The Aperture Gallery on the second floor of the Erb Memorial Union on the University of Oregon Campus is currently a large display of vibrant colors, different shapes, animals, mythical creatures, portraits and scenes of nature in frames of all shapes and sizes. From now until November 7th, the exhibit “Art of Our UO Family” brightens up the walls of the EMU with the artwork of local children of all different ages and cultural backgrounds.
These children have been brought together by their participation in a local Eugene based non-profit organization called the Multicultural Children’s Art Museum and Education Center. The MCAM&EC focuses on promoting the education of visual arts and cultural awareness to children within the community.
For this exhibit the children participating are all students of the MCAM&EC. They are also the children of UO families including the children of staff members, faculty, and students. The founders of the MCAM&EC, and many of the staff members, are alumni of UO. The UO is a huge part of these children’s lives and the staff members lives, which led to the creation of this exhibit.
“We organized a non profit that is trying to do more than just teach art to children,” said Irina Botvinnik, president and co-creator. “The other side of it is promoting children’s art as an art form and getting people’s attention towards not only how important art education is for children but also just in general how beautiful their art is and how valuable it is.”
The MCAM&EC, established in 2016, offers a space for children ages four and up with a studio to learn and practice many different art forms. The Little Owl School of Arts, a program for 4- to 12-year-olds, was created in 2001 by the executive director and co-creator Anastasia Savenko-Moore. Once the MCAM&EC was founded, the Little Owl School integrated into their programs. This school is designated for children ages 4 to 12 to learn visual arts concepts like painting, drawing, sculpting, mixed media, applied arts, composition, media techniques and art history. They recently opened a school for people over 12 years of age, including adults, to learn advanced techniques that build off of the foundations taught in the Little Owl School of Arts.
Beyond art education, the MCAM&EC works to promote the value of children’s art in the world. They hope to generate an appreciation for the beauty and charm of children’s artwork and to let it be seen for its true value.
The multicultural portion of their title comes from their dedication to promoting cultural awareness. They integrate cultural aspects through art methods and history taught in their classes, in the exhibits that they present in their traveling museum and in the exhibits that they have around town. They’ve run an international art gallery since 2016, in which they gathered art work from children in Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa alongside work created here in Eugene, to compete in a Multicultural Children’s Art Contest. Many of the students of the MCAM&EC are immigrants or first generation immigrants from countries around the world. They work to blend cultural appreciation into their art education and exhibitions.
“We have worked with children from so many different backgrounds because Eugene is such a multicultural community. They bring unique backgrounds and culture into our art program,” said Savenko-Moore.
The program runs art exhibitions throughout the year at locations throughout Eugene and Lane County. Their annual Multicultural Children’s Art Contest arrives November and the theme is “Impression. Idea. Imagination.” The contest art work will be displayed in the Downtown Eugene Public Library and in the Broadway Commerce Center from November 1st to the 30th.
The Art of Our UO Family will be on display in the EMU until November 8th in the Aperture Gallery. They host a reception for the exhibit on November 7th from 6 to 7 p.m right next to the exhibit that anyone is welcome to enjoy and the artists and their families will be in attendance.
The MCAM&EC works entirely off of volunteers dedicated to teaching various art skills to children of all ages, even into adulthood. Through practice, plenty of volunteers and an educational environment the MCAM&EC works to give children a space to be creative and to display their artwork for the world to see.
“We are trying to show the importance of continuous art education from an early age to teens and through adulthood,” said Savenko-Moore. “Art is not just fun, it is a very important developmental skill and it is something we should never forget.”