Castro merchant taps into Ukrainian art for fundraiser

  • by Marijke Rowland
  • Wednesday March 1, 2023
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Ukrainian artist Alyona Krutogolova has designed postcards that Art House SF in the Castro is selling to raise funds for supplies for the war-torn country. Photo: Alyona Krutogolova
Ukrainian artist Alyona Krutogolova has designed postcards that Art House SF in the Castro is selling to raise funds for supplies for the war-torn country. Photo: Alyona Krutogolova

A Castro art gallery is using the humble postcard to help those hurt by the ongoing war in Ukraine, which recently entered its second year.

Art House SF, at 2324 Market Street just off the Noe Street intersection, has been selling colorful sets of postcards by Ukrainian artist Alyona Krutogolova since mid-January. All proceeds from the project go to the nonprofit Donum Vitae (Latin for "Gift of Life"), which buys medical supplies for Ukrainian hospitals.

Russia invaded Ukraine last February 24. Ahead of the one-year anniversary, President Joe Biden visited Ukraine February 20 and spent more than five hours in the capital city of Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, honored the country's fallen soldiers and saw U.S. embassy staff in the besieged country, the Associated Press reported.

Art House SF owner Max Khusid, who was born in Ukraine and immigrated to the United States 30 years ago, said he was shocked when Russia invaded his native homeland a year ago and wanted to do something. When talking with Krutogolova, who is based in Kyiv, they decided to put on her first solo show with the gallery.

Khusid has displayed pieces of Krutogolova's work — featuring bright, fanciful images of animals in various outfits — in the shop for the past three years.

Her solo exhibit "Spirit Animals" opened February 25 in the Castro storefront and will run through April 2. As Krutogolova worked on creating and curating oil paintings for the show, Khusid said the idea for the Ukrainian war fundraiser came together.

"We wanted to reach out to more people," said Khusid, who identifies as an LGBTQ advocate. "Only so many people can buy an expensive piece of artwork. But a postcard is a relatively inexpensive format that I've found in the past people respond really well to. So why not bring some brightness to people's day and at the same time help the Ukrainians?"

The gallery has raised about $600 since launching the fundraiser. Khusid said he transferred his first check to the charity in late February. The gallery has produced 500 copies of the 10-postcard sets, which sell for $15 each.

But the postcards aren't the only way Khusid and Krutogolova hope to help their fellow Ukrainians as the war continues. The gallery will host a fundraising event March 25 for Donum Vitae that will feature Ukrainian artwork, cuisine, and other refreshments. Tickets will be required, but are not available for sale yet. Khusid said to check back with the gallery for more information soon.

Krutogolova's work will be on display during the fundraising event, with original paintings in various sizes (ranging in price from $300 to $1,500), as well as prints and other formats available for purchase.

In an email interview translated by Khusid, Krutogolova said she has been "completely immersed" in the war while living in Kyiv.

"I hear the sounds of air raid alerts, the sounds of downed cruise missiles and drones, (and) in my area there are hits on residential buildings and infrastructure," Krutogolova wrote. "It is difficult to find intelligible words to explain what it is like to live in a country that has been trying with all its might for a year now to defend its right to national identity, to freedom, to the future ... It's hard, it's very hard!"

While at first she said she couldn't work, now Krutogolova sees her art as her way of helping with the war efforts.

"I always thought that I have cute, cheerful, decorative works that should bring joy, harmony and positivity to people's homes," she wrote. "But now they have a dual task, they are raising money for the Ukrainian victory, and perhaps they will save someone's life, at least one life — it will be a lot!"

The Art House SF Ukrainian postcard fundraiser will run indefinitely, until the sets are sold out. They can be purchased in the shop or online. For more information visit

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