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Brandeis University | International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Peacebuilding and the Arts: Exploring the contributions of arts and culture to peace
Special Issue on Ukraine
Ukrainian embroidery motif
Women's shirt from Mezhirichi village, Korets Raion of the Rivne OblastUkraine Early 20th century. Exhibited in Ivan Honchar Museum. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Dear Readers of Peacebuilding and the Arts Now,

In 2014, as Ukraine was reeling from a Russian invasion that had begun earlier that year, Ukrainian American scholar and dancer Katja Kolcio wrote that, “If you spend time in Ukraine, you hear the saying: Mi volyu vispivaly, vitantsiuvaly, vimalyuvaly, vishivaly ta vivirshuvaly. Our freedom we've sung, danced, painted, embroidered and inscribed through poetry.” She tells a story of Ukrainian soldiers directly approaching their heavily-armed Russian counterparts back then. They marched ahead without guns; instead, they used their voices: They sang, in Ukrainian.
Kolcio continues: “Despite the absence of political sovereignty [for most of the country’s 1000+ year history], a distinctly Ukrainian sensibility was preserved in the graphic designs of folk arts, in the philosophical words of poets, and in the historical lyrics sung by kobzari, members of a guild for blind bards. In the United States and Canada, musicians have continued the kobzar tradition with the creation of folk ensembles like the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus, the Women's Bandura Ensemble of North America (WBENA), the Experimental Bandura Ensemble and renowned solo recording artist and World Music luminary Julian Kytasty.  
“For most of the 20th century, artists fueled the social consciousness and dignity of people de-individualized under the Soviet regime, despite the dire consequences they faced… Simply to sing songs in Ukrainian was a considerably political move. In one sweeping liquidation in 1932, Soviet authorities called on all Ukrainian kobzars to attend a conference in Kharkiv. They were taken outside the city and shot.
“In Ukraine, to be an artist or composer during the Soviet era was to risk imprisonment and death. Soviet death squads and assassins targeted poets, composers, and artists that the authorities found to be too fervently pro-Ukrainian and too influential in their cultivation of Ukrainian culture.  Among those murdered during the Soviet era were the stained glass artist and sculptor Alla Horska, poet Vasyl Stus, popular songwriter Volodymyr Ivasiuk, and Mykola Leontovych, composer of many iconic choral works including the haunting and universally known ‘Carol of the Bells’ (‘Shchedryk’ in Ukrainian).”
Today, this unique heritage and identity, as well as the social and cultural bonds they nurture, are in grave danger. The destruction of the built and natural environments, the slaughter of civilians, and the rupturing of communities and possibilities for the future are all happening as the world watches in horror.
We at the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, sick with disgust and fear at the actions of the Russian government, are honored and fortunate to have connected with Dr. Katja Kolcio of Wesleyan University in the U.S. where she is associate professor of Dance, core faculty member of the College of the Environment, Environmental Studies and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Programs, and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. She has graciously and generously shared insights and resources with us, and put us in contact with friends and colleagues both in North America and in Ukraine who have in turn given us a window into their present circumstances, and an invitation to make a commitment to allyship and action.

We begin this special issue of Peacebuilding and the Arts Now with links to four articles by Dr. Kolcio, who writes so compellingly about the cultural and historical contexts of Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasions in 2014 and 2022, and about her somatic (body/movement-focused) work on the ground in Ukraine with survivors of violence and loss. We then offer you the words of curator, writer, and lindy hop dancer Larissa Babij, with whom we spoke on March 4 of this year. A resident of Kyiv, she had fled to Lviv, and met with us from a room in that city’s public library, which was also being used as a shelter for refugees from other towns. And, finally, we present a list of links to articles and websites with information and stories about
·   Ukrainian artists and arts;
·   other artists’ responses to this crisis;
·   performances, presentations, and events; and 
·   education and action.
The situation in Ukraine is deteriorating rapidly. We’ve had to pause our gathering of information in order to get this newsletter out to you. We will include a follow-up in our next regular issue of Peacebuilding and the Arts Now, set to reach the world in late April/early May, with a special focus on gendered experiences of this violent conflict.
Please be in touch.

Armine Avetisyan, Toni Shapiro-Phim, Cynthia Cohen
the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, Brandeis University, USA, with thanks to Ellen Gerdes and Leigh Swigart

Ukrainian Culture and History in the Context of Russia’s invasions
three women on a zoom call
Katja Kolcio teaching a workshop in somatic practices and contact improvisation at the National Guard base in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2017. photo © National Guard. Source: Contact Quarterly

