Connecting art dreams

NDO – Over the past six years, the Mountain Star Charity (MSC) fine art project has not only brought joy to poor children across Vietnam’s mountainous and remote areas, who have never known the pigment and brushes, but also connected and lit up such dreams across the country.


Arousing the love for the country

With the support of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association, the MSC project was initiated and funded by Taiwanese researcher Kuo Yen Wei during his time studying and practicing fine art applications in Vietnam. The artist group organised activities in the form of trips combining creative work and teaching drawing to local children. After each trip, about 50% of the money earned from selling paintings is deducted to contribute to the fund and to continue to implement such projects in other regions or to provide support with books, school supplies, clothes and cakes for disadvantaged children in areas where the project is implemented. At first, only 15 painters, mainly lecturers and students of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Hanoi College of Arts, were participating in the project, but so far, there have been about 30 official members and about 50 unofficial members each year.

Painter Nguyen Truong Linh, who has been with the project since the its beginning, shared that all the regions where the MSC project operates are places where there are a lot of difficulties in material and spiritual life; and most of the children in those places have not yet formed their dreams. The first destinations of the project were primary schools in Ha Giang, such as Dong Ha, Quyet Tien, Quan Ba, Lung Cu, Sung La, and others. The artist group teaches more than 300 children. Firstly, they organised a game and conversation to help the children feel the beauty of their homeland, then guided them to create an art work using the available materials, such as pigments from the leaves of the forest and charcoal, and using materials like linen, brocade, wood chips, and coconut shells. Having been born and living among mountains and villages, for the first time, students of the Mong, Dao and Tay ethnic groups have been inspired to express their feelings and sense of beauty and values of nature of their homeland.

From the once timid children, they have now shown their dreams and care by brushworks, becoming high-potential students. The mark of MSC project is now extended to remote regions such as the Central Highlands, or Co To Island and Vung Tau.

Talking about the memorable experiences, the artists shared that, in the summer of 2019, when the group went to practice and teach drawing at Bong Lai Monastery in Hoa Khanh Tay Commune, Duc Hoa District, Long An Province, which is caring for over 100 orphans, the pure eyes of children shining with joy when they touch crayons and paintbrushes is what has touched them most.

During the course of teaching, the project focused on expressing the indigenous cultural identity through soil and people, so the results have been very positive. Students learn how to create colors from nature, make pens with leaves and care about the environment. All programmes are combined with local authorities, schools, and social protection centres to monitor and support children in the long term. As a result, even when the artist group has left, the students have continued to draw. Every year, a month before the Lunar New Year festival, the project sends groups of painters around the region to give gifts to children.

Joining hands for children

Recently, the "Six Perfection" art exhibition, commemorating the six years since the project began operations, took place in Hanoi. The exhibition displayed more than 50 works by more than 20 young contemporary Vietnamese painters and disadvantaged children in Long Son Island Commune (Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province) and Bat Dai Son Commune (Ha Giang Province). In addition to paintings, the exhibition also showcased installation artworks. Over recent years, together with teaching drawing, the MSC project has organised many art exhibitions both in the country and abroad as well as in the locality where the project was deployed. The activity has attracted the attention of numerous art lovers and researchers, thereby creating a connection of mutual support. Many artworks from the exhibition have been ordered by foreign art collectors. The group of artists is expected to organise an international exhibition in Kien Giang Province in 2021 with the participation of artists from many countries, such as Vietnam, the Republic of Korea, Japan, China and Thailand, along with activities such as opening a competition for writing, teaching and interacting with children.

Evaluating the MSC project, painter Luong Xuan Doan, who is Permanent Vice Chairman of Vietnam Fine Arts Association, said that the project contributed to spreading love of painting, bringing joy to children in remote areas. "Through the works displayed at the exhibition, we can evaluate the effectiveness of teaching and interacting with children”, he added. Painter Luong Xuan Doan expressed his wish that the whole of society will join hands and spread the MSC project to awaken the painting potential of children all over the country. Over the years, the Vietnam Fine Arts Association also regularly shares, encourages and advises ideas for the project.

Painter Nguyen Truong Linh shared that most children are gifted in painting because of their innocent, unlimited creativity. However, it is not easy to encourage them. In order to carry out the project, the painter group needs to be knowledgeable about indigenous culture, dedicated to the project and flexible with their methods. In the coming time, the project will combine art galleries inside and outside the country to introduce, display and sell products; and coordinate with charitable groups to increase complementary activities such as visiting and giving gifts to children. From a charity project, MSC project is expected to be a useful educational plan, contributing to the promotion of the local culture. This model helps the group of young artists run by themselves, thereby contributing to promoting the beauty of the national culture, with "joining hands to preserve the Vietnamese identity" as the message of the project. The main obstacle facing artists is that some localities do not accept or have slow access to the project.

In order to develop the dream and the development path of painting for children in mountainous and disadvantaged areas, it is necessary for the authorities, schools and communities in localities to join hands with support and practical actions to help the project bring intrinsic and sustainable value.