Guess who’s blogging?

That’s right folks, ArtLight Global is truly going global.  A month ago we were asked by the Global partnership for Education to write about our mission and the reasons we thought art and math were a conduit for creating positive learning opportunities for under resourced students.  This week our post is highlighted on their website and we are so happy that our mission will reach a wider audience of people who are just as interested in global education topics as we are.  We hope that this post will allow others to see that art has an important role in helping students achieve and understand the world around them.  Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or comments, we’d love to keep the dialogue going!

ArtLight Global

Since I’ve been back from India (a whole year), I’ve been working really hard on another education initiative with a fellow Fulbright Scholar.  We met in Jaipur at the Fulbright conference and immediately decided we needed to stay in touch.  You never know where a journey can take you, but connecting and collaborating with her has allowed us to launch something together.  We also connected with another individual who was just as passionate about integrating arts into education as we were, and now we have ArtLight Global.  This is our non-profit organization that aims to merge the fields of art and mathematics to improve learning and motivation for minority students!

Click on the hyperlink above or on our ArtLight Global logo below to learn more about us and our first project!  Follow us on instagram or facebook .

Copy of ArtLightLogo_FINALCheck us out and share:  www.artlightglobal.com

Ignite ArtLight Global!

An Update

I was asked to write a little update:

The Fulbright DAT experience has remained with me every single day, even one full year later.  In January 2016, I traveled to Chennai, India to research and work with an arts education non-profit organization called NalandaWay.  Through that experience I was able to investigate the challenges of bringing art education to marginalized youth in urban and rural settings throughout the state of Tamil Nadu.  By visiting schools, making presentations, providing workshops, and attending arts and yoga related courses I was able to gain a perspective of how rich and integrated art is within the culture and community, but often missing in poorer schools.

One of the most memorable experiences I had with NalandaWay was visiting an arts camp they facilitated in a beautiful rural area on the border of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.  A group of 30 students came from a local school in an effort to build leadership skills through collaboration projects based in art.  Although I was primarily there as an observer, I was given the opportunity to lead and facilitate several group art activities and teach yoga as a transition activity.  This was an exciting moment for me because I was able to connect with the students in a different way and they no longer saw me as a visitor or an observer, but someone who was there to be a part of the experience and learn from them as well.

After the arts camp experience, I met with my adviser and we talked about the lessons I taught at the camp.  She was interested in learning more about my teaching philosophy and the other lessons I developed in my school back in the United States.  I shared and adapted more of my curriculum so NalandaWay could use the lessons in their own context. This type of dialogue and collaboration spawned many ideas of how to implement art into schools in a much deeper way.  My adviser was encouraged by my work and thought the curriculum I created was relevant and consistent with the mission and vision of the organization. At that point, she and the director approached me to create additional curriculum and offered me a consulting position to continue to work with NalandaWay after I returned home. Over the next 6 months I worked with NalandaWay to create an integrated arts curriculum for the elementary school based in science, social studies, math, and reading activities.  Currently, they are piloting the lessons and training classroom teachers to use the lessons in class to augment their daily curriculum.

One of the other great experiences I had in India was attending the Fulbright Conference in Jaipur, India.  All Fulbright scholars from Southeast Asia came together to share their work, and I was fortunate to be on a panel of educators.  On that panel I met others interested in my work and connected with Deepa Srikantaiah, who was studying the intersection of math and arts education for marginalized youth in Bangalore, India.  We discovered we both had a strong passion for arts education integration, mindfulness practices, and also lived in the DC metro area.  We decided that we would plan to meet up after we completed our respective Fulbright programs.  Since our first meeting back in the States, we’ve been working to create an arts startup that uses art as a conduit to improve math learning and motivation for marginalized children.   We recently added a third member to our group, and we are now in the planning stages of returning to India in January of 2018 to work with Parikrma School in Bangalore.  We will provide a week long workshop and art exhibition for 7th and 8th graders from that school.

When I started out on this journey I had no idea how great of an impact this experience would have on my own life and I feel that I’ve come away with a new definition for what it means to be a global citizen. I’ve felt extremely fortunate to grow personally by taking on new experiences and challenges while living in India.  More importantly, I was able to find ways to collaborate with others and share ideas to forge personal and professional relationships that continued even after the Fulbright experience ended.  It is these continued relationships that have developed into deeper connections and meaningful opportunities that allow the world to be a little smaller.

IMG_0629

A visit to Thiruvannamalai

Towards the end of my trip I had the opportunity to travel southwest to the small city of Thiruvannamalai.  I hadn’t known much about it before I went and found it to be a really interesting place to visit. It was pretty busy, and boasts a large temple in it’s center.  Tourists also come from all over to visit the famous ashram, Sri Ramanashramam, there.  One of the reasons we went there was to check out a school located on the outskirts of Thiruvannamalai called, Marudam Farm School.  It’s an open concept school, and founded on the principles that the students guide their learning.

It takes about 5 hours to get there from Chennai, but you travel through some really interesting spaces.  Lots of history and old mountains.  Some forts and also some of the prettiest countryside you can see in this area.  There wasn’t a lot of traffic when we drove and it was a really pleasant journey.

If I had known about this place sooner I probably would have made an effort to spend more time there to really get to know it.  I loved the area, the energy and the people.  It seemed like a very laid back kind of place, with lots of chances to view extremely important historical sites.   If you look at a map, it’s just west of Puducherry, and really easy to get to.

Here are a few pictures of the area, I’ll post more about the school later:

IMG_1727
Starting the day off right with vada.

IMG_1750
Ruin near Gingee
IMG_1752
More around Gingee.
IMG_1771
Mountain formations older than the Himalayas.

