The bright and inviting Art4U gallery in Parkville at 110 Main St. in the historic downtown looks like many art galleries, but its purpose sets it apart. Owners Efim and Irina Fourman opened the gallery in March 2017. They carry work primarily by Ukrainian artists, and a portion of each sale goes to help people affected by the ongoing conflict in that country, which began in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea, a part of Ukraine.
Efim Fourman explains how his gallery came to be and what he hopes to accomplish with it.
Q: How did your gallery get started?
A: It was really a way to help. We have lived here in Kansas City for 18 years, but left the Soviet Union in 1991. At the time, Ukraine was just one of the republics. We didn’t actually think about Ukraine that much before bad things started happening. When war started about 4 1/2 years ago, and unpredictable conditions for the country started, it was a point to reconsider everything. We realized we wanted to start helping.
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We looked for different ways to do it. We started with sending money to Ukraine. It was direct donations to particular people or for a particular goal to a particular orphanage house or military unit.
After awhile, we saw our resources were limited. We couldn’t send the amount we would like to send. So we started thinking of another way. At this point we contacted friends who were artists, and we decided to do it this way.
Q: What makes Ukrainian art unique?
A: Most of the art is very European, which is different than the art created in the United States, basically because of the scenarios in the art. The old world there is older than the new world here in the United States and Canada. Most motifs and subject matters are from the past. Most subjects are very international. We have many landscapes and urban scenes.
Customers will come in and see landscaping from Europe, and scenes from Prague and Kiev or the Mediterranean Sea. But some of the work looks like a scene you might find somewhere in Kansas or Missouri.
Most of the art was created in Ukraine. We also have a gift area that features traditional Ukrainian craft and art. There’s a presentation of work from a small village named Petrykivka. All these pieces are hand-painted with a special brush made from cat fur. They also use a paint mixed with special glue. It’s been done that way for hundreds of years. It is well known around the world.
Q: Why did you choose Parkville?
A: We considered many spaces. We looked in Shawnee and other places like the downtown Crossroads area before we chose this space.
Parkville has a lot of tourists. We thought it would be good because there were already a couple of galleries in the area. There are also several high-quality restaurants around, which brings people to the area who would potentially be interested in good art.
We get many good reactions from people almost every day.
Q: How is the gallery received and is it helping you help people in Ukraine?
A: We feel that we are still not at the point we can accomplish everything we want, not yet, but we would like to expand. We want to improve and increase it.
One of our biggest goals is to introduce Ukrainian art to the American public. I am very proud that we now have the gallery filled. We also have a line of artists who would like to join us from Ukraine. We also have a lot of local artists who would like to come introduce their art here. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough space right now, but we would like to expand.