Official artist of Belleville to create art installation to draw attention to invasion of Ukraine

Photo Courtesy of Belleville

BELLEVILLE, NJ — Athena Zhe, Belleville’s official artist, can’t sleep until she gets an early morning message that her sister and other family members have made it through another night. The Ukrainian-born artist constantly worries about her loved ones and fears for the safety of others in her homeland as it continues to come under siege by Russian forces.

To draw attention to the invasion that has been raging since Feb. 24, Zhe began Project Ukraine. The trees in Belleville Park have been draped in blue and yellow — the colors of the Ukrainian flag — as a call for help for Ukraine in its hour of need. With the help of several volunteers, she wrapped dozens of trees with fabric after getting approval from Essex County officials.

On Sunday, May 1, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., she and others will wrap more trees in the park.

“I hope people will see these trees and do something to help the people of Ukraine,” Zhe said. “People can reach out to their politicians, they can raise awareness on social media, they can make donations. There’s so much that each and every person can do to stop this.”

Since moving to Belleville in 2018, she has been given the title of Belleville’s official artist after using her talents and time to beautify the township.

The largest of her art installations was created in 2020, when she turned a large swath of concrete wall along the Passaic River into a colorful mural honoring Belleville’s title as the Cherry Blossom Capital of America.

Recently, several pieces of blue-and-yellow artwork calling for a peaceful ending to the Russian invasion have been hung in Town Hall.

“I am not a soldier,” Zhe said. “I don’t know how to shoot or defend my homeland. Making art is what I do and this is how I can call attention to this invasion and call for people to do something now.”