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Artists “Make Art Not War” for Ukraine in Kalamazoo

Artist Kim Shaw stands with her painting.
Leona Larson, WMUK-Radio
Kim Shaw's abstract oil paining, "Unraveling," will be auctioned at "Make Art Not War" on Friday, April 15 to raise money for humanitarian aid in Ukraine.

More than 20 local artists apply their creative talents for an art auction to raise money for humanitarian and emergency aid for Ukraine on Friday, April 15 from 6-10 p.m.

As the war in Ukraine rages on, local artists are applying their creative talents to raise money for the embattled country.

While the sound of a poster printing machine is a far cry from the sound of war in Ukraine, artists at Jerico Creative Community are hard at work preparing for tonight’s event at Start Here Coffee in Kalamazoo.

More than 20 Kalamazoo artists are collaborating on the project to raise money for humanitarian and emergency aid in Ukraine with a free exhibit, art sale and auction called “Make Art Not War” Friday night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the coffee shop.

Artist Kim Shaw is contributing an abstract oil painting called “Unraveling.”

“Unraveling is a word that I use to describe when I'm working through something, when I'm in it. You know, like when you really get to that place in your emotions where things start to unravel and it might feel scary, but then it makes you open up to the mystery of what could be,” Shaw said. “Showing this piece in this space, it feels emotional. And I know all these art makers are bringing their heart to this show. And when I look at the work that I have right now, this work was created during a time where I felt like my heart was spilling out.”

Aerick Burton is an origami artist. In his family-owned art and yoga studio on Portage Road, Burton precisely folds a piece of paper into Ukraine’s national bird, the nightingale. As he folds, he quietly explained his vision to bring the community together to create a piece called “Cranes for Ukraine.”

Kalamazoo origami artist, Aerick Burtan.
Leona Larson, WMUK-Radio
Kalamazoo origami artist, Aerick Burtan, working on a community art project called "Cranes for Ukraine." His piece is part of a fundraiser for humanitarian aid to Ukraine called "Make Art Not War" on April 15, 2022.

“More of a community art project,” Burton said. “To really show some support, not just monetarily, but energetically as well. And have a piece that sticks around to remind us of what we did as a community.”

If many hands make light work, Burton hopes that Friday night at the coffee shop and again on Saturday at his studio, Move with Joy, the community will work together to fold a thousand - even two thousand - nightingales, peace doves and cranes.

“People can either just donate and then I'll fold for them, or they can donate and fold and then donate their piece to be a part of the bigger piece as well,” Burton said.

Krystal Gast is the event organizer and owner of Start Here Coffee, which is part of the Jerico Creative Community. “Make Art Not War” will be held in the coffee shop.

”It’s kind of taken-off in a way that I didn't expect,” said Gast. “So, it's a little, it's a little overwhelming, but mostly just really exciting and fun to see everybody coming together.”

Gast said it took about a month to put it together, prompting the coffee manager to dub her the “queen of large projects on the shortest possible timeline.”

“I just feel like any time something like this happens, and I feel this urge to try to do something to be supportive or to help in some way, I never really know how the best way to do that is, and always fall short thinking of something that I can do,” Gast said.

Her first thought was asking a couple of artist friends to collaborate on one piece.

“And then I thought, maybe I should just get them all together and see how many people would actually want to do something and make it a big event,” Gast said. “Make it something bigger that the community could be involved with.”

Emily Kaster was all in. The Nerdy Babies author and illustrator called it a “no brainer.” She designed a limited edition print to be sold at the event.

“Anytime that artists are coming together and collaborating, I think is very exciting.”

Oil-painter, Kim Shaw, sees it as an example of an incredible community.

“I feel like this Jericho community is a smaller representation of this greater community of Kalamazoo, and how we take care of each other.”

So does Burton.

“It’s a really powerful thing when you have the energy of the whole community behind you and working together towards one goal.”

“Make Art Not War” is Friday night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Start Here Coffee, 1415 Fulford Street in Kalamazoo.

Leona has worked as a journalist for most of her life - in radio, print, television and as journalism instructor. She has a background in consumer news, special projects and investigative reporting.