The team at Art Business News was introduced to the principals of United Kids at the recent Miami Art Week. United Kids is an international, self-funded collaborative team that created a one-of-a-kind charity supporting Ukrainian refugee children. We were inspired by the organization’s drive and intention — and amazed by their accomplishments. We thought our readers should know more about them and the work they are doing.
INTRODUCE YOURSELVES — MASHA AND KATRINA — WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT IS YOUR ORGANIZATION’S VISION?
United Kids Art (unitedkids.art) is the work of two dedicated Ukranian women. Masha Zolotova is the founder of UnitedKids.Art based in Vienna, Austria, where it initially began. Zolotova is also heading up the United Kids expansion in the UK where the largest number of Ukrainian refugees currently reside. Katrina Bila is based in Miami, Florida, having immigrated two years ago and is curating the United Kids Art project in the United States.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUNDS
MZ: Since early youth, I implemented various kinds of projects in Ukraine, in both Odessa and Kyiv. Given the availability of artistic academic education, the vector of these projects has always been relevant to arts and culture: from small creative studios for emerging artists to cinemas, production centers, and international festivals. Turning my own ideas into major projects, their maintenance and further development is my main task and duty as a producer, organizer, and author.
KB: I joined the project last summer with the intention of creating a powerful impetus to United Kids development in the United States. As an architect, I am employed by Stantec, one of the world’s leading architecture firms. But I am also an artist with a special love for painting all my life. Being an artist, I’ve participated in numerous art and design projects throughout the years, giving me wonderful opportunities to explore the world.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK PHILOSOPHY AND HOW DOES THAT IMPACT UNITEDKIDS.ART?
MZ: Our philosophy is simple and it is based on two fundamental values. Do what you love the most, while choosing a direction that will have a beneficial effect on the lives of other people. It was the desire to make small improvements in the lives of our Ukrainian children and help them cope with perhaps the most difficult period of their lives that became the impetus for creating United Kid Art.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT HOW UNITEDKIDS.ART GOT STARTED.
MZ: The idea to create a charitable foundation for Ukrainian teenagers in Vienna came naturally. I had to move to Vienna at the end of February 2022due to the war. In the first weeks after the war started, I was engaged in the evacuation of Ukrainian families with children. A fleeting idea of creating a small community in Vienna for newly arrived refugees turned into a global task to help teenagers cope with forced migration and the accompanying stress.
KB: And that is why we chose art as a tool for therapy. This is how the foundation, the abstract painting program for teenagers, and art as therapy began.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR CURRENT PROJECTS?
KB: We are making small but steady steps. We have a busy main studio hub in Vienna and are evolving an online school. We are currently looking for an opportunity to launch our studios and workshops in the US, aligning with established local artists. All to benefit the Ukrainian children.
HOW HAVE ARTISTS AND ART BEEN INVOLVED WITH THE ORGANIZATION?
MZ: In fact, art has a powerful therapeutic and healing effect. Earlier in Ukraine, we were engaged children’s development programs. It is only art that has this incomparable ability to calm and harmonize a person’s psychological state as a whole. When the question arose of how to create a project that would help children cope with the consequences of the stress of war and moving, the decision for art and painting to become the core tool was made at lightning speed.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED?
KB: We can’t say that we quickly came to impressive results. In fact, the project developed slowly. There were several periods of a complete freeze. We revised our tasks and goals several times, and to tell the truth, we are still constantly making fresh updates to its concept because we want to achieve the greatest effect and affect as many cities and Ukrainian communities in them as possible.
MZ: Perhaps the best piece of advice was coming from our official adviser, Robin Anezin, whose quote was: “You’re doing a really good job, don’t give up, and the result will come.” A simple truth that I repeatedly told myself when it seemed like nothing would come of our idea. But Robin was right, wasn’t he? So I consider this advice the best and gladly recommend it to others!
WHEN YOU ARE NOT WORKING, WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU?
MZ: The activity of the foundation is not the main activity for either of us. Even though I still produce various projects in Europe and the USA, I have to admit that for me personally, emotionally and psychologically, nothing compares to running our foundation.
KB: We are happy to have such a positive impact on the growing generation in general. We want to evolve our workshop techniques and collaborate with more professionals in the industry for a greater achievement of a bright future for our Ukrainian kids.
WHAT DOES PARTNERING WITH ARTEXPO NEW YORK 2023 AND REDWOOD ART GROUP MEAN TO YOU?
MZ: Getting to an exhibition of this level has been our number one goal since the day the foundation was founded. Of course, the exhibition of the children’s artworks is wonderful. The true joy comes from the hope and motivation the children will acquire when they find out that their paintings will be presented at such a level.
I do not want to make far-sighted forecasts, but I believe that the opportunity to create paintings from an early age and present them at international venues is a huge value. It can open completely different horizons in the life of our budding artists, lead to completely different thought processes, set different goals, and as a result, affect the rest of your life.
UnitedKids.Art is a community from Odessa, Ukraine, that create, organize, and implement different children’s development projects since 2009. Our Ukrainian base held more than 600 kids, and we had the opportunity to evacuate some of them to Austria after the war started. Today we are a charity foundation in the EU, supporting Ukrainian kids on a large scale.
Our focus goals are to create a safe international art community for Ukrainian kids, to help rebuild their life, and support new beginnings. Our long-term vision is to create a
safe creative platform that supports young Ukrainian artists all over the world, both online and offline. Additionally, we strive to develop creative therapies for Ukrainian children in need, as well as a safe environment for Ukrainian women in need.