Belleville stands with the people of Ukraine.
That’s the message behind a series of paintings that have been hung near the entryway to Town Hall.
The works were painted in the 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 Ukrainian.
They are the work of Belleville artist Athena Zhe, a Ukrainian native.
In all, more than two dozen paintings have been hung in Town Hall.
Zhe also joined Mayor Michael Melham in unfurling a large Ukrainian 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,” Mayor Michael 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 essential 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.”