Refugee children's artwork at CSU East Bay exhibit tells their stories

There's a new exhibit at Cal State East Bay that tells the stories of refugee children from Syria and other countries. It's free and open to the public

It's the work of David Gross who teaches photojournalism at the university. 

He chronicles the journey of refugee children.

"I'm hoping people will see the effects of war on children go far beyond the violence. The difficulties of food or hunger or travel. The kids are paying for this even when they're safe," says Gross.

Photos of refugee children in Europe and drawings they made are on display at the University Art Gallery on campus.

The portraits are by Gross. The drawings come from the children, ages six through 18.

The exhibit is called "The Inside-Outside Project."

"The art work shows you what's going on inside the kids heads. It's artwork based on art therapy," says Gross.

Some drawings are abstract. For one 10-year-old girl from Syria, the shades of red illustrates what she fears: the ghost of a killer.

"There's a genie that so frightened this young girl that she cries red. Her eyes are red with tears," says Gross.

 The children are from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. They are living in European refugee centers, camps or hotels.  Some are separated from their families.

"It's this tear. His eyes are looking at you," says Aailiyah Evans, a CSUEB art history student who works as a gallery assistant.

She describes the exhibit as thought-provoking and shines a light on the harsh reality refugees face.

"It's in your face when you see these drawings.  They are people," says Evans.

The children in the refuge camps attend art classes as therapy to help them cope with the trauma of being uprooted by war.

Gross says the children are paying for the sins of their governments,  but they show remarkable resiliency.

"Their lives are a lot richer than just misery. The drawings let us see all kinds of things," says Gross.

One boy's drawing is about a longing for a new home. For another boy, he drew about a reunion with his father after a six year separation.

"If we ever think of policy, about who we're going to help...who we're going to let in , we have to look far beyond do they have food , do they have shelter.  That's just a small piece of what human beings need," says Gross.

The exhibit is available through October 18.  It is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Gross says his goal is to  start an organization to help refugees both children and adults.