Northeastern grad student puts together art auction for Ukraine 

collage of photographs of artwork
Photographs by Julia Grabar depicting diverse scenes and places in Ukraine are offered for sale through the Art Auction for Ukraine. Design by Zach Christensen/Northeastern University

A Northeastern University graduate student organized an online auction that showcases artwork of Ukrainian artists and will benefit two non-profit organizations that provide humanitarian aid to Ukrainians.

Daria Koshkina, 28, who is working toward her master’s degree in digital media with a concentration in 3D at the College of Professional Studies, curated an online auction, The Art Auction for Ukraine, in collaboration with Boston Cyberarts, Digital Silver Imaging and BarabásiLab at Northeastern.

“I came up with this idea because I was devastated by the war,” Koshkina says. “Russia is my home country. And I think that is also what makes it so painful to me. I felt like I wanted to do something.” 

Northeastern digital media graduate student Daria Koshkina is one of the organizers and the curator of the Art Auction for Ukraine, which aims to fundraise money for verified non-profit organizations helping Ukrainians during the Russia-Ukraine war. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Koshkina, who was born in Russia but also has Ukrainian and Jewish roots, says she strongly opposes the Russia-Ukraine war. 

“Honestly, what I learned through my interaction with injustice is that it’s better to do something small than nothing,” she says. “It may feel like it’s not enough, but that’s a start.”

Koshkina shared the idea of an auction with the Boston Cyberarts Executive Director George Fifield and Assistant Director Allison Maria Rodriguez, who she worked with on their final spring exhibition this year, featuring BarábasiLab, where she is an art and design assistant. 

“We really enjoyed working with her and when she approached us with this idea—and the opportunity to actively support such an important cause—we were excited by the opportunity to work with her again,” Rodriguez says. “It is not the usual work Cyberarts focuses on, work at the intersection of art and technology, but it is a project we very much believe in and we believe in Daria’s vision and curatorial voice.”

Boston Cyberarts, a non-profit arts organization that promotes and exhibits electronic and digital experimental arts, runs a gallery in the Green Street station on the MBTA’s Orange Line in Jamaica Plain. They offered Koshika logistical and administrative support for the auction, from technology and legal advice to press releases, media presence and promotion.

Koshkina tapped into her network to invite Ukrainian artists who are still living in Ukraine and those who live abroad to participate in the auction. The auction features a range of art mediums, including photography, illustrations, drawings and mixed-media pieces.

Photographer Julia Grabar, who lives in Kyiv and used to be a stylist at movie and video sets before the war, submitted to the auction her photographs shot on film that show how diverse and authentic Ukrainian culture is, despite what the neighbor who has attacked it might think, she says.

Grabar woke up at 5 a.m. on Feb. 24 when her mother called her to say that Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities had been attacked by Russia. 

“We would go down to the basement all the time, because there were so many attacks on civilian buildings in Kyiv and the Kyiv region,” Grabar says. “My parents decided to leave the city because there were a lot of strikes near our house and a lot of buildings were destroyed. I decided to stay.”

In her pictures one can see architecture which is thus saved in history, she says. “Right now we understand that a missile can hit any place in our country and destroy everything.”

“Participation in the auction gives Ukrainian artists an opportunity to help Ukraine and its people. It is very important for every Ukrainian right now to collect funds for our country,” Grabar says.

lena shkoda posing in front of a red background
“Lee,” one of the photographs by Lena Shkoda, is offered for sale through the Art Auction for Ukraine. Courtesy of the Art Auction for Ukraine

Another artist—fashion and portrait photographer Lena Shkoda—also grew up in Kyiv, but has been living in Brooklyn since 2013.

“We all have to do everything we can to help Ukraine to win this cruel war and stop the genocide,” she says. “This sale raises awareness about what is happening in Ukraine. The more people know, the better. Hope they will support, too, or tell other people about the situation.”

Shkoda says that it is unbearable for her sometimes to go through the day, thinking about the war in her home country, but when she remembers what the Ukrainian defenders go through every day she fills up with hope and pride for them.

“We all just need to unite and push out the evil away with collective effort,” Shkoda says.

Eighty five percent of proceeds will be distributed evenly between two verified nonprofits that provide important humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people: Nova Ukraine and Razom for Ukraine

“We were very selective, and I asked my Ukrainian friends, first and foremost, which organizations they want to see,” Koshkina says about the choice.  

The remaining 15% will go to the participating artists, many of whom have chosen to donate their portion of the proceeds, too.

“It is very important that artists should get something for their work. They also need help right now,” Koshkina says.

The auction opened for bidding on July 15 and will close on Sunday, Aug. 14, at midnight. Digital Silver Imaging is providing high quality prints of the auction art pieces. 

The prices for the lots start at $20, and, Koshkina says, even $20-25 is still a big help for the benefiting organizations. 

“I would like to encourage the community of Northeastern to participate, and come and take a look because we have a big range in prices. It doesn’t necessarily require having a big budget,” Koshkina says.

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