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International Children's Art Highlights Ave Maria Arts Festival

bestinshowFor the next month, seeing life through the eyes of the world's children will be as easy as looking into the store windows that encircle the town center of Ave Maria.

Those windows now feature more than 150 pieces of art created by children from 15 countries and submitted to Ave Maria's first International Exhibition of Children's Art, part of the town's annual Festival of the Arts March 27-28.

The colorful paintings, drawings, and collages, which are displayed now through April 15, depict scenes as diverse as the countries they come from: snowy winters in Ukraine; Christmas celebrations in Hungary; landscapes in Honduras; a pet cat in Slovakia; and a cowboy serenading an American western sky.

cowboy1a"I was intrigued by the idea of such an exhibit the moment it was suggested," says Jane Healy, chair of the International Exhibition of Children's Art Committee.  "Art can be a beautiful way to draw people together, especially art by children of a young age."

It was sculptor Márton Váró, now working at Ave Maria on one of the world's largest sculptures of the Virgin Mary, who came up with the idea for the exhibit. He was inspired by a display of pictures from local schools at last year's Festival of the Arts, which made him recall a similar children's international art exhibit held in his native village of Debrecen, Hungary in the 1970's.  

ostap1aaa"It was fantastic!" he enthuses at the memory.  "And I thought such an exhibit would add a new dimension to the kinds of art we've been nurturing here at Ave Maria."

An eight-year old boy from Ukraine, Ostap Chaplya, won the exhibition's Best in Show award for his painting "Ukrainian Christmas."  But as Mrs. Healy recalls, the boy's joyous depiction of children frolicking amidst the snowflakes very nearly didn't get into the exhibit. 

"I was thrilled with the digital picture that the teacher at Ostap's orphanage sent me," says Mrs. Healy.  "But the rules require originals, and she told me the cost of the postage was beyond their means."

Determined that Ostap should be able to submit his painting, Mrs. Healy contacted a friend who happened to live in the same Ukrainian town.  The friend in turn went to the orphanage, picked up the picture, and handed it off to another friend who was flying to the United States. Eventually the picture was mailed to Ave Maria from Massachusetts, and it was unanimously decided the favorite of the competition's three judges.

Besides Mr. Váró, those judges included Michael Windfeldt, owner of Galerie du Soleil in downtown Naples, and local artist Sandy Jackoboice.

vertep1aSaying that he was "really blown away by the skill of the kids," Mr. Windfeldt explained that when it came to judging, "the biggest thing for me is emotional transference. Most of the children's art was pure emotion and you could tell. "

For his part, Mr. Váró felt a natural connection with a picture submitted by 12- year-old Oleg Bandrovski of Ukraine entitled "Vertep," which brought back memories of Christmas celebrations in his homeland.

"Children in rural areas dress up and go house to house - one carries the Bethlehem Star.  They chant songs, very old melodies, and the neighbors give them goodies and money. This painting is really true to tradition, and the child's fantasy, because you can see he loves taking part in this."

kitty1aThe Arts Festival features music, dance, drama, poetry and visual arts including paintings, drawings, photography, film and sculpture. It begins Saturday afternoon, March 27, with a free concert at 1 p.m. in the town center by internationally-known recording artist Dana. A fundraising dinner and musical performance will be held Saturday evening and a full day of free events and exhibits will follow on Sunday. (Click here for a previous Ave Herald story on the Saturday night dinner and musical performance Shakespeare in Tune.)

Mr. Váró says he hopes to see another international children's art exhibit in Ave Maria in 2011.  "The art of children is a true mirror of their innocent, creative souls.  Through their art we see what a fantastic potential is carried by every child." 

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