Selected HundrED Innovation, Dear You is a process-based cross-cultural international art project created for children aged 4-15 years old. The project connects children, their teachers, and artists internationally by making and sharing art with new friends from abroad. Through this process of exchange, a child’s worldview is widened and their skills for self-expression are honed. The exchange of process-based art projects with new friends living in all corners of the world enhances communication and creativity in areas involved in education, arts, and children’s growth and development.
The organization’s Founder, Arlene Tucker, is an artist and educator from Taiwan and the USA who has been based in Finland since 2011. In the following passage, Arlene reflects on what inspired her to create Dear You. It is written in the form of a letter with two former Dear You participants. The letter provides a glimpse into how the students felt about exchanging thoughts, artwork, and communicating with a new friend from the other side of the world.
The project shows how writing and art can not only connect people of all ages but also raise awareness of local and global issues. The interconnectedness of our shared world is discussed on many levels and used as an inspiration to create art within the various channels and communities of Dear You.
You can find more information about Dear You and how to join their community on their website.
Dear Milo and Siiri,
I remember in the fall of 2018 I was so excited to have your 2nd-grade class at NEST+m in NYC, USA, make and share art with my 1st grade at Ressun peruskoulu in Helsinki, Finland! That time we all had together still shimmers bright in my mind. I remember all the artworks and stories everybody made and shared. I remember how well you New Yorkers described your city and how we in Helsinki were imagining what it would be like to live there. Some of us have traveled there and even lived there, but your images and words along with your great questions and answers painted a whole other picture for us. Thank you!
I’m not sure if you knew this, but I started Dear You in 2013 so that children, artists, and teachers from all over the world could connect with each other. The idea popped into my mind when I was working at a school in Espoo, Finland, and felt sooo far away from my friends and family. I started to think, what can I do to bring all the people I love together as well as make new friends. Since making art is like breathing for me and writing letters has been my main form of communication since I was 7 years old, I came up with the Dear You! You see, when I was 7 years old my family moved from Taiwan to the USA. That’s when I started writing letters to my friends and family in Taiwan and have continued ever since then.
You both expressed to me that you felt excited, nervous, and happy when you found out that your class was going to participate in Dear You. Milo, it was so lovely when you said you were looking forward to “meeting and getting to know someone new from somewhere else and see their artwork and got to show my artwork.” My thoughts exactly! Siiri, you really summarized it so beautifully with,
“I think that the fun thing was that I had a friend who I haven’t met. I felt weird and quite grateful because I realised that we are so lucky to live in Finland because in some places you don't have an opportunity to do this.”
The bubbles we get in our bodies when waiting in anticipation for a response, a special gift, is really indescribable.
I feel that this process of exchange gives us a chance to self reflect, expand, and relate with others. We really were in the moment, in the process, celebrating the quest as well as realizations along the way. When we made art, it was about the journey, not what the final piece looked like. When we wrote letters, it was about deepening and developing a friendship with others. Siiri, you described yourself “as a good friend, kind of clever and funny.” The way you took such care in responding to all of your friends’ questions and shared with them your life and thoughts, it really does mirror how you see yourself. I see that! Milo, your “sporty, happy, and energized” definitely came through your words and art. I shared with your new friends that your “favorite thing to do is play video games.” I remember your friends in Helsinki saying, “Me too! Me too!”
Listening, communicating, and exchange are so important to me as I feel that we need to have space to do this so that we can really appreciate what we have and also change things for the better. Recognizing our differences as well as our similarities is magical. Milo, I completely agree with your thought- “I felt that we had some things in common and we also had some differences like they have a pet and I don't.” Siiri, I stopped and had a good think when you told me that “Dear You made me realise how many people there are in the world.” You are absolutely right! This world is ginormous and filled with every colour, texture, shape, smell, tickle, skip, and jump and I am hungry to go on a treasure hunt to find all these gems. I am so thankful for being able to create and develop Dear You with you all as I feel that this is one step in co-creating a world we’d like to live in.
I’m really happy that you both feel that you got to know your friends during the time we had together and had fun writing with them. We can do it again! As we change and grow, every exchange, every moment is different. That’s the beauty of time, space, communication, and giving space for each other and ourselves. Your responses to my questions below are so wonderful! They help me understand your perspective and guide how I bring together schools, children, and artists in this mail art exchange. Your thoughts and ideas are so inspirational and we need to make sure that they are heard. Thank you two and all your friends for taking the time and sharing!
Siiri, I will always hold your motto, “Never give up,” close to my heart and have it shine as a guiding light.
I will never give up. Thank you for backing me up on that!
Dear You, runs from September to May and consists of two sessions. Each session lasts for 4 months, August/September to November/December and January/February to April/May. Signing up for a session includes four Pathfinders, uniquely developed process-based art projects, pairing a partner school from abroad and the provision of digital platforms to open dialogue, such as the Dear You website. The Dear You project provides invaluable insight into creativity, identity, language, and culture.
If you are interested in partaking in Dear You as an artist or finding friends for your students, you can learn more on their website or you can contact Arlene directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org