Having fully adjusted to the Thai work ethic of ‘sabai sabai’ (which roughly translates to: chill! relax!) I have quite a few weeks of art class under my belt, and loads to report!
In the developing stages of my project (recap: teaching art as a method of creative emotional expression for at risk youth in northern Thailand), I was told by mentors, peers and fellow travelers to keep my expectations low. Between the vast cultural differences, trials and tribulations of monsoon season in Thailand, and a lack of previous exposure to creative thinking, most people I spoke to before starting off were skeptical that my plans would carry through as expected. That being said, I entered into this project with the lowest expectations I could muster, and I have been beyond rewarded as a result. Not only do the kids leap at the opportunity to start new projects and share their work, but the depth of the meaning and communicative quality of the art is astounding.
The way my internship is scheduled, I get a few hours every day to lead an after school program, unfolding small tips and tricks for translating thoughts and feelings into color and form. So far the kids have completed the first part of the curriculum “Exploring the self”, which included collages on the cover of their ‘artist journals’, using patterns to explain their personalities on their ‘magic wish boxes’ (a small box where they keep written reminders of their wishes, hopes and dreams for a rainy day), and most importantly their symbloist+expressionist self portraits, where they had to combine a portrait like Frida Kahlo (showing ‘things I like’) and Picasso (showing ‘things I feel’). The outcome of this last project was extraordinarily rewarding for both the kids and myself. Many of them talk around after school carrying the portraits around to show their friends and whatever visitors and volunteers stop by. We’ll be sending the portraits over to Sold’s gallery in San Francisco to raise awareness for the project.
Now we’re knee deep into the second area of curriculum ‘Express Yourself!’ Last weekend we learned about different music genres and the ‘colors and shapes’ different kinds of music can generate. The kids were divided into groups and had to paint their feet the ‘colors’ of the music and dance on giant sheets of paper. At the end of the day, every smiling face was covered with paint, but there’s no better evidence of a good art project than a big mess!
In my Wow application, most of my learning goals and hopes for the summer revolved around developing a way to communicate with the children I was working with, and to get my purpose across in a culture to which my lessons are entirely foreign. So far, between my growing connections with the students and staff members, the marvelous work the kids are creating with me and on their own, and the (often heartbreaking) stories that are beginning to unfold themselves, I’ve discovered that cultural barriers don’t stand a chance against the inherent ability to express creative thought. I can’t wait to keep this train going as I think up more ways in which to share the gift of creativity with those who need it most!
– Zoey Hart ’13