By Alexia Vlachou
ATHENS, April 14 (Xinhua) -- Wielding chisels and hammers, several children were fascinated by carving marble the way real craftsmen do in an outdoor workshop at the local Technopolis Cultural Center.
"It's my first time to do marble crafting and it is very interesting," eight-year-old Ilias told Xinhua.
"Sculptors start from nothing and they end up with a masterful piece. I like how the statues look," he added.
Aimed at empowering the young generation to become actively involved in the preservation of cultural heritage, the Athens municipal government organized an all-day educational event dedicated to marble crafting, which is mostly associated with ancient Greek art, architecture in particular.
In a broader attempt to combat the vandalism of statues and monuments in public spaces, the municipal government launched a program entitled "The Child, the City and the Monuments" in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Technopolis, and the Museum of Marble Crafts in Tinos Island.
"We wanted to cater to young children, so we planned a program for 20 primary schools and kindergartens in Athens," Popi Diamantakou, chairman of Technopolis, told Xinhua.
"This is the right age for children to learn about the value of cultural heritage and to respect public spaces. If they learn at that age, they will never forget it. The childhood memories, the experiences and the knowledge always come back," she said.
For Praxitelis Tzanoulinos, a sculptor based on Tinos Island, educational initiatives are more effective than policy-making in terms of raising public awareness about protecting historical monuments.
"The marble event was very important for a city that is being tested. The public spaces are being vandalized and discredited," Andreas Laportas, head of the Thematic Museum Network of the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation, told Xinhua.
Instructed by seasoned craftsman from the Cycladic islands -- a group of islands in the Aegean Sea where traditional marble carving techniques are well-preserved -- the children attending the workshop with their parents learn to convert raw marble into exquisite artworks.
Tinos' long tradition of marble craftsmanship was included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) list of intangible cultural heritage in 2015, but due to the ongoing economic crisis in Greece, the preservation of ancient artworks was affected dramatically.
"I believe that the UNESCO distinction will set an example for the new generations. It will raise awareness and assist in promoting our art," said Tzanoulinos, who believed the ancient tradition will be passed on to the younger generations and not fade into obscurity.