Belfast Arts Collective Launches Exhibition To Benefit Ukrainian Refugees

The Engine Room Gallery in Belfast is launching a unique exhibition in support of the Red Cross Ukrainian Refugees Appeal, featuring work from an array of international and local artists such as Basil Blackshaw, Clement McAleer and Bill Penny.

Over 150 pieces have been donated and will be on display in the gallery on North Street from the launch on Thursday, August 4 at 7pm. The artwork will be available to purchase for set prices of £100, £200 and £300.

Organiser Cliff Brooks MBE explained: “The situation in Ukraine is dire. Millions of people have no safe place to call home. More than 6 million have already left the country and around 8 million are displaced internally.

“The members of the gallery felt they had to do something. I am humbled by the response from the art community.”

More than 600 Red Cross staff are in Ukraine at present delivering vital supplies such as food, water, bedding and tents all across the country.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Ukrainian Government revealed: “We are very grateful that the people of Northern Ireland stand with us. President Zelensky is aware of your efforts and is extremely thankful.”

Gavin Robinson MP has helped facilitate contact between Northern Ireland and the Ukrainian Government. He said: “It is great that we have messages of support from the Ukrainian Government. As a supporter of the arts, I think it is wonderful to have so many highly acclaimed artists come together to help the refugees. We must do all we can during times like this. I am proud that the people of Northern Ireland are playing their part.”

Included in the display is a special painting entitled Train Delay by Victoria, a teenage refugee and sponsee of the East Belfast Art Collective. She lives with her mother in Lurgan, having fled Ukraine. The painting was inspired by the events of the day when she had to leave her home.

She recalled: “The train from Kyiv was delayed because the Russians were bombarding the railway to isolate us, to prevent us from leaving the country. People at the station were panicking because it could be bombarded at any time. The children didn’t realise what was happening and I remember one small boy who caught my eye. He was standing on the platform and he was upset. Still today I remember his eyes.

“Months ago I was a normal teenager. I had friends. I loved music and dancing. I loved my studies. I was supposed to present a science project at school. Then the bombs came. It all changed. Within a short time, it all changed. My dad and my grandparents are still there. I miss my family and friends. Now Northern Ireland is my home. People have been so kind to me and my mum, especially our host family who accepted us as family members. But also the Engine Room Gallery and all the artists who donated their art. Now I find myself having my picture taken with a great artist. You have given me another chance.”

Speaking on Victoria’s painting, artist Neil Shawcross said: “Good art comes from technique, aesthetics and discernment and Victoria has managed to combine all three. She is so young to produce such a piece and she has the potential to continue to do so.”

Speaking on his involvement in the exhibition, artist Clement McAleer said: “When Cliff approached me with the idea, I understood that bringing together so many artists and art pieces in one place would be a mammoth task. He has managed to do so brilliantly. The assemblage of artists is quite amazing. I am pleased to be a part of it.”

As well as the vast array of pieces on display, 15 artworks donated by Carol Graham, Neil Shawcross, Clement McAleer and the family of Basil Blackshaw will be auctioned off during the event’s finale. The auction will be hosted by comedian, actor and TV presenter Tim McGarry, with all proceeds from both the exhibition and auction going to the Red Cross Ukrainian Refugees fund.

The exhibition launches on Thursday, August 4 at 7pm, continuing for 10 days thereafter. It opens Tuesday to Saturday 10.30am until 4pm at the Engine Room Gallery, 59 North Street, Belfast.


By Cathaoir McKay