City mouse and country mouse

The Great Divide may be a song, it may also be a long trail in the Canadian Rockies, but surely the urban living vs country living divide is just as great. The cultural disparity between the two, not only precedes industrialization, in the time of de la Fontaine, it is probably as old as cities themselves, within long lost civilizations. A few enduring, current and developing events make it worthwhile asking ourselves what it will be like for children, growing up in cities or in the country side, during this century.

Worldwide urbanization has been an ongoing trend for generations and has also been accelerating, along with mass production and population growth. “By 2050, with the urban population more than doubling its current size, nearly 7 of 10 people in the world will live in cities” according to the World Bank, in 2020. The emergence of slogans like “Farmers feed cities” or “Farm to table, buy local” or “Stop urban sprawl” indicates that the relationship between city and country dwellers is evolving. We should probably add suburbanites to the mix, since they have had such an impact on the expansion of car culture and the undermining of urban cores as inhabitable spaces.

Two current events may signal that we can now contemplate with fresh eyes, the aforementioned irreversible trend. One is the scare COVID-19 gave to city dwellers, imposing on many to work remotely from home. It remains to be seen what percentage will continue to work from home, but some have already chosen to adopt this new lifestyle, and even left the city for less densely populated areas. This, coupled with the limited access to cities by country dwellers, exacerbates another issue that has long been denounced by rural citizens: lagging internet connectivity and poor bandwidth access. Small town folks have long decried the inequitable connectivity that they endured for too long. It is predictable that ex-urbanites will not accept losing it, no matter how far from the city they move, and work. As recently as last April, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) said that “since the pandemic started, rural speeds have been between one-fifth and one-tenth urban speeds (…) rural download speeds hovered around 5.5 Mbps, compared to roughly 50 Mbps in urban Canada.” Canadians already pay more for their communication service, than consumers in similar countries.

Sign of the time maybe, a group of young Canadian women have taken upon themselves to help students coming from remote areas to have better access to urban institutions, without losing their roots and identities. Meet the Foundation for Rural Youth Empowerment (FRYE). It is not uncommon to see rural youth abandon their studies and return home from a large centre. This brave group takes upon itself to breakdown barriers this population face. A mirror group for city youth who are foreign to the rural experience, would be a good idea. Just saying.

We should probably expect a new urban-suburb-country dynamic, with renewed cultural experiences, from now on. It looks like while the cities adapt in post-pandemic, so will everyone else outside the cities. This can prove to be quite interesting to watch, as far as intergenerational harmony or conflicts go. Soon, the urbanite’s weekend escapade from the city to cottage country, and the villager’s photo-safari in the city, might all tell a different story. It is even possible that these two worlds merge into one, at last.

Town mouse and country mouse, illustration by Milo Winter, in Aesop for children, 1919. Source: Gutenberg.org, 28 June 2021.

Artful mindfulness

Counteracting prejudices and discrimination is a serious and urgent matter that should concern each and everyone of us. But we are not yet out of this dreadful global pandemic, and many of us feel saturated with “serious and urgent.” So be it. There are ways to challenge prejudices and discrimination in colorful and playful ways. The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) came up with a great educational tool, that will delight anyone who is fond of animated colors on the screen. Titled The Bias Inside Us, this project will tour the USA until at least 2023. It addresses crucial issues for our times, in a most engaging and accessible way. Enjoy, and tell us what you think with a drawing.

The Bias Inside Us, website banner. Source: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, 18 June 2021.

In memory of Françoise Roy

We are saddened by the passing of Françoise Roy (1924-2021), in La Pocatière, Québec. She embraced life and will be missed by all who knew her. Françoise had a long successful teaching and family counseling career. She was a pioneer in applying the Goodenough (draw-a-person) test, when helping children and their families. Françoise had been an early inspiration in creating our Collection. Her insights will continue to inspires us always. As a modest tribute to her, below is a drawing, published for the first time, by a child she had assisted. We can see her own handwriting notes, taken just after conversing with the child.

My family, c1982. Source: CDIC-CIDE, fonds Françoise Roy.

International Archives Week 2021

The International Council of Archives is holding its annual international awareness campaign this week, and celebrating International Archives Day on June 9th. The timing and this year’s theme “Empowering Archives” suit us perfectly, as we are participating in the Great Canadian Giving Challenge this month, as well as launching our own annual campaign starting on International Archives Day.

We urge you to make a donation, so that we can continue to grow and get fully prepared for the post-pandemic. Make sure to visit the multilingual online activities presented by the ICA between June 7-11th, International Archives Week#IAW2021. We cannot stress enough that each and everyone of us can play a part in the preservation family and professional archives, for the benefit of future generations.

International Archives Week banner. Source: ICA.org, 6 June 2021.

Great Canadian Giving Challenge

Throughout the month of June, our organization takes part in the Great Canadian Giving Challenge. This country wide campaign is facilitated by our fundraising partner CanadaHelps, who will award a substantial prize to one of the participating charities. Your donation can make a huge difference for us. Please visit our online Donation Form and help us grow, thrive and save as many artefacts as possible from oblivion.

Children’s Design International Collection is an educational archives that focuses on children’s drawings and expression. Through our Collection, Conservation and Education programs, we aim to foster understanding of how children see themselves and the world. Please make a donation today.

Great Canadian Giving Challenge, 2021. Source: CanadaHelps.

The culture we nurture

One of the motivations for establishing our Collection, was to contribute engaging curatorial practices to conversations about cultural development. We hope that through our efforts, children have a greater say in where we are heading collectively, through their own cultural contributions. This blog entry is about culture and the underlying question “What do you make of children’s culture or culture itself for that matter?”

