In Bulgaria, if you are a promising dancer at 12, they make sure you have dancing lessons. If you are a potential musician, you are given music lessons -- in addition to your basic education.
The thought of all this is still heady to Ernestine Reed, an administrator with the Pittsburgh Scholars Program, who spent several days in Bulgaria as one of the chaperones for 1,500 children invited to Bulgaria for their International Children's Assembly in Sofia last August.
"Their children could speak to ours at age 12," said Reed about the Bulgairan children. "They knew two or three languages already."
Some of the people responsible for the Assembly, whose participants were selected for their work in art, literature and music, attend a reception last night at the Hubert Humphrey Building, HEW headquarters, where a sampling of the art works by the children will be on display in the lobby of three weeks.
National Endowment for the Arts chairman Livingston Biddle hosted the affair along with the Embassy of the People's Republic of Bulgaria whose ambassador, Konstantin Grigorov, was there. The late Hubert Humphrey's sister, Frances Howard, spoke to the crowd, as did Biddle.
But the main speech was given by Bulgaria's "Chairman of the Committee for Culture," Lyudmila Zhivkova, a strong-voiced, striking woman in blue turban and matching eyeshadow who delivered her speech in Bulgarian -- a translator at her side -- with a fire usually reserved for affairs of state.
"Arts and culture are the natural strivings of mankind," said Zhivkova. "Nature has inbred each and every man (with resources) to become an emissary of culture . . . On behalf of the Bulgarian people. I should like to thank you for helping to display the strivings of the Bulgarian children, the strivings of the American children, the strivings of the children throughout the world."
"She's a very dedicated lady," said Evgheni Kirilov, information officer at the Bulgarian Embassy, about Zhivkova, the daughter of the first secretary of Bulgaria's Communist Party. "She really believes cultural education is necessary for everyone. It gives them a broader perspective and they are of better value to the country.
In general, the art of the children -- mostly the work of 9- through 14- year-olds, from a variety of countries on most of the continents -- is quite appealing. One is a simple but sophistocated color-designed picture of a curved neck bottle labeled as the work of an Algerian named Ap. Messaoud Arezki, age 4.
Several of the children (26 were from the United States, 11 of those from Pittsburgh) were there last night -- including artist Carol Poremski, 9, writer Christine Poremski, 11 (sisters from Pittsburgh), and percussionist Marvin Hayes, 11 (from Cleveland).