Children Art Gallery Embraces Inclusion in an Exhibition

Children Art Gallery Embraces Inclusion in an Exhibition

Yinka Olatunbosun

In an effort to showcase artworks made by talented children, The Children Art Gallery (TCAG) Victoria Island, Lagos, held a group exhibition with the theme, Spark! Arts in Humanity: Uniting through Creativity.

TCAG is a social enterprise representing children under the age of 18. The gallery was co-founded in September 2022 by Phoebe Giffey-Brohaugh, an artist, and Segun Oni, a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist who is passionate about children and their development. The gallery is the first in Africa to exhibit and sell children’s artwork.

The exhibition honours the 2023 edition of the National Arts in Health Week held in Lagos.

“We want to really communicate their stories and talk about how art is important to wellness,” Giffey-Brohaugh explained. “The proceeds go towards their education and welfare. They can pay for their art supplies and school fees and take care of themselves and their families. We have worked with over 500 children now through workshops and social events, and we exhibit their art.”

Most of the exhibiting artists are drawn from underprivileged backgrounds and from among those living with autism and Down syndrome.

Ranging from abstract to drip painting, the artists—the youngest being seven— rendered their varied experiences on canvas in 20 pieces. One of the outstanding pieces at the exhibition, which ran from May 8 to 14, is titled “Unknown”, acrylic paint on canvas by Zizah. Limited in speech, Zizah has found expression through art and music.

At a recent media parley, TCAG’s co-founder, Segun Oni, revealed that the gallery was built on the need to show his son’s unique paintings. His love for children’s art is rooted in his son’s early interest in drawing and painting. “As time went on with lots of interest in his works, I started to do some research and found out that there was no children’s gallery anywhere in the world,” he narrated. “So I created one with Phoebe. When we had the first exhibition, which featured most of my son’s works at the time, he sold two of his pieces, which essentially covered his school fees that year. I thought, ‘This makes sense.’ Obviously, he comes from a very comfortable background.”

Out of concern for children whose parents cannot afford their education or healthcare, Oni and Giffey-Brohaugh set up the TCAG platform to help them realise value from their creative talents at a young age and support their families. “Then, we started partnering with schools so that they can open up their art department, and where they have very good art works, they bring them here. We are hoping to open in the US by the end of the year.”

While Oyinda Fakeye, the executive director of the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), who chairs the National Arts in Health Week, underscored the role of the arts in wellness, Christopher Bailey, the Arts and Health Lead at the World Health Organisation (WHO), described the show as “fantastic,” even as he commended the organisers for the inclusivity in the array of exhibiting artists.

In a reaction to the show, Nisha Sajnani, an associate professor at New York University and a co-director and co-founder of Jameel Arts in Health Lab, said: “It is about taking works that feel very ordinary and mundane and creating an extraordinary moment out of each piece. I am very inspired and impressed with what they are doing. I can see that this idea can really spread around the world.”

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