If art is therapeutic, then through its medium, emotion and storytelling can be conveyed, especially when depicting the realities of war and the power of the human spirit.

Twenty-six Ukrainian artists on Oct. 21 showcased 150 works of their art – all for sale – at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. The exhibition, called “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” will run through Dec. 21 in the heart of Chicago’s Ukrainian neighborhood.

 A drawing by Ilya Yarovoy of Oleksandr Matsievskyi, an unarmed Ukrainian soldier who was shot dead by Russians in March while smoking a cigarette and telling his would-be captors, “Glory to Ukraine.”

CREDIT: Mark Raczkiewycz

It’s jointly curated by Ukrainian-American Hanna Melnyczuk, who teaches art and design at the University of Massachusetts, and Kyiv-based artist Hanna Andrusenko who assisted the former to connect with others in the art world.

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Speaking about the effect the Russo-Ukrainian war has had on her life, Melnyczuk said that before the full-scale invasion of Feb. 24, 2022, “I had been working on images for a children’s book… As the war unfolded, the images in my mind’s eye shifted… to troubling depictions of tanks, missiles, refugees and mass graves.”

“Protected” is a series of drawings of by Artist Halyna Adrusenko that shows monuments in Lviv that are draped for protection from falling Russian bombs.

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CREDIT: Mark Raczkiewycz

Thus, she switched to bringing those images to the US and enlisted the help of Andrusenko who, in turn, sought artists across Ukraine. The artists’ “works resonated with us in terms of the images they were making in response to the horrific violence and destruction that the war was bringing to a peaceful country,” Melnychuk added in a statement.

A GoFundMe account was opened and in summer 2022 and eventually culminated with the collection of the 150 artworks. Proceeds were and continue to be donated to the artists themselves, and the Lviv-based Serhiy Prytula Foundation, which provides assistance to Ukraine’s armed forces and to civilians affected by Russia’s aggression.

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Chicago is the final destination for the traveling art show that started in Massachusetts and showed in New Jersey. An auction was held in New York City with the Help Ukraine Group.

Pictured are juxtaposed vibrant images by icon painter Danylo Movchan “with tragic imagery to create the conflict of emotions evoked when listing to Chopin’s Prelude in D-flat Major,” according to the art show’s co-curators.

CREDIT: Mark Raczkiewycz

Andrusenko’s works also feature in the exhibit, which includes drawings of wrapped statues in Lviv to protect them from Russian bombardment.

“The wrapped sculptures capture the impact that the daily threat of bombings has had on the appearance of the living world,” Andrusenko wrote in her artistic statement for the exhibit. “The protective material around the sculptures transforms them into new forms that reflect the image of war.”

Not every “piece of artwork is a direct reflection of the full-scale invasion,” the co-curators said about the exhibit. “Some artists have been responding to the war since 2014,” when Russia initially invaded by seizing the Crimean Peninsula and invading the two easternmost regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

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A reproduction of a drawing of Ukrainian soldiers pointing at a crossroads by Mitya Fenechkin.

CREDIT: Mark Raczkiewycz

More than six million people have fled the war abroad, the United Nations says and Russia’s unprovoked escalation of the conflict has killed thousands of civilians and caused billions of dollars in damages.

For scale, it is the bloodiest ground war on the European continent since World War II.

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