Since 2019, Bologna Children’s Book Fair is partner of the European Union’s four-year project to investigate the relationship between early childhood and the performing arts, Mapping - a map on the aesthetics of performing art for early years, that has included the annual illustration contest The Children Spectators.

An artistic research project supported by the European Union within the Creative Europe programme, in which the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is a partner, the initiative has involved 18 institutions, theatres and artists from 17 European countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Holland, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom), led by La Baracca - Testoni Ragazzi Theatre, the youth and children’s theatre in the city of Bologna.

"Mapping" is proposed as an experimental mapping project, a field research involving performers, academics, and illustrators for children’s book entrusted with the task of interpreting the concept of children- spectators of a performative event (theater, dance, music, circus, etc.), in which the performer meets a young audience.
The project hosted each year a selection of illustrators participating in the “Children-Spectators” competition. In 2023, the end of the project was celebrated with a large exhibition - still online on BCBF Galleries - that brought together the works selected in the four previous editions of the contest, together with works created specially by four great names in international illustration: Fabian Negrin, Manuel Marsol, Katsumi Komagata and Klaas Verplancke.

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2023 Mapping Exhibition

The 2023 Mapping Exhibition is made up of two different sections, both dealing with how illustration relates to the performing arts for early childhood:  'Children Spectators' and 'The Illustrated Map'.

Mapping. A Map on the Aesthetics of the Performing Arts for Early Years is a large-scale cooperation project supported by the EU Creative Europe Programme, thanks to which this Exhibition was made possible.

The project also examined the interconnection between illustration, literature for the very young, the performing arts, and research. The 2023 Mapping Exhibition is one of the outcomes. While fully aware that every expressive language is a realm unto itself, and that translating a picturebook into a theatrical performance or a narrative into a story for children is not always easy, the aim was to pinpoint the connections between these different aspects, going beyond facile stereotypes.  This is why Mapping developed two initiatives involving illustrators.

The first led to the creation of four editions of the international contest “Children-Spectators” 2019-2022. Over this 4-year period, we received a total of 2,364 plates by illustrators from 72 countries, from which the 140 plates (by 129 illustrators) on display here were selected. 36 artists are from Italy, the remaining 93 are from 34 other countries around the world.

The second arm of the project culminated with the exhibition 'The Illustrated Map', and involved four world-famous illustrators: Katsumi Komagata (Japan), Manuel Marsol (Spain), Fabian Negrin (Argentina/Italy), and Klaas Verplancke (Belgium). After engaging with artists and Mapping researchers, these four Greats of the illustration world produced 34 original illustrations, all of which took their cue from the 24 questions and topics emerging during the project.

Bologna Children's Book Fair provided its constant support throughout the whole Mapping project, providing its priceless expertise in children's literature and its wide-ranging contacts with illustrators from all over the world.