Is Art-Education necessary for kids?
Education through imagination – An artist speaks.
Author: Dr. Ritwij Bhowmik
“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso
“The first and foremost ingredient to make a quality school is devoting time to the ideation process i.e. thinking, implementing, acting, correcting and refining the prototype until the desired corrections have taken place”
“Continous and consistent encouragement and motivation of the staff through professional training, positive reinforcements and rewards”
Childhood is one of the best gifts that a person can get from his/her life. Children play, draw and create an entire new world of their own. That’s how their imagination can ascend the pinnacle of creation. If they are provided with enough room to channel their raw creativity, their high rampant impulses will also be in control. In this respect, the elementory Art-Education is a creative but potent medium that can and should be considered as a necessery part of a school’s curriculam. It is observed that children are the most sincere viewers of television and art exhibitions and due to this, they would benefit the most with fine art training. Unfortunately, that is not always the case in India.
Thankfully, I was born into a family of artists where art was the main purpose of living. And since my childhood, I have had first-hand experience of how much difference Art-Education can weave into a child’s selfbeing. I have grown up hearing stories of Rabindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Binod Behari Mukhreejee and Ram Kinkar Baij’s experiementation with their art, constructing new interpretations of modern Indian Art-Education, where they effectively merged the essence of creation with the joy of learning.
In school, unfortunatly, I was never exposed to any art class, however I never felt this void due to the impassioned support that I was getting from my family. But I was thrilled by the elevated sense of reality that an art work produced, and its promise of connecting with absolute strangers. Years later, when I joined Ashokhall Girls Higher Secondary School in Kolkata as a full time Post Graduate Art-teacher, I would recall my early school days and the felicitous words of George Bernard Shaw, “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will.”
To make children’s basic Art-Education successful, generic drawing and craft lessons will never be enough. It is essential to find a language that is unique to our present times, yet dogmatically different from that of the idleheaded Video Games and Television. It is advisable that the new elementory Art curriculam must include regular visits to various art museums and art galleries. Both TV and Video Games can push a child into inertia, but relevent art activity such as the ones mentioned above will compel them to engage themselves in a unique journey of innovation—the children, both as the creator and the spectator, have to use their imagination to fill in the gaps.
Here, I would like to suggest two very simple things to improve the level of Art-Education in our schools:
First would be to ensure that the Art-Education finds a place in the elementary school education. Many schools already have it, but in the form of half way Art-Education, where it is jumbled up with various other things like craft works, work-education, puppetry, knitting etc. Indulging into any such half-cooked Art-Education, instead of helping, will rather do more harm to the precious young minds. Schools should have bigger platforms where children can express better. Infrastructure that supports professional and passionate art training should be set up in order to provide children the best of Art-Education.
Secondly, a bigger concern is the presence of untrained Art Teachers. This issue of the “untrained” or “partially-trained” teachers teaching art to children is a much greater threat than it appears to be. It is observed that schools don‘t necessarily spend large amounts of money for the development of an Art curriculam. They often resort to untrained (or even poorly trained teachers with fabricated “Diplomas” from dubius “Art-Academies”) art-teachers to run their art facility and ‘inspire’ the little minds – and this obviously is a consequence of the school authority’s ignorance or lack of knowledge about the Indian art-college education system. This grim situation needs to change, and this change can be sustained only by replacing these untrained teachers with proper degree holder (conventional specialized art degrees such as BVA/BFA and MVA/MFA) or skilled art-teachers.
Writer and poet Oscar Wilde said, “The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.” and surly Art can be the best conductor of actuating imagination and at most turns, Art becomes a facilitator for a child’s growth. Once during my days at Ashokhall Girls High. Sec. School, I met two sisters both of whom were intensely introverted. Their parents knew that their interests solely lay in painting and with this belief, they persuaded them to take fine-art as an additional subject in their curriculam. They were some of the most silent students in my class but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t interested, in fact, compared to other students, they were much more keen to learn the stories (art-history and basic theory) and the practical techniques of art. Soon with proper guidence, their reticent souls found expression through their paintings. It was fascinating to watch how their imagination and avid interests gave voice to their expressions. It was only a matter of a few months before the two girls began to be the most successful in class, making themselves known to all through their art. During the next parents teacher meeting, I was informed by their parents that from being introverted last benchers, they have become the most active and motivated students in their class.
The stale scene is slowly but steadily changing. The tides have started to turn in the last decade, as Art-Education in schools have slowly started to adopt a more systematic art curriculum. In most places, it is no longer the untrained teachers that are given responsibilty to teach art to the children. In almost every A-grade private school, the authorities ensure that Art-Education should be a part of the school curriculam. But on the other hand, except for Kendriya Vidyalaya, coherent Art-Education is rare among most government and public schools. With proper Art-Education, and by that I mean both practical as well as theoretical introduction to Art, children can think and create through their own imagination—it will be the Art that will communicate with children, and not command them.
Since our independence, the Indian school education has come a long way and it’s high time that it comprehends the urgent need of incorporating appropriate Art-Education in its main curriculam. With this we can hope to build a community of schools over the next few years, schools that value Art-Education. Great scientist and thinker Sir Albert Einstein said, “ It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” What else can we offer to our next generation?
About the author
Dr. Ritwij Bhowmik
: Dr. Ritwij Bhowmik is an Assistant Professor and the Convener of the Fine-Arts Discipline at the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS), IIT Kanpur, India. He is at present serving as a Guest-Professor at the Department of Asian and Islamic Art History, University of Bonn, Germany.
Trained as a visual artist, Dr. Ritwij Bhowmik obtained his MFA degree from Visva-Bharati University (Santiniketan); later he studied Chinese Art and Calligraphy from Northeast Normal University (China), where he was awarded with a PG. Dip. He earned his Doctorate in Visual Culture and Cinema-Study from National Chiao-Tung University (Taiwan). His research interest lies in the area of Modern Bengali Cinema, Indian Art Education, Indian Partition films and the works of Satyajit Ray.
Dr. Bhowmik joined Department of HSS, IIT Kanpur in 2013 where he currently teaches Cinema-Study, Visual Culture, Art History, Art Appreciation and simultaneously working as a professional painter and researcher.