BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- For Ukrainian-born artist Yaroslava Zamoyska, flowers are more than just table décor, landscaping accents, and romantic gestures. Flowers are a totem; emblems of the country she comes from and her ancestors that cultivated the land there.
After all, Ukrainians are cherishers of the Earth. They are people who know the land. The soil. The seed. They know the powers that can be distilled from herbs and care deeply for the lifeblood of vegetation.
So, it's not way surprising that Zamoyska, a resident of Bridgeport, makes flowers the subjects of her paintings.
On Saturday, June 10, along with images of flowers brushed by other locals, her work was on display as part of a program called "Kids Draw Free."
The program is exactly what you would think: Kids come and draw for free.
Originally, the concept was to hold art festivals to showcase the work of local artists. For fun, "Kids Draw Free" Founder Alex Virvo set up a few tables on the side where kids were welcome to come and doodle.
“What ended up happening was that more and more kids kept coming to draw and I realized that I might be onto something," explained the Stamford resident
“I noticed that drawing was a powerful activity for them. In a moment, kids would go from being very shy to very outgoing.”
That's when, using his marketing background, he decided to make the creativity of children his focus, but use it to lure traffic to otherwise overlooked cultural venues, like the Stamford Goodbody Garden, where Saturday’s ‘Kids Draw Free’ originally took place.
Now that the organization has perfected its approach, it aims to return to Virvo’s original mission: Building an audience for local artists like Zamoyska.
The importance of being creative for children is not lost on Zamoyska, who left Ukraine when she was 13 and moved to Weston with her mother. “I felt like I had landed on the moon! I moved from a big city and I didn't quite know what to do with myself.”
She didn't know the language, which was only compounded by the ordinary burdens of being a teenager who wanted to fit in. She always had a bright mind that excelled in math, geography, history and science, but had difficulty reading textbooks and keeping up with class discussions.
Her life took a turn when she moved to Fairfield and started attending Ludlowe High School where she enrolled in art classes -- and finally found her "home."
She'd been dedicated to her craft ever since and dedicates much of her success to her high school art teachers. Zamoyska's work has been in shows throughout the northeast, including an exhibition at the Susquehanna Art Museum in Harrisburg, PA, where four of her pieces sold earlier this year.
The timing could not have been better. The sales came at a time when she was starting to doubt her voice as an artist and the hope that that voice would resonate with an audience.
“I was in a bit of a rut," admitted Zamoyska. “Hearing the news and knowing that there are people out there who not only appreciate what I am doing but want to bring it home with them meant so much.
"I felt all this creative energy suddenly wake up and demand to be let out.”
The next "Kids Draw Free" program is slated from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, June 23 at Artwalk 2017 in Stamford (Kiwanis Park). Go HERE for details.