(NEW YORK)–As artists in Ukraine struggle to keep their creative practice alive and Russia drives to eradicate Ukraine’s language, heritage, and culture while fighting to occupy land, PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) today announced new grants to sustain Ukrainian visual artists impacted by the war.

Since April, ARC has distributed $182K in grants to 133 artists and 263 dependents to meet basic and urgent needs, such as food and housing, through the Emergency Fund for Ukrainian Visual Artists. A second Resilience Fund for Ukrainian Visual Artists will support artists whose personal and security situations permit them to continue their creative practice with funds for materials and other needs to sustain their art-making. Application forms for both funds are available in English and Ukrainian.

The funds are an effort to push back against Putin’s campaign for cultural erasure by sustaining Ukraine’s artists into the future, ensuring that no matter what Russia destroys, Ukrainian creativity and cultural vitality will live on.

In April, PEN America received a $2 million gift from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, which launched the Emergency and Resilience Funds for Visual Artists in Ukraine. PEN America also received $100k from the Andy Warhol Foundation to be used for these funds.

Since the start of the invasion in February, Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of deliberately attacking cultural sites, a war crime, in an effort to erase Ukrainian identity and culture and reclaim the country Putin claims was stolen from Russia.

In its global work, PEN America is committed to ensuring that human rights protections are honored to ensure the preservation of the heritage and culture of distinct identity groups.

As Putin strikes at culture to deny Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign nation, many Ukrainian artists, even as they face the destruction of their homes and the loss of their incomes, have courageously used their platforms to speak out against the invasion, coordinate and draw attention to relief efforts, raise emergency funds, and enlist in the Ukrainian army, among other actions.

Julie Trebault, ARC director, said: “The war in Ukraine has torn apart the lives of Ukrainians, including many artists, who, despite the brutality, have lent their talent and courage to inspire, rally, and educate their fellow citizens. Ukraine’s very cultural and artistic foundation is under attack every day. By enabling Ukrainian artists to survive the onslaught while continuing their creative work, this support from the Helen Frankhentahler and Andy Warhol foundations will also contribute to the development of Ukrainian art and culture and prevent its eradication by the war and Russian policy.”

Artists have shared the challenges they face with ARC staff members.

Tamara Shevchuk, a Ukrainian graphic artist who received an emergency fund grant from ARC, wrote: “War does not spare anyone, and the cultural front is just as important as the military one. Art has the unique power of focusing attention on entrenched problems and can often invoke heated solutions that sometimes produce unexpected solutions, or, on the contrary, provide a welcome distraction from the war for those who are having a hard time. Under the conditions of war, the general public is unlikely to be able to pay for art, which is why it becomes increasingly difficult for us to create. The grant support offered by the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) for Ukrainian artists is very important at this time.”

Another artist who received emergency funds, Andriy Pushkariov, a painter,  wrote: “I really needed support. We have not been able to put on exhibitions for the last three years because of COVID, and now, with the war, there are no students nor sales, and few people can pay for art classes. There is a famous saying that rings true today: “When the guns are talking, the muses are silent.” I continue to work on genres of art that I first began working in 40 years ago and for which I am recognized as an artist in my country (including egg decorating,  papercutting, graphics, painting, and sometimes watercoloring). By sharing this grant with me, you are supporting Ukrainian culture.”

About the Artists at Risk Connection

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org, 201-247-5057