To the Editors: “Rescuing Art in a Time of War“
Without question the first rescue operation needed in the Ukraine is one that removes civilians from the dangers of war. Millions of Ukrainians are fleeing cities under bombardment, and until a cease-fire or peace agreement can be reached, their safety needs to be secured. (The same kind of flight is taking place elsewhere in other, less publicized wars, where civilians also need food, shelter, and a peaceful country; but that’s another story.)
A different kind of rescue operation took place in San Francisco on March 6, when a group of painters under the direction of David Solnit created a peace dove mural based on Ukrainian folk art. The mural, hand-painted during a rally for peace near the city’s waterfront, enlarged imagery originally created by Maria Pryimachenko in the Ukraine. Her original picture was lost in a fire, along with dozens of other paintings, casualties of the current war. With its bright colored background, the peace symbol spreading its wings brought some cheer and a sense of cultural solidarity to Bay Area residents calling for a halt in the violence.
The street mural, like the original, is likely to be lost soon, washed away by rain (if it rains here) or city street cleaners. But I can imagine other artists in other cities continuing to keep the imagery of peace alive, through new murals as well as rallies and appeals for an end to the fighting.
Emeritus Professor of Theatre and Dance at San Francisco State University