The current pandemic, and subordinate recession, already have profound psychological effects and will impact our cultural environment for years, maybe generations to come. The global crisis is challenging the nations’ ability to cooperate, and at the same time is triggering all sorts of antisocial impulses, while exposing many inequalities and systemic shortcomings.

During the past twenty five year or so, the notion of a culture specific to children has made its way in fields such as social psychology and anthropology. It is debatable whether the concept of “culture” should be attributed to children socializing and building common knowledge together. Even if we admit that such a culture is a fact of life, we can argue at length how autonomous from the surrounding multigenerational culture it really is. Still, how today’s children see themselves and the society in which they grow up during these circumstances, is something all of us should pay close attention to.

Before we can visit far away relatives again, re-orient our professional life, retire earlier than initially planed, or go on a leisure trip, let’s take a moment to think about what culture means to us. Assess for yourself how inclusive of children your culture is and could become. Explore in depth what professor Lawrence A. Hirschfeld says on the subject, in his stimulating article The Rutherford Atom of Culture (Journal of Cognition and Culture, 2018, p.231-261) We find him quite apropos when he says that “cultural life may demand that we hone new psychological tools to account for a kind of existence that is not individual difference writ large but literally foreign to the psychological toolbox.” Professor Hirschfeld’s articles are available online at ResearchGate, as well as OpenEditions Journals. He teaches at the Departments of Psychology and Anthropology, New School of Social Research (New York City).

Rutherford Atom, by CBurnett. Source: Wikimedia.com, 24 May 2021.

Brush strokes

There are plenty of suggestions on the web, on how to make your own paint brushes, funky or more conventional ones. We thought we’d share one of our favorites by Miss Annie on Instructables. The step by step and the photos are clear and engaging. It sure is a fine way to save on art supply spending and make one fully appreciate how personalized tools can stimulate creativity and style.

Learn and show children how the pros are making paint brushes at DaVinci Artist Brushes and also Lineo, both in Germany.

Three homemade paint brushes. By Miss Annie. Source: Instructables.com, 18 May 2021.

News from the driveway

The long title of this post is: Great news from Macaire’s worldly driveway. Indeed Macaire Everett and her muse brother Camden make the news again this Spring 2021, by publishing an amazing book, filled with more than 120 full page photos of chalk drawings by Macaire.

The book The world from our driveway (on Amazon) depicts the journey of two siblings facing the imperative remote learning, imposed by the pandemic. With its behind the scene section, the book shows how what started as a home remedy against boredom, turned into a family and community effort for promoting resilience and bringing smiles and joy around the world.

Macaire had largely shared her work digitally on social media. One of our earlier posts last Summer linked to her busy Instagram. It is such a relief that Macaire’s work, though ephemeral by design, can be preserved on paper. Maybe the driveway itself will some day receive a heritage site designation from UNESCO. And we are only half kidding, because we heard that museums around the world are racing to document life during this pandemic.

The compositions are so inspired and engaging, that picking a favorite is mission impossible. With Mothers’ Day coming up, see Macaire’s touching birthday drawing to her mother. It will melt your heart. For us at the Collection, if we had to pick one, it would the one titled We are all in this together. Not only is it a propos because of the pandemic, it is also one for which Macaire digged into her own personal archives, and in which she staged herself with her muse. In this image more than in all the other ones, personal and universal appeals come together and come full circle.

The world from our driveway, back cover. By Macaire Everett. Source: Amazon.ca, 4 May 2021.

Camera-ready

Drawings are known to be at the heart of our Collection. However, it is not limited to them and our blog has also touched upon other formats in the past. For instance, see our recent entries about collages and writings, such as notebooks and diaries. One format that we had yet to touch upon is photography by children.

Normal, we may say, because if access to paper and crayons is not universal, access to cameras by children is more than marginal, to say the least. Certainly, allowing children to handle expensive, fragile equipment comes with a stress most parents do not want to endure. Still, there are ways to do it and choosing the right time to make a child responsible for a camera, is the first step. Giving a purpose and an end goal, is also I way to engage the child. Take for example, combining the photographic activity with a drawing class, or a holiday documentary project. Even more engaging is making sure that parents and the rest of the family take part in the project and that the images are shared and discussed with family members. Taking photos can be a short easy-come easy-go activity that bores just as quickly. For the child to maintain and develop an interest in it, a broader purpose should be understood and shared. It can be a great path to deeper visual literacy for the child and improve observation skills, critical thinking and drawing abilities.

A nonprofit organization took it even further, by setting the stage for photography by children as a team effort, community-based program for personal growth, and a channel for social change. Meet 100 Cameras. Based in New York City, it operates globally to provide young people with cameras, so they can tell their own stories visually. Images are then sold online to fund local community-driven initiatives. Programs for educators are also available. We do not know yet whether the photographer gets to keep the original digital file, nor if an image only gets printed after a purchase is made, or if the photographers get their own prints. If you find out, make sure to let us know.

Photography Symbol for Wikipedia 20,  by Jasmina El Bouamraoui and Karabo Poppy Moletsane. Source: Wikimedia.org, 28 April 2021.

Celebrating all volunteers

The year 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the the first International Year of Volunteers. As a member of Volunteer Canada, our Collection joins thousands of organizations in celebrating the National Volunteer Week and expressing our appreciation for volunteers who help our organization thrive. Thumbs up to all volunteers from every generations around the globe!

Along with other initiatives, Volunteer Canada had the superb idea to include a coloring activity in its celebration kit. Share your enthusiasm about volunteering with the younger generation and make it culturally relevant, as it should be. You can also come up with your own illustration about volunteering. Please share it with us!

The value of one, the power of many. Source: Volunteer Canada, 18 April 2021.