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The History of Art in Kidlink. The first pioneering years:  1990 - 92 - 95-

This picture: received the 11th of May 1990, from Suzanna Simmonds Sorensen, USA, was the first visual answer to the questions in the invitation to the project Norlink in Arendal International Childrens Culture week. (Norway)  We do not know how old she was. But we know it was sent by fax from her school's Dean's office.

To get the whole amazing picture of the developing of KidArt, we have to start with the very beginning - the prehistory of the "incubator" of Arendal International Childrens Cultural Week  (Norway). 

Kidlink's embryonic stage was called Norlink.. Odd de Presno's  idea was "with the help of some friends" to create a communication between kids on the net as a project for The Culture Week, founded the year before by his wife, Anne-Tove Vestfossen. To have something meaningful to response to, the kids, besides introducing themselves to eachother, should answer  two  questions: 

1. What do you want the world to look like when you grow up. 
2. Do you believe that there is anything that children can do to m
ake it become like that?(Ref. formal invitation from Arendal Cultural Week by Anne-Tove Vestfossen, put online by her husband Odd de Presno 30th of April 1990.) 

In the same letter the kids also were asked to send visual greetings to the kids in Arendal by fax,  - being promised that they would get faxes from kids in Arendal in return. (The transfere of artworks on the net at that time was hardly heard of). And soon artworks arrived by fax,  mainly from Newfoundland (Canada), Tromsø (North-Norway) and by hand and snailmail from different schools in the Arendal region... 

This first small exhibition - (actually rather big, considering the short time from invitation sent out, until the exhibition opening)  "happened" on the walls outside  AustAgder Museum's Auditorium, Arendal, where the first chat arrangement took place 13th of May on computers and a big screen as part of Arendal International Childrens week. 11th-19th of.May 1990. The audience in Arendal was not very big....Few understood what it was all about....  

The Norlink-Exhibition flies to California!!
The people attending the Conference in San Francisco, a few weeks later, however showed a more qualified interest... When Odd hanged  the long printouts of the answers and the faxed
and original illustrations on the walls outside the conference hall, people joined to see and help

The "happening" from Arendal appeared to contain  more energy than anyone had suspected. Some of the people at the conference: Nancy Stefanic US - who had already been an active supporter to get the  Norlink project coordinated on the net and Knut BrÃ¥tane Norway, joined forces with Odd. They set up a meeting, and "there an then" decided to work together to build up "a global communicationservice for Kids online". 

KIDS-91 has started!!
Information was poured out through their networks..Art was again called for....In his first newsletter Odd wrote:  

"The aim is to get as many children in the age group 10 -15 as possible involved in a GLOBAL dialog continuing until May 12th 1991. We would like their responses to these questions: 1) Who am I?, 2) What do I want to be when I grow up?, 3) How do I want the world to be better when I grow up?, 4) What can I do now to make this happen?
 We would also like the children to illustrate their future vision, for example in a drawing, a video tape, or something else.
On May 12th, 1991, the children will be invited to "chat" with each other in a global electronic dialog. Exhibitions of selected parts of the responses will be shipped back to the children of the world for them to see and enjoy."

The artworks were exhibited  in Arendal Society of Art, - again as part of "Arendal International Childrens Cultural Week" - in the middle of theater, dance, music, clowns, puppet theater, other exhibitions, seminars... We showed videos, printouts, original paintings and calligraphy from as far away as Latvia, England, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan and Japan ...And at the show on Sunday the 12th of May in Arendal Town Hall - ending a full day of chats, direct communication, videophones, the verbal and visual communication was supplied with that of  the sound. Together we enjoyed the first music composed for Kidlink: - "The silent song"  played on a flute from notes sent to us from a 14 year old Latvian a young composer..

When the exhibition was over, we did as promised: Artworks from different countries, schools and individuals - were shipped back to the  participants, for them to enjoy what others had created. It can only be described in one word. "Fantastic". Eli Tunold, provided as a Kids-91-helper by Arendal Municipality, says: "I shall never forget myself on the floor in Odd and Anne-Tove's livingroom, copying and sorting and wrapping and trying to keep in order the different artworks..before and after the exhibition!"  - And, today we cannot help but being sorry for all the wonderful artworks we never were able to copy before we had them returned... 

Kids-92 and the Creative Challenge.
The preparation for "Kids-92 celebration started imediately after the tidying up after Kids-91...See one of the  next newsletters from Odd: 

All levels: The Creative Challenge
"We want the children to 'draw themselves as adults in their desired future world'. Challenge them to use more creative ways of doing this. During KIDS- 91 we received musical compositions, video films, computer animation, paintings, water colors, printouts from graphical computer programs, calligraphical art, and more.
Remember to have the students write their name, age,. place/school CLEARLY on their contribution (front or back). Please write name in CAPITAL latin characters. If the contribution is chosen to be exhibited, then the audience should be able to see the correct name of the artist!
Tell them that there is a competition going on for chosing the most innovative creators.
Mail the Creative Contributions to KIDS-92, 4815 Saltrod, Norway. We will add your address to our mailing list for the final exhibition, which we plan to send back to the world after May 18 1992."

