The Township of Belleville stands with the people of Ukraine.
That’s the message behind a series of more than two dozen paintings that have been hung near the entryway to Town Hall.
The stunning works were painted in the Ukraine’s national colors of blue and yellow and carry slogans such as “Defend Democracy,” “No War” and, simply yet pointedly, “Freedom.”
Some are even written in Ukranian.
They are the work of Belleville artist Athena Zhe, a Ukranian native.
Zhe also recently joined Mayor Michael Melham in unfurling a large Ukranian flag from the second story window outside the mayor’s office.
“Make no mistake: Belleville stands with Ukraine and against this incursion into a free, democratic country,” Melham said. “These paintings convey the thoughts and words we hold in our hearts at this time: hope, resistance, freedom, love, peace.”
Zhe has become an integral part of the community over the past few years, an artist-in-residence of sorts, who has worked with everyone from the Township’s Green Team to Belleville High School students on various murals around town.
Thousands of residents have marveled at the costumes she designed and created at events such as the Belleville Winter Fest and the Three Kings Day Celebration.
It’s hard to miss perhaps her most vibrant and vital work — the sprawling Cherry Blossom Art Mural that pays homage to Belleville’s title as “The Cherry Blossom Capital of America.”
The mural covers a concrete wall along the Passaic River and greets visitors with long, twisting branches covered in life-like blossoms. It is proudly emblazoned with the words, “Welcome to Belleville.”
“Belleville has become my home, but Ukraine will always be my homeland,” Zhe said. “Like many others, I have watched Russia’s invasion of my homeland on the news and my heart is heavy. The support shown here in Belleville and beyond is very touching and I appreciate everyone’s prayers.”
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.