INSEA and children’s drawing exhibitions

Ana Mae Barbosa

I discovered INSEA at the same time that I discovered Art Education.

I was 18 years old (1954) when studied in Pernambuco with Paulo Freire and Noemia Varela who founded the Escolinha de Arte of Recife, part of the Escolinhas of Art Movement, which had 144 units, one in Paraguay, two in Argentina and one in Portugal.

I was a student in Law. I finished my graduation but was already working with Noemia Varela in her non formal school which had as president Paulo Freire. The two had been my tutors for my entire life.
Noemia Varela and Augusto Rodrigues knew INSEA since its foundation.

My introduction in action to INSEA was in 1970 Congress in Coventry, England organized by Eleanor Hipwell ,1one the best friends I had. After that my next experience with INSEA was in the former Yugoslavia, in Zagreb, Croatia.

At that time, I already lived in São Paulo. I left Recife for political reasons. We were still in times of military dictatorship when it was possible for me to take my master degree in the United States, without fellowship because the Ministerio de Educação e Cultura didn’t recognize Art Education as an area of research, I took profited of my husband fellowship, a researcher in Literature. At Yale University they invited me to give a discipline in Portuguese, talking about Brazilian Culture. With the money I payed my master course in Art Education at the Southern College State College, as resident in New Haven. During the course I presented a paper on Art Education in Brazil that were well received. Stimulated by teachers and even by the director of SCSC, I presented my work as communication in the Congress in Zagreb.

I was very well treated by the president Prof. Rocca, a gentleman and the only Latin-American at the Congress,
From there I followed regularly INSEA until the end of the 20th century.
For personal problem I did not participate of the 1975 Congress in the Sevres but I did a wide publicity that resulted in the participation of many art teachers from Brazil. My best student at that time who became my best friend and most frequent collaborator, Regina Machado presented a paper.

Some teachers from various states in Brazil, upon returning, needed to change flights in São Paulo and took the opportunity to visit me and generously talk about the Congress. They spoke so highly of Aimée Amber’s receptivity that I later tried to get closer to her, an inexhaustible source of learning.

INSEA was for me a university of continuing education and a source of strengthening the feminist ego with incredible women presidents in the 20th century, such as the aforementioned Aimée Humbert, Eleanor Hipwell, Marie-Francoise Chavanne, Kit Grauer who greatly influenced me. I did not remain very active in INSEA in the 21st century, instead I tried to prioritize studies on Latin America and Africa, but I followed the participatory work of the presidents, especially Teresa Eça who intensified contact with Africa and Ann Kuo who made known the interrelationships of Art/Education in some Asian countries. I also learned a lot from Elliot Eisner. For me, he was a true school of international politics and a theoretical supporter.

Thanks to INSEA Rita Irwin and Doug Bougton gave important courses in Brazil.
This work of collecting and publishing the drawings of children exhibited at the 1975 INSEA World Congress in Sèvres, France, which Marie-Françoise Chavanne and Glen Couts are presenting to us, is very important to reinforce the importance of the contemporary sense of internationalization that INSEA promotes historically and also to convince countries to recognize the importance of Arts in Education.

There is nothing more convincing of the power of Art for the development of children than seeing the images they produce. At the beginning of modernism, children’s drawing had an intrinsic value for celebrating the value of expression, free from social constraints and aesthetic dogmas.

Exhibitions and collections of children’s art were arguments that helped make the public understand and accept the ‘spontaneously’ constructed art of expressionist artists.

Therefore, exhibitions and collections of Children’s Art were alibis for the acceptance of Expressionism in Art and in the Child-Centered Pedagogy of Modernism.

In 1928, in the midst of education reform led by Fernando de Azevedo, an exhibition of children’s art excited Rio de Janeiro: one of Japanese children. It generated several articles and many newspaper notices. Accompanying the exhibition was a letter from Japanese children published in all the newspapers, as a message of peace and friendship, a facet of optimism very common between the two world wars, a period of cultural effervescence in the West.

In fact, the exchange of drawings was marketing of a company, supported by educational associations. The ability of children to reveal their culture impressed journalists, artists and teachers.

Much more important was the exhibition of children’s drawings that Sir Herbert Read organized and was in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, from October 11, 1941 to January 1942, in the middle of the war. It was an inspiration for artists such as Augusto Rodrigues, Margaret Spencer, Alcides da Rocha Miranda, Clóvis Graciano and others to get excited about creating the Escolinha de Arte do Brasil, seven years later in 1948.

There is a lot of talk, but little is known about this exhibition. Unfortunately, the catalog contains few images. I obtained some images printed in newspapers from Marian Richardson’s archives, with poor definition and visibility, but I found a careful report to the British Council written by Mr. Church responsible for the exhibition in Brazil. *

Based on the content of the report, it can be concluded that the exhibition was more successful in São Paulo than in Rio and Belo Horizonte, but historically the best-known version of the exhibition was the one in Rio de Janeiro, thanks to the constant references made to it throughout the years by Augusto Rodrigues and the Movimento Escolinhas de Arte
In São Paulo, the exhibition had 26,010 visitors in 15 days, an average of 1,734 per day. It was extended for another five days and in these extra days it had 9,356 visitors. Also from the point of view of repercussion in newspapers, the exhibition in São Paulo was more important. We can list 12 summaries of articles included in the report: in addition to wide dissemination of lectures by important educators in the country.
Showing children’s work is the best way to convince public authorities of the importance of Art in Education. I praise the careful work of Marie-Françoise Chavanne, which will reinforce the importance of INSEA’s History and the importance of Children’s Art exhibitions, for decoding different cultures. Many thanks to Marie-Françoise Chavanne for honoring our late leader, the dear Aimèe Humbert.

Ana Mae Barbosa

The exhibition was the best advertisement there could be, not excluding British Fashion, much more expensive, which was also sent to Brazil.*

*BRITISH Council. Report on the British Council Exhibitions of Children’s Drawings. Document 984/1. England: 1941/1942b. s/ BARBOSA, Ana Mae. Redesigning Drawing. São Paulo: Cortez Publisher, 2015. Pag309-352

BARBOSA, Ana Mae, Eleanor Hipwell, pioneirismo internacional em Arte/Educação in BARBOSA, Ana Mae and AMARAL, Vitoria. Mulheres não devem ficar em silencio: Arte, Design, Educação. SP: Editora Cortez, 2019, pag 179 a 209.