Text by Asli Ertosun Kinsizer and Eren Bulbul*
Creativity is a key human attribute in the 21st century. But innately creative children do not naturally grow up to become creative professionals. Creativity must be nurtured and encouraged at each stage of their life. Even children who do not think of themselves as creative, can become so because like any other skill, creativity can be learned. This is what distinguishes humans from other species.
The arts offer an effective and least-cost approach to the development of creativity in children. To produce exciting artworks, a lot of creativity is needed. Not every child is artistically talented, but they can be guided and inspired. Once engaged, the child can further develop his or her artistic skills. This is the objective of the Arts Olympiad, a global program of the International Child Art Foundation (ICAF).
Nurturing of children’s creative potential through the arts is critical for prospering economies such as Turkey, because Turkey must start innovating in all spheres of society to foster creative communities and sharpen the country’s competitive edge. This is the growth model of today’s Creative Age. But education systems in Turkey, like many other countries, are based on the Industrial Age when just a few creative leaders and innovators could drive the economy.
The Arts Olympiad provides Turkish children the following four opportunities:
(a) In the classroom through structured lesson plans children learn about the link between body and mind, so they can embrace the “artist-athlete ideal” of the creative mind and healthy body. They then express themselves as artist-athletes in their paintings, drawings or digital artwork on the theme, My Favorite Sport. Our classroom experience in Istanbul and Izmir shows that students who have little or no interest in art start feeling more comfortable with art when the theme is about sports.
(b) In the community an appreciation of the art produced by children boosts their self-esteem and confidence. This is the purpose of exhibitions in schools and cities, where community leaders can serve as judges to select the most original and amazing works, and thus the children who will represent Turkey at the World Children’s Festival.
(c) In Washington, D.C. the World Children’s Festival is produced by the ICAF as the “Olympics” of children’s imagination and co-creation. This three-day educational event aims to provide a transformational experience to children. Young artists meet their peers from the United States and from around the world. Together they see their art exhibited on The National Mall, right across from the National Gallery of Art. Not just as a universal language, art serves as a bond that connects every child with another, pulling all children together to create a colorful, peaceful future.
(d) In the world the creative expressions of children become recognized known through traveling exhibitions at major venues. The collective imagination of the world’s children is elevated, and finally recognized by adults.
The 5th Arts Olympiad is presently underway. In Turkey, the children are getting ready for their participation in the 5th World Children’s Festival which will take place in the summer of 2015. Then in 2016 the “Children of the World’s Favorite Sport” Exhibition will travel to Istanbul as well as Olympic cities like Rio and Tokyo.
The ICAF works with many artists and professionals in order to employ the power of the arts to nurture children’s creativity and imbue it with empathy. Prominent artists come at their own expense to the World Children’s Festival to host workshops or art activities for children. Educators train teachers and parents on how to enhance a child’s creative potential in different disciplines. If you cannot join the children, you can let others know through social media or your blog.
Museum professionals can take the leap and host an international children’s art exhibition. Businesses can incite emotional branding by supporting the children’s World Festival. All creative individuals can support the ICAF, the world’s children’s arts and creativity organization. The ICAF programs are free for children and the World Children’s Festival is free and open to the public.
The ICAF’s ChildArt magazine is a unique quarterly publication that fosters a child’s creative development and global education through the arts.
Children are the future. And Turkey’s future depends on what her children imagine to be possible and how they work together to make it happen.
*Asli Ertosun Kinsizer, an art teacher with Master’s degree in Fine Arts, is the ICAF representative in Turkey. Eren Bulbul, a student at Suffolk University, is program intern at the ICAF.