Art, Clowns and Charity

UnknownArt therapy studio Maria's Children holds art classes for Moscow orphans.
Don your red, foam nose, your big floppy shoes and prepare for an evening of art, clownery and philanthropy at an auction Nov. 14 to raise money for Maria's Children, an organization that works with orphans and children with disabilities.

Doctor Hunter "Patch" Adams, the American clown-doctor who travels around the world cheering up sick children, will act as auctioneer at the event as Maria's Children tries to raise over $100,000 to support its essential work.

Adams, who Robin Williams played in the 1998 film "Patch Adams," is a regular visitor to Moscow and has been an auctioneer a number of times.

"The art auction has become our biggest single annual fundraiser," said Morrighan Clinco, a worker at Maria's Children, which tries to rehabilitate children through art.

Maria's Children was founded in 1993 after Maria Yeliseyeva and her friends began visiting children in orphanages.

The volunteers began to take children home with them on weekends and holidays and to paint with their eager pupils, using art as a means to open a new world for children deprived of a normal family experience.

She and her husband, Ilya, decided to create the center after seeing the delight with which the children took to painting.

"We try to create an atmosphere of warmth and goodwill, which, combined with contact with children from regular families, helps to prepare orphans for independent life," said Clinco.

Maria's Children
All the artwork up for auction was done by Maria's Children students.

Children are also taught life skills to help them survive past the average life span of 25 years for Russian orphans.

Today, hundreds of children visit the center's art studio, and Maria's Children centers have also opened in St. Petersburg and Dmitrov. They create vivid, fantastic artworks, and Yeliseyeva has even toured the United States with an exhibit of the children's murals.

An exhibition of the children's art opens Nov. 12 at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. The exhibit will be on display until Dec. 7.

The last two auctions have generated more than $100,000 and Maria's Children hopes that there will be no drop in contributions in the wake of the global financial crisis, said Clinco.

All the works in the auction were created by students and graduates of the art studio.

One featured work, titled "January," is a large-scale quilt mural, flashing with bright colors and surprisingly intricate details. A warm sun shines upon children, adorned in winter coats, mittens and ice skates, dancing upon a frozen pond before the Kremlin walls, while clowns provide amusement in the snow-laden field sprinkled with trees and the occasional automobile.

In another painted mural, "April," a Moscow scene spreads before the beholder, buildings dyed with joyous reds, blues, pinks and greens, while butterflies and dragonflies fill the sunny sky.

The expat community has always strongly supported the auction. This summer, Maria's Children took part in Downside Up's annual charity bike ride auction by sending clowns to entertain children as they waited for riders to arrive.

The auction will help pay for activities run by Maria's Children's such as drawing, painting, sewing, embroidery, music, theater and circus art lessons at the center.

It will also help pay for other activities like the camp organized last summer, where 50 children from two Moscow boarding schools and children from School No. 1 in Beslan went to a camp near Lake Seliger.

The Maria's Children annual Charitable auction takes place Nov. 14, 6:30 at the Katerina Hotel, Shluzovaya Naberezhnaya 6, Building 1. Price is 1,500 rubles, children under 12 are free. Please RSVP to the Maria's Children school for tickets and questions, as space is limited. (495) 692 – 4870 or 8 916-164-49-96. See the organizations web site at for more information on the organization and its programs.