Paint Pals founder Linden Longino said his organization has been creating children’s art exhibits for the Olympics since the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
“I was working on an anti-poverty program in south Atlanta for the Carter Center” in 1995, he said. “We wanted to come up with constructive projects for kids in some of the poorest areas in Atlanta. The Olympics were coming in ‘96, and we thought a children’s art exhibit for the Atlanta Olympics would be a good idea. I was able to get kids from Atlanta and kids from nine other countries to participate.”
Longino’s efforts have grown as the Sochi exhibit will feature between 5,000 and 10,000 pieces of art from 54 countries. He said about 225,000 children have participated in the exhibits over the past 18 years.
The theme of this year’s exhibit is “Peace and Friendship through the Olympic Spirit.”
“Kids painted all kinds of pictures demonstrating their ideas of how the Olympics bring people together in friendship,” Longino said.
To obtain artwork from children all over the globe, Longino tapped into his network of international contacts and partnered with Friendship Force and ArtReach.
“Basically we tasked our clubs around the world to go out into their communities, work with local schools and gather paintings and drawings from children around the themes of peace and friendship and the Olympics,” Friendship Force President Joy DiBenedetto said.
Friendship Force is a cultural exchange organization with 350 clubs around the world. Paint Pals merged with it last year.
ArtReach is a nonprofit that uses art worldwide to help children and adults process trauma. Founder Susan Anderson said her organization has been working with Paint Pals for years, participating in art exhibits for past Olympic Games in Greece and in China.
“We were able to give Linden some of our artwork that was generated in our program that he could use for his exhibition,” she said. “The kids are just thrilled to think that they have created something in their countries that are going to be shown to people in Russia.”
The exhibit will be displayed at three Olympic Villages throughout the Olympics and Paralympics, and then the artwork will be placed in children’s hospitals in Russia, Longino said.
On the web: