MONTCLAIR, NJ — The Montclair Public Library Art Gallery has launched its first ever digital art show, entitled A Case for the Ukrainian Cause, featuring products that carry cultural symbols of Ukraine. The brainchild of activist-artist Melanka Coppola, samples of all items can be viewed in the display case at the entrance of the main branch, accompanied by QR codes for immediate purchase and scheduled delivery.
A professional artist educated at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts, it was the combination of COVID further compounded by the occupation of Ukraine which motivated Melanka to create art in new mediums, including stepping into the category of Ukrainian-branded merchandise. Her line of products include t-shirts, stickers, totes, cups and hoodies, among other practical products. Most feature a trident-like logo, which Melanka informs “is a tryzub, Ukraine’s symbol of freedom. The tryzub (тризуб in Ukrainian) actually incorporates the letters from the Ukrainian word ‘volya’ (воля in Ukrainian) which means freedom. And the tryzub symbol has been found embedded in coins dating from the 900s.”
Melanka, who is first generation Ukrainian-American, has extended family in Ukraine on both her maternal and paternal sides of the family. In fact, since the attempted Russian occupation in 2014, when members of her family in Ukraine fought against the invaders, those same family members have been among the brave continually preparing to fight again to maintain their freedom.
Prior to this show, Melanka’s fine art was on display as part of the Ukrainian Roots: Art by the Diaspora group show at the MPL Art Gallery in June. Other artists whose work was displayed were Tanya Debarry (tdebarry.com), Ivan Bratko (FB:@ivanbratkoart), and Natalie Napoleon (natalienapoleon.com). All artists donated portions of their profits to Ukrainian efforts. Thanks to the MPL Art Gallery liaison Linda Welch, Melanka’s commercial work will be for sale at the Library, with Melanka donating 100% of her profits to humanitarian efforts for the people of Ukraine.
Melanka’s motivation to raise funds is based on the many ways the occupation has directly impacted her family. As an example, Melanka shares:
“Sadly, a relative who was serving in the military was killed by a sniper just before Easter this year. He was 20 years old. He will be remembered as a handsome, smart and strong hero who paid the ultimate price for freedom. I think of his mother. As the mother of three boys, ages 15, 13 and 10, I just can’t imagine her pain.”