Spe­cial work­shops held by the Art1st Foun­da­tion give stu­dents the chance to de­velop their creative and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills. By Son­ali Achar­jee

India Today - - ASPIRE -

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

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