Painting a new future

Painting a new future – Perspective

Ashfaq Ishaq

The 2003 International ChildArt Festival showcases the important role that children and the arts can play to promote international understanding, children’s creativity and imagination, empathy and cooperation. This historic event lays the foundation for a future world leadership that is both creative and cooperative.

The Rationale

In the year 42 A.D. the well-known Roman philosopher Seneca observed that world peace will be secured on a permanent basis only when we start teaching our children to view the whole world as their country: “The whole world is my own native land (Omnis orbs terrarum patria mea est).”

For two thousand years governments have never emphasized this philosophy of peace in any school curriculum.

In the last century, Mahatma Gandhi observed: “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” Although humankind has avoided worldwide conflict for over fifty years, the 20th century was the deadliest on record with hundreds of wars between ethnic groups and religions. Moreover, while in 1900 90% of the casualties of war were military personnel, by 2000 90% of casualties were civilians, including children and infants.

The promise of a new millennium of peace, unity and prosperity appears remote right now, during these early years of the 21st century. Deadly battles and acts of terror continue to occur on every continent, and with the exponential growth of technology and mass communication, every conflict affects us all.

ICAF’s Methodology

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ICAF started developing the Peace Through Art methodology that incorporates the extensive research and learning in the fields of psychology, peace education and the arts. The methodology was successfully applied in ICAF’s Peace Through Art program for Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot youth in July 2002. The same methodology is the educational basis of the 2003 Festival, which aims to create empathy and understanding among children of diverse nationalities, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds and religious affiliations.

Festival Program

Creative young Americans representing U.S. states and territories, chosen through ICAF’s art competition, are hosting national child artists from around the world at the 2003 Festival in Washington, DC from September 6th through the 13th. Teachers, parents and representatives of ICAF’s international partners are accompanying the children. Three days of public events, free and open to all, take place on the National Mall between 7th and 14th Streets–the National Park Service is reserving these seven city blocks exclusively for the festival. The Official Delegates are meeting and interacting with thousands of children and families from the Greater Washington Area and visitors from near and far. The program each day focuses on an important universal theme: Mother Earth Day on September 9th; Children’s Wellness Day on September 10th; and Children’s Peace Day on September 11th, when the children unite to ‘commemorate the past and celebrate the future’.

ICAF is transforming the National Mall into a model venue for arts learning and global education. The setup on the Mall includes an international children’s art exhibition on the theme Me in the New Millennium; an arts and crafts studio; a stage for dazzling performances by children; and a festival school for educational workshops and leadership training conducted by international experts.

George Rodrigue, renowned artist and author, is directing art creation during parts of the event. He designed collaborative peace murals and is joining the children in painting them on The National Mall.

Dignitaries from around the world honor the child artists at the ICAF Awards Banquet at the Washington Convention Center on September 12th. This will be a ceremony like no other.


ICAF has organized two festivals before–the first-ever national children’s art festival in the US in 1998, and the first international children’s festival in 1999. The 2003 Festival is a national and international celebration, which promises to have a significant, positive impact on the minds and attitudes of children and adults.

The festival will be a transformational experience in the lives of the young participants. Art as a powerful and language-independent medium will help develop bonds between Americans and non-Americans, and among all children. Trained as creative leaders of the future, these children will help change the world.

The festival will be a turning point in the lives of all participants. The young and old learn that the arts and cultures are essential elements in the nurturing of creativity. They start seeing the world in creative new ways, imagining peace as an integral part of our destiny.

The festival will impact millions of individuals throughout the world through television and media coverage, and the 30-minute documentary ICAF is producing on the festival with the award-winning team of Memphis Media. The positive images of diverse groups of children working together, and their powerful messages of promise and hope, will create a ripple effect that extends from the National Mall to communities around the globe.

COPYRIGHT 2003 International Child Art Foundation

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group