A 100 Year Old Party
By: Katie Rispoli
Today It occurred to me that the 1915 Colombian Exposition at the World's Fair in San Francisco will be celebrating its 100th anniversary next year. Today I was in San Francisco, with my nephew and niece who are two and four years old. Today we visited the Palace of Fine Arts, a remnant of the World's Fair.
The Palace is still in use today, and serves the public primarily as a tourist attraction attached to a body of water and parkland near the Golden Gate Bridge. Though it hasn't been reused, it has adapted to a world without 'World's Fairs' as we once knew them, an opportunity for industrial forces around the world to erect feats of art and architecture in one place at one time as a demonstration of their achievements.
When walking through the remnants of the Palace of Fine Arts with my niece, I asked her if she knew what the place was, and she reflexively shook her head no. How could she have? I told her that a hundred years ago, people all around the world used to throw parties in one city at a time, sharing their ideas with one another. I told her that the place we were standing was what was left of one of those parties.
My family told me not to bother, that she couldn't understand. And sure, maybe my niece doesn't know much (or anything at all) about architecture, but that four year old girl heard every word. I asked her if she thought it would be fun to have a party like they did, and she replied with a resounding, "yes!" I asked her if she wanted the remnants from her party to be around in a hundred years, and she yelled, "yes!" and then promptly found a giant leaf and ran off through those we were already inside.
Everyone deserves to feel a sense of place. Whether that place is the Palace of Fine Arts, a library, a park, or somewhere else. It doesn't require a lot of education, and it definitely doesn't require expertise. But it does require awareness. By opening a child's eyes to a place they're already in, you can create a sense of belonging they didn't know existed, building connections to others, both past and present. These connections can change the way they approach the places they visit next, and allow them to influence their peers to do the same.