Art by Children (ABC) is a pioneering learning initiative designed by the Kochi Biennale Foundation to evolve the current paradigms of arts education in India. A part of the Foundation’s education and community engagement portfolio, ABC leads an inclusive approach to arts education that is designed to foster creative thinking in children, equipping them with the ability to make connections and think critically.
The project’s immediate objective is to nurture the potential of the youngest members of society in order to develop their inherent curiosity. 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 of research-driven, high-calibre arts education programmes for children, art educators, school teachers and institutions. This systemic approach is built on the 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.
PROFILE OF THE 2016 PROJECT
The debut programme reached out to 100 schools across 14 districts in Kerala, working with over 5,000 children and teachers. The strategy gave precedence to building creative partnerships between artists, pedagogues, and Indian schools. The learning programmes were designed to foster long-term relationships and dialogue. The Kerala project serves as a platform for research methodologies, which will inform future models of ABC across India.
In October 2016, 16 creative facilitators were selected to conduct the project. The core creative team includes visual artists, theatre professionals and upcycling-craft artists who specialise in children’s programming. Over six months, the facilitators traveled to a variety of schools conducting innovative workshops to engage children in an exciting new model of learning and expression. In addition to the workshops, ABC’s engagements included special performances, exercises in storytelling and craft sessions. For teachers, training workshops were held in district headquarters to introduce teachers to methods of instruction that inculcate sensitivity and creativity.
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 implemented across their designated districts, as well as to introduce the facilitators to teaching methodologies which are particularly responsive to and appropriate for children of these age groups. The orientation followed a two part structure: The first part ran between 10th and 21st October 2016, at Pepper House, Fort Kochi and was conducted by the Head of the ABC Programme Manu Jose, along with Kochi Biennale Foundation Director of Programmes Riyas Komu, Poet Anwar Ali, Child Psychologist Maria George and Gender Studies Expert K C Santhosh Kumar. The second part took place at GHS School, Kadungalloor, between October 20th – 22nd 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.
ON GROUND ENGAGEMENTS
The ABC project culminated in India’s first biennial art exhibition dedicated to work by kids at the Children’s Pavilion at the Kochi Muziris Biennale.
The on-ground projects at the Kochi Muziris Biennale aimed to create a more immersive experience of contemporary art for visiting school groups and families. The Kid’s Handbook to the Kochi Biennale was a fun, child friendly guide to the Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016. Through the duration of the exhibit, the ABC workshop station at Cabral Yard hosted active programmes for kids such as children’s film screenings, plays, puppet shows, storytelling sessions, art camps, clay workshops, art hunts and talks for kids.
ABC PROGRAMME HEAD
Manu Jose won the 2014 Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi’s KALASREE award for Outstanding Contributions in the field of Drama. Having completed his Bachelors degree in Theatre Acting from the School of Drama, Calicut University in 1989 and his Masters degree in Theatre Acting from the School of Performing Arts, Pondicherry Central University in 1992, he has certifications in Theatre in Education (TIE), Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), and Transactional Analysis (TA). Jose has acted in more than 70 theatre productions including those directed by masters like B.V. Karanth, Kavalam Narayana Panicker, Jose Chiramal, S. Ramanujam, Indira Parthasarathy, Alak Nanda Samarth and Maya Tang burg. He has also acted in 20 radio plays. Jose has anchored award-winning children’s shows like Chirakukal, Changathikootam (Asianet), Oridathoridathu (Indiavision), Mitayivandi (Kairali), Sathkadha Sagaram (AY TV), and Malarvadi Little Scholar (Media One). His film acting experience includes movies such as: Ritu (Syamaprasad), Kadha Thudarunnu (Sathyan Anthikad), Gadhama (Kamal), Ayaalum Njanum Thammil (Lal Jose), Oridathoru Puzhayundu (Kalavoor Ravikumar), Race (Kukku Surendran), and Njan (Ranjith). Having been associated with ACCORD and Adivasi Munnetra Sangam, Gudalur for 7 years, he compiled the first collection of Mullakurumba Tribal songs, and seven audio collections on tribal music. In 2003, he founded Meandyou Performing Company, which has performed more than 450 storytelling programmes all over India and abroad. He was Brand Ambassador of DC Books in 2005-2006. Over the course of his career, he has conducted more than 1000 personality development/ communication and sensitisation workshops incorporating theatre, all over India, UAE and Zambia.
Martin self-taught artist and a Theatre Musician. He has been actively engaged in the field since 1997, has organised solo shows, camps and workshops throughout India and Abroad. The Kerala Lalita Kala Academy honoured him with the State Award in 2012 and Honourable Mention in 2002 and 2010.
Priyaranjini is an artist with 16 years work experience in different medium and holds five year national diploma in Fine Arts, Post Graduation in Animation. She has strong skills in engaging with children. The Centre for Indian Art Resource & Training New Delhi awarded her with the Active Drawing Teacher award as a recognition of her skills.
Hariprasad explores art in different medium. He was awarded Masters degree in Fine Arts from Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad, and worked in several schools. At present he is is a practising freelance artist.
SHYLAJA P. AMBU
Shylaja is an actor and folk singer who has performed all over India. She was awarded a scholarship in theatre by Dept. of Culture, Govt. of India (2003), awarded Best Actress in Kumaranasan Memorial Theatre Festival, had a solo performance “Etho Chirakadiyochakal” in Bharat Rang Mahotsav (NSD) Delhi 2013, and performed “Maltsya Gandhi” at ITTFOK 2013.
Dr. N SHIBIJA
Shibija is an actor and author on Drama. She holds a PhD in Theatre Arts from Sree Shankara University, Kalady. She has directed several plays, organised theatre workshops in schools and colleges, presented several papers on theatre and drama in various seminars and conferences.
Sarath holds an M.Phil in Theatre from School of Drama, University of Calicut. Sarath has explored his ability as an actor in both theatre and film. He has acted in many plays with many renown directors, in India and abroad.
ARUN KUMAR S.
Arun has been active in theatre since his school days. His latest notable appearance was in the Malayalam film “Maheshinte Pratikaram”. “Beegam Panicker” and “Dwau Andyarangau” are some among his theatre performances which won many awards.
Arunlal is an actor, director and theatre trainer. Over 16 years he’s acted in over 20 plays and directed over 15 plays including children’s plays. He was awarded Best director in Amateur Theatre Festival Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy (2012), Best Director in State short play competition Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy (2015).
SANOJ M. M.
Sanoj by profession is an actor, and a light/ costume designer. He has done hundreds of performances all over India including International Theatre Festival of Kerala, BRM Festival organised by NSD Chennai and Delhi, National Theatre School Meet.
Silvano is a theatre performer and painter, from Paris. She worked for 16 years in an international theatre company named Footsbarn Travelling Theatre. She has strong skills in performing arts: clown, mime, mask making, costumes, puppets, scenery and accessories.
Akhil is an actor and he has been working in the field of amature theatre and children’s theatre for last 10 years. He has acted in more than 15 plays including children’s plays.
Subid is a toy maker. He believes that making toys from trash brings confidence in children to build their own world. He holds a degree in M.Des from IIT Delhi. He has so far organized camps in more than 150 schools in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and held exhibitions in Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) and University of Kerala, Trivandrum.
VAJEESHKUMAR V P
Vajeeshkumar is an MSW graduate actively engaged with children, who has organized residential camps, life skill training for school children and training them to enhance creative thinking through origami and making toys from consumable materials and waste. He is interested in developing children’s learning through games and activities.