MADISON, Wis.— A new art collection highlights the work of young girls, all because of a Madison nine-year-old. 

Natalie Pauls

It started in 2020 when nine-year-old Natalie Pauls asked her mom for a favor. She asked for the address of her mom’s friend and colleague, Iva Ugrcic. Ugrcic is the founder of LunARTS, a festival focused on women artists. 

“She wouldn't tell me what she needed it for,” said Marie Pauls, Natalie’s mom, who’s also the education coordinator for LunARTS. “But I thought, 'Rhat's okay, she can send you a letter; it'll be a surprise.”'

For Ugrcic, it was definitely a surprise. When she got the letter, there was $40 attached to it that Natalie had been saving for a leotard. 

Art by Natalie Pauls

“It said while she loves the mission of LunARTS, she felt that it was more for grown-ups. She wanted to incorporate more younger folks,” Ugrcic said. “She said that we could actually call young ladies like herself to submit artworks for a youth arts showcase.” 

Art by Madelyn Planton

Ugrcic was floored.

“I was really speechless,” she said.

Speechless, but determined: She set out right away to make Natalie’s suggestion a reality. 

She called a meeting of the LunARTS board, and got to work designing a prompt and platform for young girls to create and submit their artwork. 

“We asked them to explore what family means to them, and how they see the world,” Ugrcic said. “And you get the most honest, open answers from kids. You can tell… gender and race and ethnicity means nothing to them. They just don't have those boundaries.” 

Young girls got to work too, crafting their pieces about their definition of family. Many of them are missing their art classes throughout the pandemic. They also miss their friends, so in many of the paintings and drawings, friends were included as family. 

“We did not want to box them in [in] any way. We told them to use whatever materials they want,” Ugrcic said. One artist’s piece used tape as a medium. “Play with dirt… use leaves to like paint. They can do really whatever they want.” 

In total, 53 girls submitted their work for the show. Most were from Wisconsin, but some came from as far away as Pennsylvania, and even Ecuador. 

“It's just beautiful, the way they express themselves through this artwork,” Ugrcic said. “It was also like a reminder for us, that we should learn from kids.”

Art by Nancy Thiam

“This was a way to get parents and kids closer together in very in a creative way,” Ugrcic said. “And remind them that we are here, we are in all this together, and we will be together soon again.” 

The virtual art show opening is Sunday, March 21 at 2 p.m. To tune in, click here