Jo-Ann Oosterman is a local yoga teacher and creative who, each year, organizes an art exhibit at the Byward Market’s well-loved burger institution Chez Lucien. This year, Jo-Ann curated the Blue Yellow fundraiser, with all art donated by local artists and all proceeds going to the Ukrainian Red Cross.
“I was going to donate to help out, and then I thought, ‘I could raise a little more through this exhibit.’ I talked to my artist friends and they donated their blue and yellow works or created new ones for this fundraiser,” says Oosterman. The blue and yellow colours represent the Ukrainian flag, in which blue symbolizes clear skies above the yellow wheat fields.
“I hate to say this but I was traumatized by the freedom convoy of February, as someone who lives downtown. Seeing the hateful flags had a deep emotional response in me. When I saw Ukraine’s President Zelensky stand up for his people, I felt very strongly about it. ‘THIS is a real freedom fighter,'” says Jo-Ann while pointing to a collage she made representing this idea.
“All the art is donated. Sarah, the co-owner of Chez Lucien, is an artist as well, so she contributed a couple of works. My friend Carolyn Andrews does beautiful abstract stuff with the camera. And the work of illustrator Albert Presner is all done intricately by hand,” Oosterman explains as she shows me around the beautiful stone wall of the restaurant.
“In Sandy Hill, I know a young woman whose Ukrainian friends were killed in the war. She made a blue and yellow bristol board about the war crimes. I thought it was powerful. Then, in my neighbourhood, there is an artist who makes creates from duct tape. He made a family of three sitting on the bench in front of the Russian Embassy, out of blue and yellow duct tape. The final straw was when I saw children’s foam puzzle pieces, in blue and yellow, near a neighbour’s house. She let me keep them and I am going to make art out of it. After seeing all of these gestures in my neighbourhood, I decided to do the art exhibit,” says Oosterman.
When I ask if Oosterman has a personal connection to the war, she briefly mentions her Polish heritage and then says, “This is not about me. When I started seeing the war footage, I told my friends, ‘There is no way it will happen,’ and here we are. I felt helpless. I wanted to do something.”
Blue Yellow Fundraiser is on at Chez Lucien until the end of May. All art is for sale, and Oosterman is sending the funds directly to the Ukrainian Red Cross to help with humanitarian efforts.