A few days ago I went to Carver Elementary School with Andrea Chamberlin, the Director of the San Diego Art Department (SDAD) to participate in the school’s Career Day, like we did two years ago. We set up a table with some information about the San Diego Art Institute (SDAI) and a banner “SDAI: Art Local and Alive”.
I brought some pictures of me working on my paintings, photos of exhibitions I participated in, and photos of art projects I made with children. I also brought some paintings that we displayed on easels, and some material, like my Wacom tablet, my camera, some stamps, some paintings, and a stack of postcards to give away.
A lot of girls at the school wore head scarves. All the children seemed very happy, although quite a few were very shy and sometimes I was obliged to ask them to repeat their question because their voice was too low. At the end of the event, I asked the principal about the origin of some of the children and she told me that they are East African refugees, mostly Somali. Some of them could not go to school because their schools were closed, and some of them have spent years in refugee camps without any school.
A lot of children were very interested in my business card: it represents one of my paintings “Middle East” and I had a lot of questions concerning that image. I think somehow we were connected by that painting, they wanted to know why I painted it.
I could not believe how interested they were by what was going on at the school that day, asking us questions, asking me how I spend my day, how I chose to paint what I paint, why did I choose to become an artist. They were so much in the present of that day, hungry for knowledge, curious, hopeful, alive. Nothing on their juvenile faces was telling us about the atrocities some of them may have seen.
It reminded me a little bit more how lucky I am not to live in a war zone and how lucky my boys are to wake up and to play with their favorite toys before to get a good breakfast and to go to school… All things we take for granted.