As a teenager, artist, and ACS Athens alum Vivian Zotali remembers finding refuge in her sketches. Now, she has joined forces with fellow alum Harris Gazi to raise money for Πρωτα το Παιδι / Children First - an non-profit organization Harris co-founded in 2019 to help reduce the inequalities faced by children at risk of poverty or living below the poverty line.
It is not by chance that Vivian's second solo exhibition, consisting of a series of portraits of 39 children, is a philanthropic one. The artist finds inspiration in synergistic connections and her highest creative expression is best voiced when she calls viewers to action - in this case empowering vulnerable children through her work. For Harris, the call to help others has been an ongoing priority that she’s woven into her career. Before starting Πρωτα το Παιδι / Children First, she led fundraising efforts for Doctors Without Borders in Greece.
When the financial crisis hit Greece, the need to support the most vulnerable motivated her and her two partners to take action by establishing Πρωτα το Παιδι / Children First, whose beneficiaries are families that struggle to meet their basic needs, yet strive to offer their children the opportunity to have a better future. In cooperation with the Municipality of Aigaleo, Πρώτα το Παιδί - Children First is currently supporting 12 children ages 1 to 16 years old and their families, 24 beneficiaries in total. The organization provides the beneficiary children nutritional assistance (vegetables, fruits, dairy products, meat, fish etc.,) monitoring by a pediatrician, a dentist and a nutritionist, as well as English language lessons and after-school sports activities.
Teaming up is nothing new for the former Class of ‘94 ACS Athens alumni, who then attended Boston University together before returning to Greece. When the idea to host an art exhibit to benefit children came to mind, hosting it at ACS Athens was the natural fit since they both credit the school with helping them establish their foundations.
Among the teachers that helped shape their experiences was Mr. Jeff Bear, affectionately known as Arcuda (Greek for “bear”), who has since retired from ACS Athens. Prior to the pandemic, Mr. Bear often exhibited his creations at ACS Athens as a creative outlet and way to give back to the community. Now, after a few years without an exhibition, he has collected a number of pieces he is excited to show - also with the goal of raising money, which he will split between a donation to the Steven W. Medeiros Scholarship Fund for high school students who excel in humanities and the arts, and the Hellenic Red Cross fund supporting humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
The joint art exhibit, which brings together the former students with the storied teacher, is open to the public and will be hosted in the Theater Lobby at ACS Athens from June 7th through June 13th. Each artist has also graciously donated artwork to the silent auction taking place during the 2022 ACS Athens All-Class Reunion on June 11, 2022.