Ukrainian artist and photographer Yuliana's "Unbreakable" (2022) (photo courtesy the artist)

The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation announced yesterday, April 6, that it will give $2.5 million in grants to support artists at risk across the world and to conserve cultural heritage in Ukraine.

The bulk of the multi-year funding, $2 million, will go to PEN America, which will launch an emergency fund for artists at risk in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. The grant will also support the organization’s existing Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) program, which provides aid to threatened and persecuted artists worldwide.

The remaining $500,000 will be granted to a new initiative to conserve cultural heritage in Ukraine, to be launched by the World Monuments Fund. This project will involve documenting cultural heritage sites and protecting at-risk collections before delving into recovery and conservation projects.

The 16th-century Holy Dormition Svyatogorsk Lavra monastery in eastern Ukraine was damaged by Russian shelling in March. (image via Wikimedia)

The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation was founded and endowed by Frankenthaler in 1984. The foundation previously pledged a total of $10 million in climate grants and awarded $5.1 million of that to 79 institutions last year; it awarded $1.5 million to increase equity and access at museums and other cultural organizations; and awarded $5 million for COVID-19 relief.

“Artists are powerful and essential drivers of change,” said the foundation’s board member and former board chair Clifford Ross in a statement announcing the grant. “Their work illuminates the here and now, and chronicles the present for the future. It holds humanity accountable to itself.”

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.