Seen + Heard

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Funded on May 27, 2016
    • 114% contributed

Seen + Heard is a project that promotes and advocates for cultural works made by people ages 0-12. With your support, I will create the first and only living repository of children’s visual art, music, philosophy, science, theater, poetry, political actions, and other powerful works from across time and around the world.  My practice as a teaching artist for the past 12 years has been driven by meaningful collaboration and dialogue with thousands of child artists and philosophers, and yet I am troubled that our greatest museums, libraries, and textbooks all leave out the powerful knowledge that children produce. Even the very youngest children are amazingly prolific and wise, and the work they create can teach us all a great deal.  Your contributions will make three essential parts of this project possible: (1) the initial creation of the archive, undertaken with artist-researchers of many ages, during a residency at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Ryan Education Center during the summer of 2016, (2) the continued development of the archive over the fall of 2016, and (3) the public presentation of the archive-to-date in an exhibition at the Hyde Park Art Center in the winter of 2017.  Once this project is completed, Seen + Heard will have a durable foundation through which to imagine new collaborations, connections, and advocacy for the wisdom of children.

About This Project

Children represent about 25% of the U.S. population, and are widely recognized to be prolific cultural workers when allowed to play freely and create. And yet, the works of children’s own invention are rarely treated as serious contributions to the mainstream arts landscape.  It is my firm belief that citizens 300 years from now will look back on our society and wonder how we lived with libraries that contain no literature by children, and how our art museums showed no traces of work by youth.

The exclusion of children’s self-driven arts and sciences matters to me as an artist and knowledge-worker because it means that we, as a global society of knowers, only ever hold a partial image of our existence, our communities, our problems, and our world.  Further, that partial image only reflects the perspectives of people who have outgrown the important wisdom that is unique to childhood.  I believe that the reason why we discriminate against the self-designed works of children is because we have never questioned the assumption that all people grow better and smarter as they age chronologically, which is drawn from the same general elitism that often plagues the “art worlds” in the form of sexism, racism, ableism, etc.

What is worth knowing or doing?  Who gets to say?  For whose benefit? 

The purpose of Seen + Heard is to push back against the erasure of children’s cultural works and to bring these pieces to light. I believe this is important so that we all benefit from knowledge that reflects the full spectrum of human invention and aesthetic force, but equally because children deserve to have their voices validated.  Our schools sometimes lean towards praising artificial works of conformity or direction-following, but every child possesses a creative practice of their own invention, almost always carried out beyond school walls, where they tinker, play, and offer philosophy, theology, political gestures, and artistic creations.  Supporting these practices fosters intellectual independence and may prove to keep creativity alive through the often anesthetizing growing-up process.

Your support will enable us to create a durable infrastructure for Seen + Heard and begin populating the archive that will continue to grow in perpetuity. The stronger this archive is, the stronger the case becomes that children’s works are important to everyone and must not be excluded from our cultural institutions any longer.  In other words, the ultimate goal of this project is not to collect children’s works in order to hold them apart in a separate archive “just for kids.” The purpose of this archive is to amplify the proof that children have as many rights to cultural space and influence on future works of art and advocacy as any non-child enjoys without question.

[This 3AP video contains project footage generously provided by Nat Soti.]

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $25
    Shout out on Facebook and Twitter! ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    Above, plus a signed copy of the exhibition poster. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    Above, plus dedication of a work in the archive, named in perpetuity. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $250
    Above, plus 2 tickets to the VIP Afternoon Tea with project collaborators in the research studio at the Art Institute of Chicago (July 2016). This private event includes your museum admission for the day, special treats, and conversation. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    Above, plus an original work of art. ($0.00 is tax deductible.)

Rachel Harper

Rachel L. S. Harper is an artist and a teacher in Chicago.  She was awarded the 2011 Fellowship in Art Education from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA, MAAE) for her thesis research on the aesthetic lives …

View Rachel Harper's profile
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    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

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