LEARN THROUGH ART
Special workshops held by the Art1st Foundation give students the chance to develop their creative and communication skills. By Sonali Acharjee
Founded by Ritu Khoda in 2009, Art1st Foundation hopes to encourage and train young students into becoming critical thinkers, strong problem- solvers, good communicators and innovators through the medium of art.
“Training in the arts is seen to be extra- curricular, not related to the serious business of educating our kids, and suitable only for those with special talent. We don’t have trained educators and teachers who can handle the child’s enthusiasm and his free flow of thoughts,” explains Khoda. The foundation recently invited various contemporary artists to mentor children at various schools in Delhi. The resulting work was exhibited at the Gallery Art Motif.
“A reflective, critical thinking approach was adopted to open out processes of creating art through different mediums, methods and concepts that challenge traditional boundaries,” adds Khoda.
Mentored personally by each artist, the children reflected on issues of urbanisation, city and class conflict, the impact of modern technology, notion of flight, aesthetics and design, and a les- son in detachment. Most importantly, they also had a blast while learning valuable creative lessons at the same time. “Art is not just something that is aesthetically appealing, it is an expression of how we see the world,” says Natasha Lopez, a student at Convent of Jesus and Mary in Delhi.’ Her final painting was called ‘ Thought Tree’; a broken, bruised, bloody and bandaged, tree crying for help. “Let’s wake up to our thoughtless actions. Let’s heal the world,” she adds.
In the last three years, Art1st has developed special art education programmes, each suited to a different age group. “At the pre- school level our interactive art labs help children explore and discover through sensory and visual experiences. Our elementary programme on the other hand focuses on high- level thinking skills, which are central to responding to and making art. We also have a contemporary art programme for middle- school students that aims to heighten critical and creative transformative thinking,” says Khoda. The foundation has already worked with students at various schools across Mumbai and Delhi. These include Vas- ant Valley, Sanskriti Special Education School, Modern School Barakhamba, Step by Step School, Salam Balak Trust and Udyan Care in Delhi and St. Gregorious, Shishuvan, Aseema Trust, Surajba Trust and Asmita School in Mumbai.
“I believe that with the power to develop our imagination and understand the arts are no longer a luxury but a necessity today. The arts are a way for us to communicate not just with ourselves but also with one another. Paintings and craft work are the language of civilisations through which we can express our fears, anxieties, curiosities, passion, discoveries and hopes. Quite simply, it creates a reality that is personally transformative for many students,” says Khoda.
Khoda’s work is backed by research that shows the impact of art on young children. Professor James Catterall from the University of California, proved through a 12- year study, Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art, that intensive involvement in the arts results in higher levels of achievement amongst students. It seems a paint brush and palette now promise much more than just several hours of fun.
Ritu Khoda with young artists at
Gallery Art Motif in New Delhi