By: Lucy Ramonat
International Child Art Foundation
Whole continents passed by as children from all over the earth made their way to the 5th World Children’s Festival taking place at “The Ellipse” next to the White House this summer. The future renegades of artistic and holistic development convened at the WCF for performances and art alike to broaden horizons and relish in their accomplishments. Whether they arrived in street clothes or traditional/ceremonial garb, the passion for their respective country was etched into every single smile. Such passion could have ignited conflict in another arena or at another time, but here at The Ellipse the children ignored what they had been told about the “other” to open their fists and hearts in celebration of creativity, diversity, and unity.
The goal of the International Child Art Foundation is to provide a vital connection between art and sport, which is supported by the organization’s coined “STEAMS” approach to education (the inclusion of “A” for art and “S” for sport in STEM education). Where age really is just a number, the WCF forges friendships and relations amongst delegates from all over the world. Ultimately, the WCF brings people together. By combining visual arts and performing arts successfully and uniquely at the three-day educational festival, the children -no matter how old- are challenged and rewarded as adults.
In the shadow of the Washington monument and facing the White House south lawn, the quadrennial WCF is the quintessential international celebration of children and the importance of art. Unlike the previous four WCFs which were held on The National Mall across from the National Gallery of Art, this year the WCF took place on The Ellipse, which is also known as the “President’s Park”; and on the second day, festival-goers were lucky enough to see President Barack Obama leave by helicopter from the White House’s south lawn and fly directly over the festival grounds. Even Washingtonians don’t get to see Marine One so up close.
Essentially, the WCF echoes and builds upon the success of the Arts Olympiad where the theme of its fifth installment was, “My Favorite Sport”. Winners were selected from 20 U.S. states and 50 participating countries. While the exhibition had its debut at the WCF, it will travel to Rio de Janiero next year for the Rio 2016 Olympics. Portia Davidson, a retired US Coast Guard official and an ICAF board member, described the Arts Olympiad exhibition tent as a “feast of artwork”, and the participating children and spectators couldn’t agree more. Each painting focused thematically on the “Artists-Athlete Ideal” of the creative mind and healthy body. Dr. Liston Brochette – a five time Olympian and former Secretary General of the World Olympians Association, who also happens to be an accomplished artist – was on hand to provide children inspiration.
As for the art workshops, the International Child Art Foundation invited art educators and teaching artists from the D.C. metro area, and countries as far away as Japan and Indonesia to teach the children a number of artistic mediums in Barack Obama’s backyard. To name a few, these workshops included: peace painting, sculpting, knitting, printmaking, Pollock-style canvas paintings, murals, watercolor, and drawing were practiced under the supervision and distinction of each workshop leader. Not only did the workshops promote friendships across multiple borders, they also broke down language barriers to ensure a silent peacefulness that blanketed The Ellipse on those three extraordinary days.
Organically, the WCF’s mission is to provide a combination of artwork, workshops and performances to cumulate an all-encompassing creative experience for children from Argentina to Australia and from Washington State to Washington, D.C. As for the performances, dozens of groups performed for over a hundred hours, presenting various styles of dance and song on the “World Stage” to the utter amazement of spectators.
All in all, the WCF acts as a mode of transportation for a child’s imaginative and colorful ideas to come to fruition. The WCF fulfills the ICAF vision of a necessary resurgence of the next generation’s creative and empathic capacity.