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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Children Celebrate Kidspace Opening, $100K Grant

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, October 13, 2006

Children participated during the MASS MoCA Kidspace "It's Elementary" art exhibit opening.
North Adams - Children, their art, and over $100,000 in state grant funds shared center stage during an Oct. 12 Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art's Kidspace "It's Elementary!" art exhibit opening.

Source Of Pride

The Massachusetts Cultural Council awarded the grant funds to the city's public school district as part of the council's "Creative Schools" program. This marks the third time the city schools have received the revenues, which fund transportation to the child-friendly gallery, art supplies, development of art curriculum materials, and after-school art initiatives.

Council Communications Director Gregory Liakos attended the opening. Kidspace is among the leading examples of a quality arts program that benefits from community collaboration, he said.

"This is one of the programs we are most proud of," Liakos said. "It shows substantial commitment on the part of the schools, the communities, and the museums."


Iraqi Children's Arts Exchange Program collaborator Claudia Lefko
Kidspace functions as a joint project of MASS MoCA, and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Williams College Art Museum, both in Williamstown. Grant funds have come from sources including the MCC, the James and Robert Hardman Fund for North Adams, the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Ruth E. Proud Charitable Trust, and the Brownrigg Charitable Trust in memory of Lynn Laitman.

More than 100 families, children, and community leaders attended the opening event. State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, city Mayor John Barrett III, North Adams Public Schools Superintendent James Montepare, and the Iraqi Children's Arts Exchange Project representative Claudia Lefko were among the guests.

The "It's Elementary" exhibit showcases international youth art work and includes art that is part of the Iraqi initiative. The exhibit hosts drawings and paintings created by Iraqi children.

Art From The Heart

The Northampton Committee to Lift Sanctions on Iraq launched the program in 2001. American children were asked to design original art destined for delivery to Iraqi children and Lefko, who is an early childhood education professional and a social activist, traveled to Iraq as part of a humanitarian contingent. Lekfo brought the American youth art to children at Iraqi hospitals and refugee camps. Using donated art supplies, Iraqi children created numerous works of art for return to the United States.

"It's very exciting to have the Iraqi children and the art in this exhibit," Lefko said. "I believe one of my jobs is to keep the children of Iraq in the international community. They are in a place that isn't very popular right now."

Clarksburg Drama Club members performed "Sadako and the 1,000 Paper Cranes" during the Oct. 12 opening.


The exhibit includes youth art from the Teachers College Columbia University Art and Art Education Department's Edwin Ziegfield Collection, and the Angiola Churchill Collection, the International Child Art Foundation, and the New York University Child Study Center.

Paper Wings For Peace

Members of the Clarksburg Elementary School drama club performed "Sadako and the 1,000 Cranes," based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako Sasaki died of leukemia linked to the United States atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima Japan in 1945.

Sadako was a two-year-old toddler when the bombing occurred; she died in 1955 at age 12. During her illness, a best friend shared a Japanese legend with Sadako; that legend claimed that anyone who folded 1,000 paper cranes would be granted a wish. Sadako began to fold the paper into crane shapes and after her death, her friends and family members published her story.

Sadako Sasaki became an international symbol of peace and monuments to her memory were erected in Hiroshima and Seattle, Washington.

One current Kidspace project involves crafting 1,000 paper cranes destined for the children of Iraq.

Children engaged in artistic pursuits while seated at tables and using a bevy of gallery-supplied art materials during the opening. Molly Howe, 11, and nine-year-old Natalie Howe were among the young opening participants.

Kidspace has brought great enjoyment to the girls, Natalie and Molly said.


Jamie Thibert, 5, created original art at Kidspace.
"I liked when they had all the strings [Observations in Pipe Cleaners and Pom-Poms, Oct.- Feb. 2005], and the recycling," said Natalie. "The recycling was when we made all the instruments [New Sound Of Music: Hybrid Instruments by Ken Butler].".

Kidspace is open to the public on Sat. and Sun. from noon to 4 p.m.. During the December and February school recess, Kidspace plans to be open Mon.-Fri. from noon to 4 p.m. as well.

Additional information about Kidspace and MASS MoCA is available at a www.massmoca.org Internet web site. Information about the Iraqi Children's Art Exchange Project is available at a www.northamptoncommittee.org Internet web site.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or 802-823-9367.
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