KBF initiatives building environment of art learning, ecosystem of creativity
Kochi: When sixth grader Arjun S. began folding pieces of craft paper into origami shapes, little did he know he was imbibing core principles of geometry. Inspired by artworks at Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016, he made cubes, butterflies, and even helped build a pyramid.
Arjun was among a group of more than 30 middle school students from Kendriya Vidyalaya Kadavanthara that participated in a two-day ‘Origametria’ workshop – the latest in a series of workshops conducted by the Kochi Biennale Foundation’s Art by Children (ABC) initiative.
“This was a fun experience of learning. Though we were taught many geometric concepts, it became more involving when we started creating using those concepts. After making these objects, it gives us a sense of fulfillment,” said Athira Menon, a participant at the workshop held from February 24-25 at the Architectural pavilion in Aspinwall House.
That sense of accomplishment has been a common refrain at ABC workshops over the past few months. Already, the initiative has reached out to over 2,000 students and nearly 50 schools across the state. It aims to reach 100 schools across all 14 districts and engage over 5,000 children and school teachers through artist facilitators over its six-month run.
In so doing, it contributes to the development of what Polly Brannan, Education Curator for the Liverpool Biennial and one of a number of facilitators who have helmed specially-themed workshops in recent months, described as an “ecosystem of creativity”.
It is this ecosystem the KBF is looking to sustain and grow – independent of, yet inspired by, the Biennale – through its year-round core art education and outreach programmes besides a stable of other collaborations and projects to widen public engagement. Each reflects the KBF’s commitment to disseminate, study, teach and view art. These programmes include seminars, talks, art exchange and residency programmes – of which the newly instituted Trans Indian Ocean Artists Exchange project with the UAE and the Pepper House residency are examples.
The KBF’s flagship art education initiative is the Students’ Biennale (SB), a one-of-its-kind platform for both the production of aspiring Indian artists and on-the-job development of the individual curatorial craft and practices of emerging art curators. Unparalleled in India in terms of scope and ambit, it channels the energies of India’s only Biennale into its art schools, challenging students across to go beyond the constraints of curriculum.
Spread over seven sites in the Mattancherry-Jew Town area in close proximity to KMB 2016 venues, the exhibition – the culmination of the SB’s second edition that saw a team of 15 hand-picked young curators reach out to 55 art schools across India over 2015-16 – presents the works of 465 art students from Shillong to Surat and Kashmir to Kalady.
“The stimulating works exhibited at SB 2016 showcase what could be at future Biennales. But for the curators, the year of conducting institution visits and interactions besides organising workshops and interventions allowed us to reflect on curatorial and art practice. This has been as important and as invaluable an experience as the exhibition itself – since there is no other discourse on this subject in India outside the art schools,” said Naveen Mahantesh, a SB curator.
In order to fill this vacuum between art education and practice, the KBF looks to build strategic partnerships with like-minded individuals as well as institutions and sponsors across India and elsewhere. ABC, for instance, is powered by pharma major and outreach partner Merck, while the SB – run in collaboration with the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) and the Foundation for Indian Art and Education (FIAE) – is supported by Tata Trusts.
To this end also, the KBF joined up earlier this month with the ‘New North and South’ network – a hub for collaboration in art and knowledge production and exchange comprising 10 highly influential contemporary arts institutions from across South Asia and North England.
“The stakes are more than just bringing a few individuals together. By fostering such linkages, the KBF is helping build an environment of art networks and fraternities that extends learning spaces and niches of creativity beyond traditional art enclaves. As this alternate structure matures, we will see the democratisation of art in India,” said KBF Secretary Riyas Komu.