A4 Art MuseumExhibitions
iSTART Children’s Art Festival

2024 iSTART Children’s Art Festival: Small Nature, Big Families

2024.06.01 - 2024.09.01
  • Artistic Director
    Sunny Sun
  • Chief Curator
    Li Jie
  • Exhibition Design
    Kai (Cross Collaborative)
  • Visual Design
    firmfirm Design Studio

Exhibition information

The iSTART Children’s Art Festival, curated and initiated by the A4 Art Museum since 2014, is a pioneering child creativity and social arts education project in China, focused on child participation, empowerment, and co-creation. In 2024, the 10th edition of the iSTART Children’s Art Festival will open at the A4 Art Museum on Children’s Day. This year’s theme, “Small Nature, Big Families,” aims to explore children’s natural experiences and the necessity of growing up in a supportive social environment. It seeks to reactivate and connect the elements of “small nature” and “big families” to support children’s growth in a more natural and supportive environment.

“Small Nature” focuses on the direct and micro interactions between children and nature. Children have an innate need to connect with nature, yet face challenges such as diminishing opportunities for natural contact and weakened sensory perceptions due to modern societal structures and trends. “Small Nature” represents the natural elements children can encounter in everyday life, like sand, water, and leaves. Through spontaneous and exploratory interactions with these elements, children’s curiosity and creativity are sparked. These everyday, minor natural experiences lay the foundation for children to form their intuitive understanding and feelings about nature.

“Big Families” extends to the community and societal level, emphasizing the importance of a supportive social environment for children’s development, especially in the face of various challenges today—lack of social support systems, disordered family and community relationships, educational pressures, etc. Beyond a child’s immediate “small family,” the surrounding people—friends, teachers, community members—and environments—schools, parks, natural settings—constitute important components of a child’s growth. This “Big Families” provides a diverse ecosystem where through interactions and support within this system, children can grow and develop better.

The “Small Nature, Big Families” exhibition is driven by the iSTART co-creation team and focuses on education, charity, medicine, and game research among other fields. It brings together the wisdom and creativity of scholars, teachers, and artists from various sectors, showcasing a series of interdisciplinary collaborations. Highlights include the “Panda Project” launched in collaboration with the Yunhe Center, focusing on children’s perspectives on panda habitat conservation; the “Warrior Cats” in partnership with the Luxeslakes Community, a stop-motion animation reflecting children’s care for community stray cats; the “Mei Wan Mer Liao” bookstore co-planned with Bai Xue; and the “T+ Aesthetic Education Development Support Program for Rural Educators” co-planned with Gong Yu, displaying works from over a hundred teachers and organizations. Additionally, collaborations such as “My Day” with the Dream Building Service Association, showcasing Sino-African children’s cross-cultural exchanges through storybooks; “Art Therapy and Children in Distress” project with the Huaxi Hospital Mental Health Center, highlighting the role of art in youth mental health. Moreover, visitors can explore the “Gaga Nation” co-created with ZM Art Education and the “Family Museum Project” co-created with Deng Dafei. The exhibition offers a gamified setup through cooperation with “Homoludens Archive,” allowing visitors to experience the exhibition in a playful way. During the exhibition, education forums and public events for children, parents and teachers will also be held, providing a platform for in-depth interaction and learning.