Innovation resides where art and science connect

How we can use art and science to help and innovate

Alessandro Carano, Carano 4 Children, non profit foundation

Interview: Robin von Breska, editor-in-chief, 13starsnewspaper

The Carano 4 Children non-profit foundation has the mission to help children, in particular orphans and children with high potential, in developing their scientific and artistic skills. Behind the creation of Carano 4 Children lies a personal story. It has been founded by the Italian Alessandro Carano in memory of his brother Luigi and his wife Erika. Both were talented aeronautical engineers, passionate about design and innovation, and gifted artists themselves.

Today I am meeting Alessandro Carano in a virtual Zoom call to talk about the most recent activities of the foundation, such as the Leonardo 4 Children initiative.

RvB: Why have you chosen the famous Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci for your initiative in 2019?

AC: At the beginning of 2019, we thought interesting to celebrate the 500-year anniversary of death of Leonardo da Vinci. He was a very talented artist, just think of Mona Lisa, and his many other paintings and drawings. At the same time, he was also one of the greatest scientists of his time and a science pioneer. He invented machines, studied energy, biology, botany and the human body. He used Science and Art to learn and innovate by observing nature. Leonardo da Vinci became one of the most important symbols of integration of Art and Science.

Each of us has small preference for the artistic or logical part, however it becomes most innovative when both are combined. This huge potential is what we want to foster in children and teenagers. So we started to develop the Leonardo 4 Children initiative, inspired by Leonardo’s genius to stimulate children with art and science.

RvB: How did you create the concrete link between Leonardo da Vinci with children and teenagers?

AC: This is an interesting story. One of my friends-artists told me at the dinner after a charity concert in Milan, very close to Leonardo’s Last Supper: Oh, did you know that Leonardo also wrote some fables? I did not, in fact very few people knew about the fables which Leonardo wrote in some of his manuscript papers, often side-by-side with drawings and nature observations. It was just perfect to use them for our mission as they send a very powerful message to the young. Each has a similar message (morale), which is about hard work, self-improvement, learning from nature, respect for others and cooperation. If you follow this positive path, then there will be a reward in life for you. However, if you don’t and follow the opposite path, then you will be penalized in one way or the other.

RvB: The Leonardo 4 Children was the biggest project of the foundation so far?

AC: Yes indeed, we started with some projects in 2018 with activities for minors arriving in the EU without parents (young migrants) and with some orphanages in Kirgizstan in central Asia. We organized a fundraising conference in Milan (Italy) and were able to provide material for artistic creation and music classes.

In 2019 we launched 3 open competitions across the European Union: the first competition was revolving around 12 selected Leonardo’s fables for small children (6-12 years old), who were asked to create an original comic strip representing the fable. The second competition was directed at young composers, who had to interpret Leonardo fables with original classical music and voices or choir. The third competition was directed at teenagers (13-18 years old) to integrate Art and Science in an original way.

They all could get inspired by Leonardo da Vinci life and studies, combine art (e.g. dance, drawing, painting, sculpture, music) and science (e.g. aeronautics, biology, climate, energy, transport) to arrive at original and innovative results. The underlying idea was to develop their STEM skills on one hand plus their artistic and creative side. This is also something which is becoming more popular in education today, with STEAM skills which add ART to STEM to be truly creative and innovative.

We received fantastic contributions (more than 720 original works from 15 European countries) and the winners presented their creative works in the Brussels concert hall in BOZAR in September 2019 as well as in 5 other cities in Italy, such as Florence, Milan and Rome. We also published a book which presents all the winners and helps to raise funds to help our beneficiary projects.

RvB: Which are the beneficiary projects?

AC: We collected funds via 6 concerts which took place throughout 2019, with a total of more than 2500 participants and several children performing either in choirs (such as the Choir of European School Brussels I) or as violinists.

Through these funds we were able to support three beneficiary projects outside Europe, supporting artistic and creative development of children. Firstly, a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan where we provided them with music classes, in cooperation with UNICEF; secondly, in Kenia, where children living on the streets are provided with possibilities to attend creative day classes and thirdly, we supported abandoned children or children without family with art classes in orphanages in Ukraine. It is always with the help of international organizations like UNICEF or a local NGO (non-government organization).

We supported also some local initiatives in the cities where we held concerts, for example we helped children in Florence in hospitals with play therapy, pet therapy or engaging artists to visit children who are hospitalized.

We also raise funds through a book printed by specialized editor Giunti and called “Leonardo 4 Children”, which includes all the works of the winners and the 12 fables of Leonardo in English, French and Italian. We sold more than 2000 copies of the book, and we have still  copies available in case of interest, just send us an email to [email protected] and we can direct all the net funds (€ 7 per copy, as we operate on a full non-profit basis) either to one of our beneficiary projects, or to a project of interest to the buying organization in favor of children in need, such as we have recently done with Rotary Brussels in favor of an association helping children with a rare degenerative disease.

RvB: It is interesting that so many winners came from the European School system. How come?

AC: Indeed, we have received support from M. Giancarlo Marcheggiano, who promoted and sent the message about the competition to all European Schools, and many participants and winners were from European Schools in Brussels, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Luxembourg, Varese as well as Parma. Moreover, we received the patronage by the European Commission, European Parliament, Tuscany, Lumbardy, Centre-Val de Loire, Italian and French Embassies, as well as UNESCO, and the gold medal from Italian President of the Republic. The European School Net – network, association of Ministries of Education across Europe – was also extremely helpful in spreading the message, promoting every year STEM competitions in the context of the annual STEM-Discovery Week.

RvB: Last but not least, in 2020-21 you are launching a new competition Leonardo 4 Children 2021on climate and gender equality. Why climate and gender equality?

AC: Besides Corona, the most pressing problem of today is the climate emergency. Just like Leonardo was searching for solutions to the social and political problems of his time, we would like to empower children of today to search for solutions, just like Leonardo, to solve problems of climate change by employing creativity, using art and science to generate innovation for future generations. The idea is to create a kind of mini-Nobel prize for children on key social and environmental topics.

We already run this pilot competition in 2020 and despite the lockdown we had more than 10 participants, with excellent winning works which you can admire on the website.

This school year 2020-21 we are repeating the competitions on climate and we added a new topic: gender equality and the fight against stereotypes and gender discrimination. The deadline for the submission of projects is in May 2021 and there is still plenty of time to apply and submit. We look forward to the great involvement of children and teenagers from all across Europe, and teamwork and multicultural work is very much encouraged.

RvB: Mr. Carano, thank you very much for the interview.

Leonardo 4 Children – open competition:

https://carano4children.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/EN-L4C-2021.pdf

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