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“They could be the future architects of the world!” | Sally Curcio, lead artist of Sheikha Manal Little Artist Program

For over 18 years, American artist Sally Curcio has set children’s imaginations alight all over the world with the playful miniature worlds she calls “Bubble Sculptures”.

Curcio shares her thoughts on their appeal and empowering children in her role as lead artist of this year’s Sheikha Manal Little Artists Program: “Creating New Worlds”.

A partnership between The Cultural Office and Art Dubai, Sheikha Manal Little Artists Program is a non-commercial programme designed to provide access to skills and ideas for UAE-based children and teenagers aged 5-17 with the long-term aim of encouraging young people to get involved and excel in the arts.


Whilst children are innately creative, do you have to encourage them to create their own imaginative utopia?

Children get very excited about creating their own miniature utopian world. I show them my work as inspiration, but after that they don’t need much encouragement. Once they see the materials they will be using they dive right in and start creating. I also think the scale of the miniature world is inviting and unintimidating.

Sally Curcio, Miami (Detail), Mixed Media Including Beads, car floor mat, fabric, embroidery thread, pins, acrylic bubble, 2009

How important is the use of tactile and colourful material?

A range of colourful and tactile materials stimulate the creative mind. Using everyday materials with different textures and colours helps them to explore and re-imagine materials. Colour is psychological and it is important to bring about a cheerful optimistic feelings for utopian worlds.


Your work is generally concerned with creating dreamlike cityscapes, hence the theme of your workshops at Art Dubai. However, do you feel that the city of Dubai itself will also help to inspire the children and teenagers to create their own urban landscapes?

I do feel like the children in Dubai are at an advantage. They have their own amazing city as inspiration! I think it will definitely help them to create their own cityscape. Maybe something they haven’t thought about is that they could be the future architects of the world and their miniature worlds could serve as maquettes for new buildings. I would like to empower them in that way.

Sally Curcio, Opulance, Mixed media Including Beads, fabric, chain, ribbon, hairbrush, baby bottle tops, perfume atomizer, 2010

There is a focus on recycled products in your workshops, do you also hope to teach children and teenagers about environmental issues?

Yes, everything we have created came from the earth in one form or another. We need to be smart about how we recycle and reuse what we have made. There is a need for some real creative collaborative and innovative thinking to solve the issue of how to manage the waste we create.


Are you inspired by the children you work with as much as you hope to inspire them?

I am always so delighted and inspired by children. I love seeing what they discover and create! I show them my work to give them ideas, but after that unique creations emerge.

Does working with children help you to “unleash” your inner child?

I love to play, so I’m in touch with my inner child. I think working with children is refreshing because they create and play with materials without hesitation. Depending on the age they sometimes want some guidance along the way, but based on my experience they don’t overthink things.


How important is fun for you in your practice as an artist?

Fun is one of my favorite things. In my art I like to address different, social, philosophical, and aesthetic issues.  The fun is in discovering the best way to artistically express these issues and at the same time have the work be aesthetically engaging.  I love when I am exploring an idea, and through working with the materials a clear design suddenly emerges. That is a fun and exciting feeling.

Photograph of Sally Curcio by Paul specht Photography

What do you hope a participant of your workshop will take with them when they leave?

I want the workshops to open their minds to new possibilities. The sessions are called “Creating New Worlds.”  And so we are asking our participants to look to the future and imagine what is possible.  At Art Dubai they will be taking part in making their own miniature world and two collaborative projects that call for teamwork. These activities can motivate invention, cooperation, and exploration of how different materials can be employed and composed to create newly imagined environments.  So they will learn about how to rethink how materials are used, and how working together can create impactful results. If I am lucky, maybe this will inspire some to become the architects for creating new worlds.

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