The role of the World Children’s and Youth Drawing Exhibitions at InSEA

Teresa Torres de Eça

World exhibitions of drawings by children’s and youth played an important role in within the International Society for Education through Art (InSEA) throughout its history. International exhibitions promoted by InSEA members during World or Regional congresses, particularly in Europe, have been means of exchange of educational experiences through art between visual arts teachers. The opportunity to presenting students’ work internationally is aligned with the major objectives of the Society: the full intellectual, emotional and social development of people, through art.

The drawings and paintings of students from very different countries reveal the representations of dreams and realities of children and adolescents. Through the works, we can also take note of the movements in artistic education in the different chronological contexts. It is thanks to the efforts of Marie-Françoise Chavanne, president of InSEA from 1984 to 1987, that today we can appreciate this collection, organized on the occasion of the XXII World Congress in Sèvres in 1975.

Collections of children’s drawings are a source of knowledge about how the world can be represented. Children and young people tell us through their visual stories what they saw, experienced and dreamed about.

 By 1957, in NY, US, the MOMA Museum presented a fantastic set of drawings, found by Steve Willis and his colleagues in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Missouri, we can consult it in digital format on the InSEA page (1). Many of the images in this collection may seem timeless, through drawings we can see how children ideas, stories and feelings can prevail  over time. But, we can also observe drawings evoking terrible stories like that of Louis, aged 6 (France) with the title  “This is my house. My grandfather was killed by an airplane.” Similarly, much later in the collection of Sèvres, we can found reflections about war and peace, e.g. in the drawing of Volker, 9 years old (East Germany) titled ‘Peace in Vietnam’. The images are not just means to represent realities but also to help understand and overcome traumatic situations, as InSEA member Emil Tanay discovered during the Serbo-Croatian war between 1991 and 1995 (2).

Many InSEA art educators have collected and organized international exhibitions. Kit Grauer, during her presidency of InSEA  during  1996-1999, negotiated with UNESCO a virtual exhibition of children’s drawings on UNESCO website. Josip Roca in 1998 organized “Oceans and Seas”, an exhibition of 500 works selected during an international competition between children and young people from 17 countries organized by the InSEA sections of Croatia and  InSEA members from Portugal, the exhibition was inaugurated during the European Conference of Ministries of Culture on the occasion of the 1998 Universal Exhibition in Lisbon. This same exhibition also was presented in 2000 in Rijeka (Kortil Gallery) and in Poznan, during the 5th European Congress of InSEA.

InSEA Congresses have been spaces for dialogue for world exhibitions, for example in 2008 in Osaka, a major international exhibition of student drawings was highly appreciated by the participants. In the same way the exhibitions hold during  2016, in the European Congress in Vienna  and  the Africa and Middle East Regional Congress in Cairo were a strong contribution to  education through art.

Normally, the competitions which gave birth to the exhibitions are organized by the regional associations within   InSEA network, for example PORUKE/MESS@GESS, with drawings by students aged 12 to 19, in 2013, organized by Mirjana Tomasevic Dancevic from Croatia (InSEA-Cro); ‘My is Happy Child’, in 2017 by GÖRSED, (National Association of Plastic Arts Teachers of Türkiye); and ‘Social Posters by children and teenagers’ coordinated by  Dace Paeglite and  Dace Pudane, from Latvia (Lat- InSEA) in 2019.

For such exhibitions, drawings and works produced by children and adolescents,  are sent by educators, teachers and professors of the five continents; these creations offer a powerful testimony to art in education, and constitute a fantastic archive for anyone interested in research in art education and education through art.


Teresa Torres de Eça

1 Teresa Torres de Eça a été présidente de l’InSEA de 2014 à 2019, elle a co-organisé des projets internationaux
de l’InSEA aboutissant à des expositions itinérantes telles que ‘InSEA SelfPortraits and ‘ ArtGila.
i Tanay, E. (1995), The Children Bridge is not destroyed. In InSEA News. Volume 2, Number 2, 1995 Editor :
Kit Grauer.