Last Sunday our Latino communities in Detroit celebrated El Día del Niño, or Children’s Day. The idea to commemorate this day has its origins in Mexico, where it became an official national holiday on April 30, 1924. In 1959, the United Nations followed the spirit of that day and established November 20 as Universal Children’s Day, which is meant to promote togetherness, to increase awareness of the problems that children face around the globe, and to improve the welfare of all children.
For the past few years, Elías Gutiérrez, a community leader and friend of the DIA, has organized a school visit to the museum in partnership with Comerica Bank to celebrate El Día del Niño in April. I find it so touching that Elías thinks about our museum as the right place for a special trip for children. Last week we hosted many students from Harms Elementary School and Hope Academy from Southwest Detroit who joined other students (almost 1,000) from tri-county schools. The museum was bustling, and one could feel the energy of the school groups as they toured the galleries and made personal connections with our collections.
I joined Elías, Comerica president Steve Davis, and his team led by Yolanda Serra, in Rivera Court where we gathered with the students from Harms Elementary School and Hope Academy. After taking photos in front of the Diego Rivera murals, some of the children very politely approached me. A young girl asked in Spanish: “¿puedo hacerte una pregunta? (May I ask you a question?)”. And from there we talked about the art they make in school, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, what part of Mexico the students’ families come from, and their favorite foods (which happened to be tamales for almost all of them)! It was a very special moment for me. Speaking my native language with these students brought me back to my childhood, and my memories of visiting museums with my parents in Spain. It was a wonderful moment of togetherness and positive energy and made me think about the museum’s role in education, and the importance of paying careful attention to children’s wellbeing.
We are very grateful to Elías, who has worked with the DIA team over the years to connect the museum with the Spanish-speaking schools in southwest Detroit. He knows we care deeply about these communities and have many programs to serve them throughout the year. This month we are celebrating the remarkable creativity of our tri-county students with the Annual Detroit Public Schools Community District Student Exhibition. I am so delighted to say that we have been doing this show for 86 years, and it never fails to be an inspirational moment for each of us at the DIA. Please come experience the power of their art, which covers so many subjects and so many different kinds of media—painting, drawing, film, photography and so much more. These children are our future, and it is important to pay attention to them. In the years to come we will be placing everything from our amazing art collection, all the way to the future of our planet, in their hands.