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Fostering Children's Creativity : Creativity + Children = Peace

Creativity + Children = Peace

Children's Peace Day, Sept 11

By Ashfaq Ishaq, PhD, FRSA Executive Director, ICAF

Child Coloring
"Since its founding in 1997, the International Child Art Foundation (ICAF) has focused on hosting children's celebrations on The National Mall, where creative young Americans and children from around the world could explore their creativity, spark their imagination and develop bonds that last forever."

"Konnichiwa!" "Ni Hao!" "Alahan!" "Salaam!" These are a few of the joyful greetings shouted by children from all over the world at the International Child Art Foundation Festival this past September. Located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, the festival was a time for children from many different backgrounds and cultures (and language barriers!) to come together to celebrate a common bond — art.

The Festival Story

Since its founding in 1997, the International Child Art Foundation (ICAF) has focused on hosting children's celebrations on The National Mall, where creative young Americans and children from around the world could explore their creativity, spark their imagination and develop bonds that last forever.

The Festival is a "live arts and cultural experience" for thousands of participants. It becomes a "mediated art experience" for millions more, filtered through a technological medium such as television, press, radio or the Internet.

ICAF creates an environment conducive for a comprehensive and wholesome live arts experience that incorporates many forms of the arts and integrates them into a unique learning and life experience. The festival concept is akin to composer Richard Wagner's ambition to create a "Gesamtkunstwerk," a total work of art that includes music, poetry, painting and drama, so that it becomes a complete synaesthetic experience.

The ICAF Festival becomes the shared experience for children around the world, a turning point, a frame of reference, a touchstone to guide the next generation.

At the most recent Festival from September 9-11, 2003, creative children from across America and around the world came together in Washington to 'paint a new future for the world.'

The festival showcased the important role that children and the arts can play to promote international understanding, empathy and cooperation. This historic event helped to lay the foundation for a future world leadership that is both creative and cooperative.

Child ArtModeled on the Olympics of the ancient Greeks, the Arts Olympiad occurs once every four years. Children from around the world participate in local art competitions, which are organized by ICAF partners. One child from each country or US state is selected via these competitions to represent their home at the festival in Washington DC.

The finalists, along with their art teacher and parents, are then invited to Washington for the Child Art Festival. For the 2003 Festival, 70 children from 26 US states and 41 countries came to DC. Many participants stayed with local host families. Others stayed with family, friends, or in area hotels. They talked, painted, sang and ate together for five days. Children's performing groups and adult performers from around the world came to join in the celebration. Dignitaries commemorated the events. But always, the focus was on the children.

On the Mall, there were five main tents: the World Stage, the Festival School, the Art Gallery, the Arts & Crafts tent, and in the center of them all, the Mural Painting tent. This was where, for three days, the invited child artists painted murals together guided by the vision of renowned artist George Rodrigue. And on the third day, they created the Art for Peace Pyramid, a 3-dimensional mural designed by Rodrigue and comprised of panels created by the young artists.

Child ArtWhy a full week? Why not simply mail the certificates to the children with a letter of congratulations? It is because ICAF's goals are twofold: to encourage the development of children's creativity and artistic expression, and to utilize the arts to promote peace. By inviting all the child finalists to a multi-day event in Washington DC, they are provided with a special opportunity: the chance to meet children from around the world who share the same passion for the arts. And by inviting their parents and art teacher, we extend this special opportunity with the hope that the effects will be felt in many different parts of their community when they return home.

This is the goal. This is this mission. And once every four years, ICAF and its many supporters has the chance to see a little bit of magic reflected back , in the eyes of the children and adults who come to the Mall and make this idealistic vision of the world a reality. •

© 2004 Ashfaq Ishaq, International Child Art Foundation.

Ashfaq IshaqDr. Ashfaq Ishaq founded the International Child Art Foundation in 1997 to harness children's imagination for positive social change. More »

Updated 1/5/14