It is a Sunday winter morning, when cold temperatures make even the most outdoorsy person want to curl up with a cozy blanket. I struggle to get out of the house, wander around, and think about what to do on such a chilly wintry day. When I’m walking along Nguyen Chi Thanh street, I hear laughter down alley number 72. There's nothing like the laughter of children to immediately lighten my mood. As I walk toward the kids, who are aged just 3 to 10, I notice that they are painting a mural. “What are you painting?” I ask a little girl. - “I’m drawing a big tree, a smiling sunflower, a wandering cloud, and a girl reading a book under the shadow of a tree.”
|The kids line up, and paint whatever they like (Source: ABC's official FB)
The kids line up, and paint whatever they like. There’s a boy painting a big car, saying that he will buy his mother that car when he grows up. There’s a little girl painting a princess wearing a beautiful dress, saying that she wants to grow up as beautiful as that little princess. There are 4 mural walls for the children to come and paint whatever pops up in their mind, without any restrictions or rules. This art project is one of the activities designed by Art builds community, or ABC, an organization that wants to improve community quality through the arts. Ta Thu Huong, founder of ABC, said: “We host an event where children can gather together and create beautiful murals. They know how to turn the dirty walls into beautiful pictures. We have around 30 children joining us today. They paint beautiful murals about 4 topics, including the “Ocean”, where children can paint fish, octopuses, and all kinds of ocean animals that they are interested in. We also have the topic of “Airport”, “Nature”, and “Future”, so the children can feel free to paint.”
|There are 5 to 8 children to a team (Source: ABC's official FB)
There are 5 to 8 children to a team, each tackles 1 topic. The organizers also print color name tags for the kids to find their teammates easily. The “Nature” team has green name tag, the “Ocean” has blue. “Future” has purple, and the “Airport” has a yellow one. There are volunteers and professional painters helping the kids through the whole process: from brainstorming to drawing, to transferring the images to the wall, and supporting the kids whenever they need. Volunteer Tran Minh Phuong, said: “We think that the kids have a boundless artistic imagination, and we want them to have an outdoor activity where they can exercise while interacting with others. To prepare for today, the artists and the volunteers have to work hard for a week. We have to fix the old walls with low quality surfaces and cover them with white paint, so the kids could draw and paint on a clean canvas.”
|(Photo: ABC's official FB)
With the help of the painters, the kids work on their own or in small groups to paint different parts of the mural. Painter Hong Lien said: “We want to foster the children’s passion and creativity. The program is a way to help children learn and keep them physically active at the same time, instead of spending time using smart phones, and other electronic devices for entertainment. When the children finish their work, we will remake it by turning their 2D paintings into 3D versions, turning them into more lively and meaningful objects. This takes from 5 to 6 days to finish.”
The kids’ paintings are cute, colorful, and eye-catching. One of the topics, “Airport,” also serves as a tribute to many residents of alley 72. They are retired engineers, who devoted their whole lives constructing famous sites, such as the Thang Long bridge, the Chuong Duong bridge, Lang Hoa Lac street, and the street linking Hanoi and Noi Bai international airport.