By Jessica Easthope
The gallery at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture filled up quickly with people who stood, awestruck that the art they were looking at was created by children.
Some pieces depicted stunning landscapes, others colorful animals. Some were even pictures of how these young people see themselves.
The paintings weren’t made in an elementary school art class, but in a small building with the mountains of La Paz, Bolivia in the background.
“Every time we gather together and make art together, we’re building community, talking about what’s going on, we’re growing,” explained Robert Aitchison, curator of the exhibit entitled “Arte Fogata.”
An artist himself, in 2015 he started Arte Fogata as a workshop for children living in La Paz and a surrounding town, designed to help them reach their untapped creative potential.
“Creativity can enhance the self-esteem of a child. It’s amazing,” he said. “Kids who come alive when they have a room full of art supplies and they can explore their imagination.”
Curators said one could never guess by looking at the bright colors and cheerful images, just how hard the lives of these children really are.
“They’ve been through a lot of challenging situations, homelessness, abandonment, neglect, abuse so they’re carrying a lot within themselves,” explained Robert.
But despite the darkness these children have experienced, their art reflects the wonder of their imaginations.
“It’s not just a nice activity but it really gives them a sense of hope and purpose and meaning which is really important,” said Father Frank Sabatte, senior curator at the Sheen Center))
the exhibit will be at the gallery at the sheen center until February 1. All of the pieces in the gallery are for sale for $225. The proceeds will go toward funding this summer’s Arte Fogata program.