Thursday, July 29, 2010

Planning, Planning & some more Planning

On the outset of the project, I had of course, kept aside a lot of time to plan the workshops and start them as soon as possible. But this has been slow process, which has tested my patience. I had reached a point where things seemed impossible on every front : Getting the kids to come to the workshops at a specific time, Getting enough kids (who are interested), then having conversations with "maushis" and "kakas" and "majis" and "bapujis" too about the course. 

So let me update you on all that's been happening at its own pace with me trying my best to keep my cool. Yes, I'm an extremely hyper person, but I'm trying to adopt Buddhism and seriously calm down for good. (

Rounding up kids for the workshops :
In total there are now 23 kids. I have 2 batches - Saturday & Sunday / Tuesday & Thursday.
Sumeet and I have gone through the community explaining to people what this is about and asking both kids and their parents, if they (the kids) were interested to be part of it. The 2 main things I said I would be teaching them is Photography to refresh outlook and the way they look at things and The computer and how to use the internet. Some parents were wary - "We want our kids to focus on studying" , "He/She is not very smart in school, how can they waste time" others love that they can now have kids take their photographs, at home, in the community and at "weddings and functions", others do have broad minded thinking and understood how photography can change the way you look at things and also be a fun hobby to have on the side which is important to "manage stress".

Sponsors & other things one needs in order to actually do something like this :
This is has been a long process!
I have finally managed to find people to fund certain things (I will disclose all information when things are finalized in my next post).
What I needed was : Cameras, A computer, Stationary and An Internet Connection.

In short, things are falling into place. My first class is this Saturday and I'm hoping all goes well!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Small set back

The weather in Bombay has become worse and I seem to have caught this miserable flu bug that has been doing its rounds. I was meant to start the workshops on Monday, but due to this sudden setback, I have to postpone it to mid-week sometime.

My contact at the chowl - Sumeet Gade, is thankfully handling the break up of the groups in my absence. We have decided to have 2 groups of 10 - 12 kids each (We've allowed a total of 22 kids to sign up). One on the weekends (Saturday & Sunday) and One during the week. Each group will meet twice a week. Also, we have one girl who is 23 years of age, who really wants to learn photography, who asked if she could also do the workshop, and I thought to myself, Why not?

Something funny I'd like to share with you though, about my meeting with some of the parents the other day. It seems like the kids are constantly busy - at school, with homework, playing football, going for tuitions (?) and some of the younger ones go for akanksha classes too, where they're taught english.

So the common consensus was to have the classes only during the weekend.

According to Sumeet though, the kids are always free roaming about doing pretty much nothing! So, this is my point, its always great to have a contact from within the community who can really help with these small issues that might be problematic for no reason at all. No matter how much, we may want to help, there will always be some skepticism from the other side. At the end of the day, I am an outsider, and till I don't get to spend time with the children, I will always be. The one thing, I consider as a set back is not having spent as much research time in the community as I would have liked. I have been going there every other day, but its just not enough to be part of them - as Sumeet is, since he is amongst them always.

Now, all I can do, is try and recover asap from this flu!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bring on the learning revolution!

Been watching a lot of TED videos lately, because they seem to be a great resource to get me out of this "stuck" state of mind! For those of you who don't know, I've been doing alot of thinking as to how to construct these workshops and how much focus to put on their final "outcome". I think I've reached a point where I've decided that "process" is key - Thank you Geetu for helping me reach this conclusion.

Its great to hear people, whose words resonate so deeply with me. Sorry for the TED TALK overload, but I think they're extremely relevant to my project and help set the spirit with which I started writing this proposal, which right now, needs to take shape - and could either get lost or move into a space of process and leave room for a new formula of information dissemination - which by the way - doesn't mean being lost!

Indecently,  my favorite speaker, whose 2006 talk I've shared in a previous post - has a new video too! Please watch this one, its extremely insightful.

In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning -- creating conditions where kids' natural talents can flourish.

