Novel KBF initiative to nurture art, creativity at 100 schools across Kerala

Art By Children (ABC) will work with over 5,000 students and teachers.
 The pilot outreach project culminates in an exhibition during KMB 2016  

Kochi, Nov 21: Select artworks by students of 100 schools across Kerala’s 14 districts will be displayed in India’s first biennial exhibition dedicated to artistic production from children to be held during the upcoming third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB).

‘Art By Children’ (ABC), a unique creative learning initiative designed by the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) as part of its art education and community engagement portfolio, will complete its pilot run in March having reached out to more than 5,000 students and teachers.

Chosen works created over the course of the novel project – which is sponsored and supported by pharmaceutical major and KBF outreach partner Merck – will be exhibited at the Children’s Pavilion in Cabral Yard from December onwards.

The project was inaugurated today at Government Higher Secondary School, Puthenthode, by AnujathSindhuVinaylal, an award-winning artist and child actor. The Class VI student received a RashtrapatiPuraskar this past Children’s Day (November 14) and has had his painting prowess recognised internationally, including by the United Nations last year.

District Panchayath member Smt. AnithaSheelanwas present at the function, which also saw in attendance KBF President Bose Krishnamachari and KMB Director of ProgrammesRiyasKomu. Merck Zonal Sales Manager Tiji K. Varghese also attended the inauguration.

Krishnamachariinvited the students and with their parents to attendKMB 2016. “They should not just observe the artworks, but also ask the questions that come to mind upon viewing these exhibits. We need a generation thatis capable of fearlessly asking valid questions,”he said.

“For the thousands of children that visit the Biennale, it has already become a window to the world of contemporary art. Going forward, the Kochi Biennale Foundation envisions a major role to play in the changing paradigm of art education in India that will involve art educators, children, teachers, and institutions as well,” said RiyasKomu, KMB Director of Programmes.

Noted poet Anwar Ali presented a poem at the function, following which an ABC workshop demonstrated the engagement and educational model used to interest and involve children in the learning processthat is intended to nurture their creative potential.

ABC is headed by Manu Jose, a veteran of several award-winning children’s shows and winner of the 2014 Kerala SangeetaNatakaAkademi’sKalasree award for Outstanding Contributions in the field of Drama.

The project will be executed by a core creative team of 16 Artist Facilitators – industry experts, including visual artists, theatre professionals and craft specialists, who specialise in children’s programming.

The facilitators will visit schools and conduct innovative workshops tailored to engage children and appropriate to their age groups. In addition, they hold theatre shows, special performances, storytelling exercises, games, toy-based activities and upcycling-inspired craft sessions.

The team will also organise training workshops in district headquarters to introduce teachers to methods of instruction that facilitate sensitivity, creative expression and critical thinking. This inclusive ground-up approach to art education prioritises building long-term, sustainable creative partnerships between artists, students, educators and schools.

Commenting on the initiative, AnandNambiar, MD, Merck India, said, “Art enhances creativity, which is crucial for innovation and adaptation. Creative people have the ability to see multiple solutions to a problem, employ original thoughts, and use their imagination. We are happy to be associated with the Art By Children outreach program to nurture the creativity in young minds. We are confident that the talented team under the guidance of RiyasKomu and Manu Jose will give impetus to a new vision in art education in the country.”

Through the duration of the Children’s Pavilion exhibit, the ABC workshop station at Cabral Yard will host programmes for kids such as film screenings, plays, puppet shows, storytelling sessions, art camps, clay workshops, art hunts and talks.

In keeping with the Biennale’s participatory focus, the on-ground projects at KMB 2016 will aim to create a more immersive experience of contemporary art for visiting school groups. There is also a fun, child friendly guide to the Biennale, The Kid’s Handbook to the Kochi Biennale.

About Art By Children

ABC is intended to evolve the current paradigms of arts education in India, utitlising an inclusive approach to arts education that is designed to foster creative thinking in children, equipping them with the ability to make connections and reflect critically.

The project’s immediate objective is to nurture the potential of the youngest members of society in order to develop their inherent capacity for creativity. In the long run ABC seeks to strengthen India’s contemporary art infrastructure, by broadening public understanding and access to art and arts education.

The initiative involves a series a research-driven, high-calibre arts education programmes for children, art educators, school teachers and institutes. This systemic approach is built on excellent practices which exist amongst local artists in order to make artistic opportunity consistent, ensuring all children are included, and place quality at the core of creative and cultural experiences.

The Artist Facilitators of the ABC project underwent a series of intensive workshops as a pre-programme orientation. The objectives of the orientation were to collectively build a cohesive workshop model, which each facilitator will implement across their designated districts, as well as to introduce the facilitators to teaching methodologies which are particularly responsive to and appropriate for children.

The orientation followed a two part structure: The first part ran fromOctober 10-212016 at Pepper House, Fort Kochi and was conducted by the Head of the ABC Programme, along with industry experts and specialists in children’s learning. The second part took place at GHS School, Kadungalloor, between October 20-22 2016, where facilitators interacted with students, conducting workshops and exercises. The objective was to use the experience to gather feedback to improve the engagement model.

The current strategy gives precedence to building creative partnerships between artists, pedagogues, and Indian schools by designing learning programmes which foster long-term relationships and dialogue. The Kerala project will serve as a platform for research methodologies, which will inform future models of ABC across India.

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