Two distinct, but equally crucial challenges coalesced to inspire the creation of the Valley school Art Village.
The first was the need for Art to be not just a nurturing of one's talent, but also a process of enquiry into one's self and its relation to eternity. As such, it has vital links with education which, in its deepest sense, also concerns itself with such issues.
The second was the need to help children to be aware of our rich rural traditions and give them a feel for the way in which rural art forms are indissolubly linked to the rhythms of rural life.
We believe that art education is not meant only for the gifted, the talented few. Every child has the artist in him or her. It is the educator's responsibility to awaken that sensitivity in all. Art does not mean just painting a picture or making a sculpture, but being visually aware of everything around one and within one. It means being sensitive to form, proportion, colour, perspective, space. We are concerned with awakening all the senses, concerned with helping the child learn to look, to listen, to feel, to touch and be totally alive to beauty. Both art and craft are an extraordinary means of contributing to the total experience and so craft which is skill in action cannot be separated from art. Both are integral parts of the aesthetic experience. In learning craft the child gets a feel of clay in her hands or of the movement of a wheel and understands how shape comes into being. In using colour the child is left free to create forms of his own. He does not imitate the teacher or any master artist for that is destructive to the creative spirit.
While both aural and visual perceptions get focussed in the aesthetic experiences that the art class offers, we are aware that the visual is present in every element of teaching, be it in history or geography, biology or chemistry. All teachers are, in a school like ours, concerned about helping children learn to look at forms and patterns and listen to sounds, both without and Within. In a sense every teacher is an artist.
Over the years we have also realised that in the experience itself lies the education, not in the end-product. Child art is so innocent, so fresh that objects of great beauty are invariably created. But can we help the child not seek acclaim or praise, not make that the goal? Then we may have succeeded in some measure in creating the right attitude. So even though we have exhibitions and 'melas' through the year, children regard them as fun and there is rarely any comparison.
But the challenge Krishnaji poses, however, both for teacher and pupil is tremendous. We cannot claim to have even started on the journey, but to keep that intent alive is part of the life of the school.*
It is natural therefore for a community such as ours to identify and articulate in more specific terms the objectives of the Art Village that we have set up on the campus. They are the following.
- To awaken and nourish a sense of beauty and aesthetics in our daily lives and in the lives of the new generation which has its roots in urban society.
- To help students feel a reverence for the ancient and rich traditions of the rural craftsmen of our land.
- To support and strengthen the creative activities of the rural artisans, helping them to take pride in their work and in facing the threats ofindustrialisation and consumerism. We see in the rural-urban interaction a mutually enriching process.
The activities of the Art Village revolve around these concerns. We have ensured that every class works in the village for about 3 hours (half a day) every week, and every child takes up an activity and explores it for about 10 weeks before moving on to the next. Also, theArt Village is always open, providing a space where people are free to explore and choose the kind of artistic expression which most satisfies them.
The curriculum of the Art Village consists of some regular activity and some ongoing workshops. The regular activities have been art, craft, design, sculpture and pottery. Gardening and weaving were on going activities for various classes throughout the year. We have also made a beginning towards creating the infrastructure for recycling paper and generating an awareness about it.
Several rural artisans and craftsmen have made rich contributions to the activities here. Pintu Das, a traditional weaver from West Bengal helped us to set up our new weaving section. Three Lambadi women came for two months and interacted with the children, initiating them into the mysteries of their craft. A traditional weaver from Korur inspired the children with the magic of his weaving. In addition to this, children from rural and tribal schools were invited to stay here and share their culture and traditions with us. Several parents have taken a keen interest and have extended help in various areas. Artists and resource people from the city and abroad have also conducted workshops for the children. We have opened a glazed pottery studio with a new kiln, and Sharada Gopalan, a former student, is well on the way to becoming a freelance artist in pottery.
It is a live place in every sense of the term.
The Art Village has existed only for a year. We have accomplished some of the things we set out to do, but the challenges that spurred us to set up this unique space remain. They are not challenges that can ever be completely met.
* See chapter 'Beauty and the Artist' in J. Krishnamurti's The Urgency of Change.