How kids teach themselves

Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his Hole in the Wall project. Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own -- and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?

Education innovation in the slums

Charles Leadbeater went looking for radical new forms of education -- and found them in the slums of Rio and Kibera, where some of the world's poorest kids are finding transformative new ways to learn. And this informal, disruptive new kind of school, he says, is what all schools need to become.

A researcher at the London think tank Demos, Charles Leadbeater was early to notice the rise of "amateur innovation" -- great ideas from outside the traditional walls, from people who suddenly have the tools to collaborate, innovate and make their expertise known.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Do Schools today kill creativity?


Meet the kids

On my visit to the community, I met a few kids who want to participate in the workshop.
They're all really excited to start and many of them love clicking away with mobile phones that have a camera feature (when they're able to get their hands on a family members cell phone).

I thought I'd introduce you to some of them, So here's a picture of them in the classroom where the workshops will be held.

Survey conducted at the community

About the Community                                                            

What is Community Art

According to Wikipedia - Isn't it good to wiki everything?

Community arts, also known as "dialogical art" or "community-based art," refers to artistic activity based in a community setting. Works from this genre can be of any art forms and is characterized by interaction or dialogue with the community. The term was defined in the late-1960s and spawned a movement which grew in the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Australia.
Often community art is based in deprived areas, with a community oriented, grassroots approach. Members of a local community will come together to express concerns or issues through an artistic process, sometimes this may involve professional artists or actors. These communal artistic processes act as a catalyst to trigger events or changes within a community or even at a national or international level.
In English-speaking countries community art is often seen as the work of community arts centre. Visual arts (fine art, video, new media art), music, and theater are common mediums in community art centers. Many arts companies in the UK do some community-based work, which typically involves developing participation by non-professional members of local communities.

The term community art refers also to field of community, neighborhood and public art practice with roots in social justice and popular and informal education methods. In the art world, community art signifies a particular art making practice, emphasizing community involvement and collaboration. Community art is most often art for social change and involves some empowerment of the community members who come together to create artwork/s with artists. This is a growing national, international, regional and local field. Recently community arts and sustainability work or environmental action have begun to interface, including urban revitalization projects creating artwork at a neighborhood level.
In Scandinavia, the term community art means more often contemporary art project.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A trip to Bangalore - for some much needed feedback!

The project begins with my Review Panel (Ravindra, Sabina & Sanjay - All faculty at Srishti) and a heated discussion on everything related to my project took place. As part of our evaluation we have to send in a "review summary" which I am sharing with you as these are key points that came up during the course of my meeting. But do view the Proposal Tab before you read this!

 1. Begin by collecting statistical data from the community for analysis in order to respond appropriately.

2. Two approaches must be used : A) Respond from within the community. B) Respond as an outsider

3. How can this be a relevant exercise? Is it enough to just get them exposed to these mediums? How are these mediums already being used within the community? Is there a way in which they can be motivated through opportunity or outcome, for them to be interested in taking things forward or keeping the enthusiasm alive?

4. How do they (the community and the children) view me? It is important to keep this in mind.

5. The use of physical frames - How do the children view their family members / friends / spaces?

6. To use the computer and internet as an important part of the learning, not just photography. The internet can be a vital tool for them and change the way they access information.

7. The Drishya model of " teach them how to learn " rather than " teach and learn "
Find the purpose before - so the skill can follow.

8. What is the model of teaching them? What I will do with them for the first few classes needs to be articulated in the next version of the proposal.

9. What will be the final outcome? This must always be based on what will benefit them -  An exhibition? A book? An installation?

10. To explore the possibility of an economic model that aids /empowers them to sustain infrastructural continuation of the project beyond the current finite period by themselves.

11. A mail with the new drafted proposal as well as statistical data and information.

The feedback was great and most of it has now been part of my daily thought process. Although now I am faced with one major challenge - I have only 2 months with the kids & the community and an economic model will be very difficult to put into place. However,  I hope to create the relevance and really involve these kids in learning new things!