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Creative Connections now has more than 3,000 pieces of student art in its collection. Each piece is protected under plastic. A short biography, an explanation of the piece, and photo of the artist is taped to the back of each one.
“There is a great joy for all of us when the art comes in. It’s always so charming to read about [the children's] likes and dislikes, what they want to be when they grow up,” says Polly Loughran, Creative Connection’s program director.
While the international schools don’t pay a fee to participate in ArtLink, American schools pay between $600 and $700. Grants and donations help fund the program in underprivileged US schools. About 40 percent of the exchanges are fully or partially funded, Steckler says.
Creative Connections also sponsors the International Young Performers’ Tour, which introduces American youths to dancers and musicians from other countries. In the past artists from Russia, China, India, Colombia, Ireland, and Cambodia have performed on area stages.
But it’s more than just a performance. The tour provides a look behind the curtain of what life is like for the visiting performers in their home country.
Abantu Mu Buntu, a Ugandan Children’s Music Troupe, will visit Connecticut and Westchester, N.Y., this April. After the performance students will watch videos about what school and home life is like for the dancers.
“We’re not an arts program,” Steckler says. “We’re about changing attitudes and minds.”