Conversation with Larissa Babij, a Ukraine-based curator, writer and dancer

three women on a zoom call
Still from the zoom conversation
On March 4, Toni Shapiro-Phim and Armine Avetisyan of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts spoke with Larissa Babij, a Ukraine-based curator, writer and dancer who had recently fled Kyiv and found refuge in Lviv. Born to Ukrainian parents in Manchester, Connecticut (USA), Larissa moved to Ukraine in 2005, and has lived there ever since.
Larissa joined the Zoom call from a library in Lviv where locals had quickly organized a volunteer relief effort to help in different ways — for example, translating for journalists, and offering temporary shelter to newly-arrived refugees from elsewhere in Ukraine, until they find a longer-term residence locally, or continue on to another country.
Ukrainian Arts and Artists in this Moment of Crisis 
a painting on a gellery wall
Ukrainian artist Volo Bevza’s solo exhibition at Kyiv’s WT Foundation was canceled after Russian troops invaded the country on the day of the opening (courtesy of the artist). Source: Hyperallergic.
Ukrainian Artists Speak Out As Invasion Intensifies
Hyperallergic, Hakim Bishara
“We’ve been screaming into the void for years,” said artist Luba Drozd, who’s been active in raising awareness about the crisis in her home country.
As Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Intensifies, Artists and Institutions React to an Uncertain Future
ARTnews, Tessa Solomon

As Russia’s invasion of
Ukraine intensifies, with the latter’s capital Kyiv now under siege, Ukrainian artists, both at home and abroad, face an uncertain future.
Ukrainian and Russian Artists Condemn Putin's Invasion of Ukraine
Billboard, Vladimir Kozlov
Ukrainian label Masterskaya cut ties with Russian artists while Russian rapper Oxxxymiron canceled a headlining tour in protest.
The Guardian, Diana Berg
Ukrainian artist and human rights activist Diana Berg shares her experience of fear, and the possibility of being forced to flee, again.

Tyu, Mariupol. How Diana Berg made the city the main cultural center of the East
Zaborona, Aliona Vyshnytska
The vision and activism of Mariupol-based Ukrainian artist Diana Berg, as ignited by pro-Russian aggression in Ukraine in 2014.

Responses of Other Artists
man standing naked in front of a monument
The artist Aljoscha stood in front of the Motherland Monument in Kiev on 22 February to protest Russia's incursion of Ukraine. Source: The Art Newspaper
From naked protests to blockchain fundraising: how artists are protesting Russia's invasion of Ukraine
The Art Newspaper, Kabir Jhala
Artists Withdraw Works From Russian Museums to Protest Invasion
Hyperallergic, Valentina Di Liscia
Two artists have withdrawn their works from state-backed museums, and the curators of the Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale resigned in protest.

As Russia Invades Ukraine, TikTokers Are Documenting the War
Hyperallergic, Jasmine Liu
The app is providing a bottom-up view of what happens when everyday life is upended by violence and war for a whole nation of people in real time.

Russian Artists Speak Out Against War, but Fear Reprisals
The New York Times, Alex Marshall
Two Russian artists have pulled out of the Venice Biennale and thousands are signing antiwar petitions.

The art world responds to Russian invasion of Ukraine by canceling shows and cutting ties
CNN Philippines, Jacqui Palumbo

Performances, Presentations, and Events
a chorus performing
Still from Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York performance of Prayer for Ukraine.

March 12, 

11 am–1 pm EST Online
With the aim of building our collective knowledge, educational resources, and solidarity efforts as cultural practitioners, Creative Time, and the Vera List Center for Arts and Politics at the New School are gathering a range of speakers for an emergency teach-in on the evolving crisis.

Ukrainian Contemporary Music Festival
Through three separate concert programs and academic discussions with scholars and musicians, the festival, held at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City, engages the intersection of new music, contemporary events, and the culture of Ukraine.

Ukraine-Russia Crisis: Livestream Conversations 
The College of the Environment, Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, and Russian, Eastern European & Eurasian Studies, all at Wesleyan University in the United States, present a series of international livestream conversations with students, journalists & civic leaders in Ukraine. The next one is on March 11.

WORLDWIDE READINGS PROJECT: War against Ukraine/Ukrainian plays – Three letters to the international theater community
A global initiative to support and share new Ukrainian plays

Resources for Information and Action

Stamps of Ukraine 2019, Ukrainian Embroidery - Code of Nation - Shirt (fragment), Cherinihiv Region. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Ukraine's Resilience and its History with Russia through Four Songs
Pittwire, Adriana Helbig

Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s invasion has deep historical and cultural roots, including in its music.
20 of the Best Films to Help Understand What’s Happening in Ukraine
The Guardian, Anna Onufrienko, Arsenii Kniazkov, Stanislav Menzelevskyi, Stanislav Bytiutskyi and Oleksandr Teliuk 

Art for Peace in Ukraine, a student-driven movement
Join the global, student-driven art movement #ArtForPeaceInUkraine initiated by Pechersk School International (IB World School), based in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Nigeria Condemns Treatment of Africans Trying to Flee Ukraine
The Guardian, Emmanuel Akinwotu and Weronika Strzyzynska
Government says citizens’ access to Polish border impeded amid growing reports of discrimination.

Ukrainian Charities: Guide for International Donations

Four articles about the cultural and historical contexts of Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasions in 2014 and 2022
woman teaching somatics
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Peacebuilding and the Arts Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts
International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Brandeis University
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