Kids Create Fantasy Land

The Toronto Star
August 1, 1998

Kids Create Fantasy Land
Imagination is the key to time travel —
to the past and to the future — for young arts school students

A sparkling 2-metre turquoise dinosaur was the hit of the show.

The amazing creature, made of chicken wire covered by painted paper fabric, was surrounded by clay fossils, plaster dinosaur bones, painted dino footprints on the floor and paper-towel-roll prehistoric bugs on the ceiling, much bedecked with buttons, spools and film reels.

It was the creation of Avenue Road Arts School’s small students, who recently mounted an exhibit on the theme of time travel.

While the wildly colourful displays all over the three-storey building were imaginative and appealing, some kids could hardly tear themselves away from the basement dinosaur expedition.

But others were drawn to the upstairs wishing tree with its bright green paper leaves and strange creatures made of painted paper and cardboard perched here and there on its branches.

There’s a hole in the tree trunk for wishes — dozens of them.

“I wish this tooth would come out,” one child wrote plaintively.

“I wish it was my birthday,” penned another. One wish wasn’t enough for a third child. “I wish for no homework and a yellow rat snake,” the note reads.

One child shared a longing felt throughout history: “I wish I could fly. ”

The two most common wishes? For a dog. And for world peace.

And then there were the materialists — those who want their own colour television, a computer, the Lego needed to build a police station, and a Sailor Neptune action figure.

A kid whose parent may have been right at hand wrote: “I wish I could help a poor person.”

One child wished it would rain, another wished for a rainbow, and someone wished to be a star.

And one rueful scrawl: “I wech I an smart.”

One little girl, obviously dissatisfied with her own life, wrote: “I wish I was Catherine.” Longing for even closer friendship, another set down: “I wish I was a twin with my friend Dana.”

One child so happy with the surroundings that wishes weren’t paramount wrote simply: “I love the tree. It’s beautiful.”

The time travel displays — from cave paintings and ancient civilizations all the way to futuristic worlds — were created by about 500 children between the ages of 3 and 12, working since April in their programs at the five-year-old arts school.

“I did lots of future things upstairs,” says Ben, 6. “I wanted to do something I hadn’t done before. I made future people with different kinds of bodies and different arms and legs, in green and red and orange, lots of colours like that.”

Olivia, 4, says she had a good time working on her project.

“I painted a star every colour I know,” she explains. “It looked like a tie-dye shirt. I feel happy about it.”

Conor, 6, says he made a dinosaur picture. “I used markers to do it,” he announces. “My dinosaur is blue and small. Dinosaurs are my favourite thing.”