeds going toward evacuation and rescue efforts, and the Tikva Children’s Home orphanage.

“As soon as it hit the news that the Ukrainians are in trouble I thought, ‘Hey, I got all this stuff, let’s do something worthwhile with it,’” he told The Suffolk Times in March.

Now in April, more support is on the horizon.

Dr. Taras Filenko presents Concert for Ukraine at Bay Street Theater on April 22
Dr. Taras Filenko presents Concert for Ukraine at Bay Street Theater on April 22

On Friday, April 22, Bay Street Theater will welcome the community to Concert for Ukraine, hosted by Dr. Taras Filenko — noted Ukrainian pianist and author of The World of Mykola Lysenko: Ethnic Identity, Music Culture and Politics. In this unique presentation/concert, Filenko will play songs from largely 19th and 20th century Ukrainian composers, present slides that help tell the history and open the audience’s collective mind to the realization that it’s not just Ukrainian cities being attacked, it’s also the culture itself.

“In the context of the war, I’m going to focus on national identity and Ukrainian culture in terms of music. … Currently the main goal of the Russians is to erase the national identity in Ukraine — the culture, arts, music, painting, et cetera,” Filenko says, adding that the Russian infiltration, appropriation and propagandizing of Ukrainian music has been ramping up to this moment over the years. However, those who can decipher Ukrainian music’s lyrical symbolism know that the country’s composers are ever-defiant and resilient when faced with the threat of cultural extinction. “The symbolism is important because the culture was oppressed and suppressed for so many centuries. … Music is one of the most important elements in cultural war.”

Filenko also shares that he envisions Concert for Ukraine as a flexible experience where the audience is invited to ask questions and share insights to further the enriching discussion into these deep, complicated topics. Admission is a minimum $20 donation to support the International Rescue Committee in their efforts to support displaced Ukrainian families and bolster the crisis response of people who have been active in the community. A raffle will also be held, giving audience members a chance to win two Mainstage subscriptions to Bay Street’s upcoming 2022 season.

Then on Saturday, April 30, noon-6 p.m., more than 100 artists will join The Church and the galleries of Romany Kramoris, Grenning, Keyes Art and Sara Nightingale in the Art for Ukraine auction. The massive collection of art available — including works by Eric Fischl, Hope Sandrow, John MacWhinnie, William Quigley, Paton Miller and Hunt Slonem — will be on display throughout these five Sag Harbor arts institutions.

“The Church is very grateful to these galleries for co-hosting artists who show at them, because it frees up more room for more artists,” The Church co-founder April Gornik says. “The response has been almost literally overwhelming — artists have contacted us out of the blue, and we have done our best to accommodate as many as possible, and the outpouring of support has become itself a driving force in our dedication to making sure we raise significant funds for Ukraine.”

While the in-person Art for Ukraine event is on April 30, those who wait to bid until then will have already fallen behind the competition. The online auction is expected to begin at least two weeks prior to the event date at galabid.com/artforukraine, but in the meantime, would-be participants can create their GalaBid account, peruse the art on offer and save their favorites for easier bidding later. All proceeds will benefit Razom for Ukraine, which, in times of peace, creates spaces for Ukrainians to meet and collaborate on creative ideas, and in this time of emergency, provides urgent medicine and hospital supplies to those who need it.

Back on the North Fork, William Ris Gallery in Jamesport will debut its latest exhibition, Hearts & Souls: An Exhibit of Solidarity, at an opening reception and fundraiser on April 30, 4–7 p.m. Running through May 15, the show highlights the works of 30 artists eager to prove their support for Ukraine. A portion of art sales will be donated to Razom for Ukraine.

With Ukrainian lives and culture at stake, those of us living the comfortable East End life should take note of the good work our local arts institutions are trying to accomplish and consider showing our support. Ukraine needs us.

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