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Ukraine is all of us: American artist donated $20 000 to support Ukrainians. Interview

Mab Graves is a prominent contemporary pop-surrealist artist with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and whose work is famous in 56 countries. She lives in a restored old tavern in the 1800s in the woods of Ohio, USA. Mab paints, sews, and sculpts from clay and finds inspiration in science, space culture of the 1960s, fairy tales, and classical literature. She has been painting professionally since 2009. Her online store on Etsy has sold her paintings and other creations to almost 80,000 people.

When the war in Ukraine began, Mab decided to help Ukrainians using her skills. She painted three paintings about Ukrainian women, translated them into digital versions, and put different versions of the drawings on sale in an online store so that people with different levels of income could join in supporting Ukraine. The paintings were bestsellers, and a few days later, Mab was able to transfer $ 20,000 to the Save Ukraine Now coordination center, which provides the necessary battalions of Prykarpattia at the forefront, as well as the humanitarian needs of Ukrainians.

Mab, tell us about your life and craft. When and how did you start painting?
I've been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. It's always been the way I process life. I started painting professionally in 2009. I live in a little forest in Indiana, USA where I work, paint, and raise my 11-year-old nephew.

What style do you prefer, and what techniques do you use in your work?
I love trying new mediums and creating in everything, including drawing, painting, sculpting, needle-felting, sewing, and carving. My favorite medium is an oil painting, though. There's something magical about it for me.

What connects you with Ukraine?
My sister Ash served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine for several years, and during that time, we prayed daily for Ukraine and studied its history and culture so we could teach my young nephew about where his Aunt and Uncle were living. Ukraine imprinted on our hearts and has stayed there ever since.

Read also: Peace Corps activist on fundraising and plans to go back to Ukraine

Do you remember the moment you got the news about the russian invasion of Ukraine?
Yes, I'll never forget it. Hearing the news made my ears echo and my chest tighten. I was filled with a desperate desire to help however I could.

How did you come to the idea of help?
Being an artist, I at first felt useless, but I wanted to use the skills I had in any way I could. I decided I could paint pieces to help raise awareness and serve as a sort of hug to my friends in Ukraine who were fighting. It was after talking to my sister that I had the idea that I could turn the pieces into digital download donations to help Ukraine.

Tell us more about your two paintings. What do they symbolize to you?
There are three. The first one is a young girl in a field of wind-whipped wheat. She stands fiercely, gripping the Ukrainian flag like a spear against a coming storm. In her eyes, you can see the reflection of an explosion. The second is a Mother, protectively holding two young children on each hip. She stands boldly in the center of the canvas, staring out at the viewer. A storm is billowing behind her, and an aircraft's shadow is passing above her. The third piece is a portrait of a grandmother. She is standing in a vast, endless field of Sunflowers staring straight ahead. She holds a calm, graceful Ukrainian flag in one hand, with her other hand perched defiantly on her hip. Her eyes twinkle with triumphant bravery. I wanted these pieces to symbolize the Triple Goddesses of Greek mythology - the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone and the immortal strength and fragility of each. I wanted them to evoke the eternal connection we as women throughout history all share, and I wanted them to remind people of the innocent lives caught in the middle of this chaos – while also paying homage to their fierce bravery.

Can you be specific about your initiative: how it works, who the donors are, and your results so far?
At the time, it was very difficult for people to know how to help, and donations to many vital aid groups could only be made by international bank transfer, which can be confusing and daunting for many people. We have all heard and seen so many stories of big Aid organizations not being honest or of fractions of donations actually getting to the people who need it, so it was hard to know whom to trust and where to send funds that would help. My sister worked with a group of returned Peace Corps volunteers and with people directly on the ground in Ukraine. She was in daily contact, getting updates and factual information about needs, so I found myself in a unique position of actually being able to help. I listed digital downloads of my paintings in my Etsy store (etsy.com/shop/mabgraves) at various donation levels so anyone who wanted to send funds could purchase one, then I could collect the funds and send them in one lump sum rather than a flood of separate tiny transactions. I was hoping I could make a couple of thousand dollars to send, and I was completely blown away when my site was flooded. Within just a few days, I could wire 20k to "Teple misto". I have been able to make further donations to ROVC Alliance for Ukraine for medical trauma kits and help with a Returned Peace Corps humanitarian aid drive where we collected pallets of supplies and shipped them to Ukraine via some amazing people. My partner Darcy in New Jersey personally spent days helping to drive and pack the supplies on pallets.

If you would motivate someone to support Ukraine, what would you say?
We have all spent our lives reading history books and judging our ancestors for the actions they did or did not take in times of war and crisis. This is Our time, this is the time that history will judge us for, and our actions now will shape the world that we leave to our children. Ukraine is all of us, and the ripples of what happens there will shake the entire globe. I know we all feel small and powerless, but if each one of us linked our arms together and used our skills in whatever way we could, there is no power on earth that could overtake us.

Why are social initiatives like yours important?
I think it's important for people to understand that whatever your skill is – painting, writing, speaking, singing, coding, or anything, you can DO something. It's important to help people watching in horror at what is unfolding in Ukraine understand that this war is Our War, and we can all help fight it together.

Are you planning to visit Ukraine sometime?
Absolutely <3 <3 <3 



The Coordination Center Save Ukraine Now was established by Ivano-Frankivsk Municipality, Ivano-Frankivsk Business Association, the Territorial Defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Ivano-Frankivsk, «Teple Misto» сharitable оrganization, innovation center Promprylad.Renovation and Ivano-Frankivsk Drama Theater. In cooperation with other partners, the Coordination Center of Resistance is aimed to meet urgent humanitarian needs and needs of the Territorial Defense Forces in Ivano-Frankivsk city and the region and the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The main goal of the Coordination Center SaveUkraineNow is to coordinate, analyze, collect, and send any sort of help to places that are in dire need. We have created an online database to sync demand and supply and streamline the provisioning process.

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