Arts & Culture » Visual Art

Where Children Sleep: Showcasing the Haves and Have-Nots

"There is a power in small things. A picture of a bedroom can help make a difference."


They are, perhaps, the most unexamined necessity for children: bedrooms. But a provocative new exhibit at the College of Idaho's Cruzen-Murray Library, Where Children Sleep, offers a rare glimpse of where kids take shelter—from a garish $100,000 room in Kentucky designed for a child beauty star called "Jazzy," to a cell-like cloister for Prena, a 14-year-old domestic worker in Nepal, and a mud hut in the South African kingdom of Lesotho, where 6-year-old Lehlohonolo sleeps on the floor with his three brothers.

"I didn't want it to be just about children that were helped [by] children's charities," said James Mollison, whose photographs are the centerpiece of Where Children Sleep. "I decided I wanted to include fortunate children as well. It would give a sense that we live together on one planet, as well as an exploration of the inequalities that exist."

  • James Mollison

Since its initial debut as a book in 2010, Where Children Sleep has exhibited worldwide, and last year, Caldwell Fine Arts Executive Director Alison Moulton encouraged curators to bring the showcase to Idaho, where it will be on display through Wednesday, Nov. 21.

"It's not going for shock value. It's very honest and straightforward. It's not trying to be propaganda," she said. "It's just stating realities around the world."

Moulton first saw the exhibit in 2017 at The Leonardo Museum in Salt Lake City.

"As soon as I went through the exhibit, I walked right into the director's office and asked how I could bring this to our community," she said. "It isn't a diatribe against poverty necessarily; but you certainly question the inequalities in the world. It's an honest look at how children are living today."

  • Cassidy Richey

Moulton invited Kenton Lee, founder of The Shoe That Grows, a global nonprofit that donates adjustable, affordable footwear to children across the planet, to be a guest speaker at Where Children Sleep's opening night at C of I.

"Kids get so excited when they get a pair of shoes, and especially a pair of shoes that fit," Lee said. "They're happier. They're more confident. They're just like any other kid. They have shoes they can call their own. Shoes can be that small thing that may not have solved all their problems, but it's a small thing that can make a big difference."

To date, The Shoe that Grows has donated over 200,000 pairs of shoes to impoverished children, and Lee said he has plans to sell the shoes commercially in 2019 to help fund the program.

"Not everyone can do a big thing, but anyone can do a small thing. There is power in small things—especially with these photos of these kids and their bedrooms. A picture of a bedroom can help make a difference," said Lee. "Look, I didn't invent shoes. I just looked at them a little differently. I made them grow."

Backed by Mollison's photographs and Lee's message, Moulton told Boise Weekly that the ability to significantly change the life of a child is never out of reach.

"Everybody can do small things to make the world better," she said.

  • James Mollison