A Costa Mesa artist of Syrian heritage has found a way to give back to her parents' homeland, which is in turmoil.
On Feb. 25, Sama Wareh, 28, will show her art along with other artists at the Blue Jay Art Gallery in Laguna Beach. Portions of the proceeds will go to the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund.
Although Wareh grew up in Orange County, her entire extended family resides in Damascus, the Syrian capital. Her connection to Syria is apparent in her paintings, from the streets of Syrian towns and Bedouin symbolism to Arabic poetry and calligraphy in her art.
Wareh has a bachelor's in art and filmmaking from Cal State Fullerton and has shown her work at the Bowers Museum, the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center in New Orleans and the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
When she first heard about theanti-government protests in Syria, Wareh said she wanted to go there and endure it with her uncles, aunts and cousins.
The artist said she soon realized she could make a bigger impact here.
"I turned depression and hopelessness into energy and a source of motivation," she said.
A few weeks ago, she contacted her friend and fellow artist, Arturo Guevara, and asked him if he knew of a Laguna Beach gallery owner who would be interested in hosting a benefit art show. He thought of Blue Jay owner Elena Bokareva, who immediately embraced the cause.
"They're human beings. We're supposed to help each other when we're in a difficult situation in life," Bokareva said.
Wareh said the entire show came together in one night, after Syrian artist Kinda Hibrawi and Laguna Beach artist Mira Lisa agreed to take part as well.
"Everyone is coming together for it," she said. "It really went from a state of hopelessness to a full-on gallery art show in two weeks."
Wareh said she's not surprised by the enthusiasm.
"I think inherently there is good in people," she said. "People want to step up to the plate."
Kéan Coffee is donating coffee for the event and Sahara Cafe, a Syrian restaurant in Pomona, offered to cater.
The event is not political but purely humanitarian, Wareh said.
The money is going toward women and children refugees. According to the Los Angeles Times, thousands of Syrians have fled the country to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan over the past few months.
Wareh has spoken to the U.N., and she said officials told her they've nearly depleted their emergency fund for Syria.
Through the show she hopes to raise $10,000 for the fund.
Wareh has seen many of the cities splashed across the newscasts first hand. She traveled to Syria three years ago to film a documentary for her Cal State Fullerton environmental studies master's thesis, titled "Dwindling Drops in the Sand: Investigating Syria's Water Crisis."
She's also been to Homs, the site of recent heavy shelling.
All of the proceeds from the $10-entry donation and 30% of art sales will go to U.N. relief efforts. Wareh pledges to give 100% of her commission.
The art will continue to be on display at the gallery until April 30. For more information about Wareh's art, visit warehart.com.
If You Go
What: UN-nited Artists Assn. presents Art Collectors Preview Gala for Exhibition to Benefit Syrian Women and Children
Where: Blue Jay Art Gallery, 352 N. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 25