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Art Charity Puts Color Back Into Children's Lives

When orphaned kids take up a paint-brush they often portray home or a small lonely wayfarer on a winding road. Visually impaired children are keen on details, while paintings by the hearing-impaired are very graphic and autistic children can produce works of great complexity.

But whatever their diagnosis, when they start to draw, their favorite color is often black, said Natalya Kazak, director of Vzglyad Rebyonka, or Child's View, a charity that runs Russia's only art gallery for disabled and orphaned children.

Kazak said her aim is to stimulate children into creativity and show them that palettes, as well as their own lives, can include a range of livelier colors.

"Art does cure," Kazak said. "I have been promoting the benefits of art therapy everywhere I can for five years now."

A disabled child might "lag behind in math, or be no good at literature," she said. "But apart from having a disability, he or she can easily develop a complex."

Praise for a child's art can help develop badly needed self-confidence, she said.

When Kazak, an illustrator of children's books, lost her husband and business partner of 30 years, she started a painful search for a new vocation. She became interested in a fund for disabled children that a young businessman had set up but had completely neglected.

"Everybody was too busy doing business to raise funds for charity," she said.

So she started by compiling a list of orphanages and schools she wanted to visit. After many ups and downs, she wound up putting on her first exhibition of paintings by children from seven schools in 2000.

Five years on, the fund has five staffers, two of them part-time, and works with 70 schools and orphanages nationwide, from Vologda to Sebastopol.

In 2003, the Moscow city government granted the fund space to set up its own gallery. Tucked away on Pushkaryov Pereulok in central Moscow, the tiny gallery measures just 95 square meters, including the reception desk and a room for easels. Visitors have to be buzzed in.

Apart from the gallery, the children's works have been on display in the Tretyakov Gallery, the Manezh Exhibition Hall, Christ the Savior Cathedral and other places.

To get exhibited was hard at first, Kazak said. In 2002, the Tretyakov Gallery, for example, presented the fund with a 58,000 ruble bill for a weeklong exhibition of the children's paintings. It took a "big fight" to get people to give the charity exhibition space for free, Kazak said.

Now with partial funding from the city government, Child's View is able to provide stipends for talented young artists and their teachers, and paints, brushes and other supplies for schools and orphanages. It also helps train thing teachers.

The fund is able to sell some of the children's paintings, and passes twothirds of the proceeds directly to the children. The remaining third goes toward the fund's work.

Sometimes, buyers of paintings can be people who simply walk into the gallery, Kazak said, and specially organized art auctions also help to raise funds. Three years ago, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow put together an auction at which around 20 children's paintings sold at prices ranging from $50 to $300.

The fund's employees have just finished a thank-you letter to Patisson Professional, a shoe polish brand. To make a splash on the market, last November the young company put together a charity auction, selling everything from paintings by professional artists to celebrities' shoes. The auction raised a total of 47,000 rubles ($1,800).

The fund's ultimate goal is to establish an arts center for children with disabilities, to include a theater, art gallery, studio and crafts center, where children with and without disabilities can paint, make theatrical costumes and pottery, and enjoy their time together.

"I don't like that in our country disabled children are isolated from other kids," Kazak said. "As if they were castaways."

To learn more about the Child's View fund and gallery go to: www.babyglance.ru

The Moscow Times
By Anna Smolchenko

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