We never had any KID's92. The name was changed again, this time to KIDLINK. But the Celebration went on -  again during the Childrens Cultural Week in Arendal - and happened  "around the clock" in one of the Cities Warehoses. The artworks were again exhibited on the walls...- but there were other Kidlink Celebrations too ... in other countries... In Copenhagen Kidlink volunteers invited kids to come to the huge "Eksperimentarium" to chat and exhibit. Soon the yearly exhibition of KidArt grew "out of hand", out of Arendal, carried by Kidlink's volunteers to other countries  and other continents and became lots of interesting projects of all kinds...and from now on it mainly happened "on the web" 

Growing "out of hand" - Growing Online.....
The creating of Kidlink Gallery of Computer ART....
The web was developing, it was now possible to send visuals on-line ....and: slowly the NEW way to create and share creative expressions as sounds and visuals on  the net caught the interest!!...

"The Gallery of Computer Art was opened in July - with one work created by 12 year old Sean Keithly from DesMoines, USA. (File name: ART001-B). 
Odds draft Newsletter#2, dated 6 Aug 1991  

And in the third Kids-92 Newsletter, Global Networking for youth 10-15: we can read this:
The KIDS-92 Gallery of Computer Art
One of the things that makes KIDS-92 unique, is the requirement
that the young participants respond to the four questions. Then there is the Creative Challenge. The kids are asked to illustrate their future vision in as many ways as they can, for example in a drawing, a video tape, or something else. During KIDS-91 most of them used traditional artforms. Most of the contributions received this year have been created on computers and sent to us by modem. The problem with computer art, is that they often are notreproduced well on the commonly available printers. The good news is that distribution as computer files maintains the graphic qualities of the originals and allows them to be seen by a wider audience. We are now in a position to take advantage of that. On the last day of 1991, the KIDS-92 Gallery of Computer Art was officially opened. Its curator, Dan Wheeler, together with an eager group of volunteers, have looked into how the artwork can be viewed on various types of microcomputers. They are now in the process of making this information available.
Note that our Gallery of Computer Art is just a small part of the overall Creative Challenge. Inquiries and submissions of works in other media should be sent to Anne-Tove Vestfossen, KIDLINK, 4815 Saltrod, NORWAY

Whether the correct date for the opening of Gallery of Computer art is July91 or "late91" as Odd says in his second message, does not matter much...Dan Weeler thinks July is right, and he was the first curator!!! 

"Getting started was difficult. We didn't have email systems that could handle attachments. We also had problems with file formats. We used GIF files but this format was not as widely accepted as it is today. I remember getting some files from Russia that I was never able to convert to something I could view. It was very frustrating. By the summer of 1992, we had a reasonable collection of about twenty works on display." (Dan Wheeler, 10 years later.)

The Gallery of Computer Art had come to stay and allready made the headlines: See this message from Odd:
Date Fri, 26 Jun 1992 140457 +0200
Reply-To KIDS-93 Project List <KIDS-93@NDSUVM1.BITNET
Sender KIDS-93 Project List <KIDS-93@NDSUVM1.BITNET
Subject Media Report

Hello friends,
The Norwegian computer magazine Datatid had a very nice, 3 page story about "The KIDLINK Gallery of Computer Art" in number 7/8 1992 p. 54-56. Seven pictures were printed in full color. Ida Meyer Berg's, Ryan's, Chris Sanchez (scanned from print. Will have to put into KIDART right away ;-), Kirril Lygoskij's, and several from Denis Pscelkin in Protvino. 
The accomanying text (in Norwegian, authored by the editor) was great. It
demonstrates how easy it is for (an interested) writer to write a good KIDLINK story once they have a personal copy of KIDSHOW!"

The tecnical tools improved quickly. And very soon we were startled by more advanced works like the above mentionned amazing computer creations by two Russian boys: Kyril Legovsky (11), and Denis Pchelkin (10).

In the summer of 1992 Kyril was, with the help of kidlink-volunteer Klaus Berg (Denmark.) invited in person to Lousiana Gallery of Contemporary Art outside Copenhagen, Denmark, to celebrate the opening of their department of childrens computerart.. 

So Dan was not alone, he found helpers. The first one Dan recalls was Stephan de Haas (Netherlands). Stephan became the co-ordinator of Kidlink Gallery of Computerart in 1992. And then, later, as Dan says. 

Sebastian Marquez (Sweden) organized the 1995 and the1996 KIDLINK Worldwide
Computerart Exhibitions. In spite of the name, these were fairly independent of the KIDART Gallery. They were held in Stockholm with physical works of art as well as some of the works that had been submitted via Kidlink. I did the web pages for the 1995 Exhibition and Lars-Erik Nilsson did the web pages for the 1996 Exhibition.

There were more Kidlink Gallery pioneers on the web to come, and much more Art.
Patty Weeg (USA) and Isamu Shimasaki(Japan) were working with an interesting project called "The Bridge" - not part of the Kidlink Gallery of Computer Art at that time, because the children were to small for the Age limits (10-15) in Kidlink at that time... 

Now as Kidlink is divided in language areas, it has been hardly possible  to keep track of all the projects and exhibitions going on...Not all language areas have their own Kidart sites yet, but take a look at the sites of the KidArtSpanish, -Portugese, -Icelandic,  -Japanese and  -Italian ones...Written here is just first part of the KidArtHistory....

May 24th.2002 by Anne-Tove Vestfossen

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