Children 2 Children
November 2nd to July 11th 2004

This unique project provides an opportunity for school children from St. Petersburg, Florida and St. Petersburg, Russia to compare and contrast their homelands and learn more about each other.

Works have been selected from an exhibition of art by Russian children and shipped to St. Petersburg. School children in the Sunshine City have prepared their own artworks expressing views of their St. Petersburg. To do this, they were encouraged to learn more about their city and its history -- seeing it through a visitor's eyes -- to distill just what would describe St. Petersburg, Florida to someone from St. Petersburg, Russia.

The works were then juried by local artists and arts administrators and those selected have been framed in archival quality frames and hung in the FIM upper gallery alongside the children's work from Russia. At the close of the exhibition, they will be removed, crated with the Russian children's works and sent to St. Petersburg, Russia for display there. In this way, it is hoped that children in the sister cities will gain a better understanding of each other and the way they perceive their perspective cities.

A Delightful and Compelling Comparison of Children’s Art from two St. Petersburg’s
by Cynthia Duval

The impetus for creating the Children 2 Children exhibition began with a visit by FIM Executive Director, Kathy Oathout, and Vera Espinola-Beery, an experienced curator and friend of FIM, to St. Petersburg, Russia in order to finalize logistics for the highly anticipated Russian Odyssey exhibit. Comparing and contrasting not only the creativity, but also the lifestyles of peoples from far distant shores with that of our own, is always fascinating. And never more so than with the creativity of children.

Russian children are seriously introduced to the arts at a very young age. Surrounded as they are by a plethora of stupendous architecture reflected in canals, and the Neva River which is criss-crossed with statued bridges, it is not surprising that they absorb linear and atmospheric perspective, three dimensionality, style, elegance and color.

In the late 17th century, Peter the Great was the catalyst for Russia’s integration with the western world in all aspects of the arts, as well as science, politics and industry. European artists were invited to teach in Russia and long before the founding of St. Petersburg’s Academy of Arts (1764), Russian artists were being trained in the European style. From the very early 18th century, Russian artists began to emerge who, although steeped in earlier Byzantine traditions, began to make a name for themselves as forward-looking proponents of a new Russian-European style.

It is this long European tradition that forms a backdrop for Russia’s young artists and, in spite of political upheavals, their brushwork and technique shines with expertise and the soft shimmering colors beloved by Europe’s great masters as they paint scenes of their St. Petersburg’s beauty.
As you study the Russian children’s art in this exhibition, keep these observations in mind: children there live in a world of filtered soft light, and under a pale sky. Many have lived in or heard of times of hardship where the only scenes reflected in the canals were of shuttered buildings and empty streets. Rarely are their paintings peopled with groups of figures. Here and there - in a park for instance, a lone figure may appear - seeming lost in the empty landscape.

In contrast, the brilliant primary colors and simplistic, repetitive forms used by our St. Petersburg, Florida children shout to the sky the sheer joie-de-vivre of life where the sun is always shining and at any moment, crowds can come dashing out of buildings to play, dance, boat or swim.

Art is not a serious component of our children’s education, yet our artists have created a swashbuckling group of paintings. Full of light-hearted visions and gregarious scenes, they illustrate a carefree youth, innocent and intrigued with the simplest examples of beauty in their environment. While our children may come from different traditions, these paintings are linked by the loving young hands that painted them on far sides of the world. Their similar desires to capture, illustrate and celebrate their surroundings and visions are universal.

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