Exchange students from Ukraine, Romania partner with Raygun to support women artists

(From left) Ana-Maria Petcu (Romania), Lucya Shapovalova (Ukraine), Liza Yaryshkina (Ukraine) and Iryna Hodun (Ukraine), at Raygun’s Des Moines location, wearing merch created for the She – The Artist event on March 25, 2023. — Dan Ray/Little Village

Ana-Maria Petcu wants there to be more women in art. But first, she wants the women who are already in art to receive the recognition they deserve.

At the Raygun store in Des Moines on March 25, Petcu — a 12th grade foreign exchange student at Valley High School in West Des Moines who is originally from Bucharest, Romania — held an art show aimed at showcasing women in art. The show featured about 25 pieces created by Petcu and three fellow foreign exchange students, ranging from paintings to pencil drawings to sculpture.

“I know that women [in the U.S.] are not so appreciated in art, and I wanted to promote this more,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to get into an art school, and it’s really expensive. American college is expensive. So we’re fundraising money for an art scholarship for women.”

The show, titled She-The Artist, raised funds for Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW), a nonprofit based in the state of New York with a mission to create a space for trans, nonbinary, genderfluid and women artists to pursue their crafts. By selling T-shirts and hoodies designed by Petcu and printed by Raygun, She-The Artist raised funds for WSW’s grant program, which provides artists with a paid six- or eight-week residency in their studios.

Though the event has passed, the four different apparel designs can still be purchased through Raygun’s website.

Liza Yaryshkina, one of the other organizers of the show and an exchange student from Ukraine, had previously worked with Raygun. In early 2022, Raygun owner Mike Draper helped Yaryshkina and two other foreign exchange students design, print and distribute T-shirts to raise money for a maternity ward at a hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Yaryshkina’s exchange program ended in June of 2022, but she has stayed in America due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.)

“Raygun likes to encourage young people to increase community building and support the arts,” said Kat Correa, Raygun’s director of stores. “When they approached us, we knew they would do a really good job and wanted to support them.”

The show ran from 11 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., at which point Petcu began a live painting at Daisy Chain Coffee, which shares a building with Raygun. She-The Artist raised $500 for Women’s Studio Workshop during Saturday’s event. According to Correa, sales of apparel designed for the event will continue to support the organization.

Dan Ray (she/her) is a journalist, musician, model and 1994 Aquarius. You can connect with her through IG (@heyimdanray) or by emailing her at