IMG_1800IMG_1818IMG_1819

And, maybe a Jesus sighting….;-)

Tanjore- ummm sure.

Tanjore painting is really hard.  There are lots of steps and you need lots of patience to create one.  I took a Tanjore class in Chennai for about 6 weeks and I didn’t even finish.  I can see how this art is looked on with great respect.  Everything about the painting needs to be perfect from the very beginning.  I spent hours on this painting and I didn’t even get to the painting part.  I have my work, and will finish one of these days.  This style of painting is still practiced, but they are very time consuming and it takes professional artists hours and hours of painstaking skill to create one that is masterful and full of beauty.  My teacher’s work was amazing.  You could instantly see that his work was of high value and really special.  His paintings were also four times as big as the small one I didn’t finish.

At times when I was working on this I thought it was really labor intensive, but I had to remember it was also meditative.  You could do nothing but focus on what task you were doing.  You had to pay attention to only that part, or else you would probably make a mistake.  Oh– and I made plenty.  Some days I was there for 4 hours working on the placement of the stones, or putting on extra putty to make them stick.  By the end of the class I felt like my back was stiff, my arms were stiff, and my fingers were going to fall off!

But I still worked at it, it was a great challenge for me to undertake, just so I could see what it was like to create such a piece.

I also met some great people along the way.  The arts center was a fun place.  At the times I was there, I always talked with the other students and teachers.  It was a great environment to be a part of and I thoroughly enjoyed working there.

IMG_1581
Start with an image and a board.
IMG_1582
This board has already been prepared for me, lots of primer and several pieces of muslin. You have to measure a border, which is actually a common practice in school too.
IMG_1584
Here is what the back looks like.
IMG_1586
You draw an image on tracing paper and then transfer it to the board. Things need to line up or else something will be cut off later.
IMG_1589
After the image is transferred you begin adding stones. I added too many in the middle.
IMG_1614
Then you cover them with muck. It adheres to the board.
IMG_1618
With the muck, you also build up other areas to create a relief on the surface before the next steps.
IMG_1645
And then you add more muck.
IMG_1697
Then you can add some more decorative stones on top of the muck to had added height and of course – fanciness.
IMG_1718
You can get elaborate, but you don’t want it to be garish.
IMG_1912
Here’s a different view.
IMG_1916
Next it’s all about the gold leaf. Yes, there is real gold in there, so don’t waste it.
IMG_1918
This is a stressful part, because you have to cover all the areas well.
IMG_2024
Once you have all the areas covered, you begin cleaning off the stones and cutting away the excess
IMG_2027
You keep working on removing the excess.
IMG_3074
And keep working on removing the excess.

I just realized, I don’t have a picture of the rest of the steps. I’ll have to post a finished piece when I have it finally completed.  As you can see, there is a lot of work that goes on in creating a Tanjore painting.  It is a dying art and it’s hard to find masters that can teach you the proper steps.  It isn’t to be rushed, you can’t finish this kind of piece in a few hours, and it takes time to perfect.  I was glad to have the experience and to understand how much work it takes to complete just a small one.

The other people who were in this class with me were creating pictures for their homes.  People who create paintings such as this have great respect for the art, but also the art serves as a function for people who practice Hindusim, it is a blessing to have one of these paintings in your home.  As you may guess, there are popular images.  Many of Ganesh, like my example, but also Krishna, Durga, Rama and Sita, and others.

A walk with the elephants

After a quick change and a quick “shower” we had quick break and headed over to the elephants one more time.  We were led around a little area where they take the elephants for a walk.  You meander around a desert area that makes a trail through the property.  It’s quiet, you can hear dogs barking in the background, no cars, no hoards of people, and some occasional cows wander through.  I had never ridden on an elephant before, and it was a very calm experience.  You kind of sway side to side and just slowly move past the scenery.

IMG_4114.JPG
Stopped for a picture.
IMG_4195.jpg
Getting some extra snacks, after the whole experience.
IMG_4148.jpg
Love their faces, eyes, and wrinkles.
IMG_4140.jpg
These two were the elephants we cared for during the day.
IMG_4129.jpg
Three of the elephants at Elefantastic.
IMG_4095.JPG
Quick shadow shot.

 

IMG_1150
Yes, I would say, this was a totally Thumbs Up experience.

Save

Jaipur – Round 2

In late February and early March I got to spend a week in Jaipur.  It truly is a jewel of a city.  Located in Rajasthan, it boasts one of the most visited cities on the “Golden Triangle” circuit.  I can see why.  It has a rich history of forts, palaces, majestic views and a number of locations for shoppers to buy all kinds of beautiful block print materials, tailors and seamstresses who can make anything you desire, and of course beautiful gems.  There is a lot to do in and around the city.  This time I made it to many places that were a little bit off the beaten track, but totally worth it.

The main reason for being in Jaipur was the Fulbright Conference.  Each year it is hosted in a different city in India.  All the Fulbright scholars that are in the country as well as neighboring countries in the Central Asia are invited to attend to share their research, listen, meet and make connections.  I was on a panel of educators to present what I had been working on with NalandaWay.  It was a great opportunity to listen to my colleagues, as well as listen to other researchers present on their subjects.

I felt fortunate to be a part of the whole experience.  Not only were we well taken care of at the hotel, I had a chance to extend my stay and take a printmaking workshop by a master printer.

This is going to be a series of posts, because it was a week long adventure in Jaipur.  It was an extremely interesting place to visit a second time. There were a lot of things I didn’t notice or experience the first time because I was mostly in heavy tourist areas.  This time I ventured out into other parts of the city, had a chance to visit some real neighborhoods and interact more with local people.  I also was able to compare my experiences in India. Having been in South India for two full months before traveling back to Jaipur, I realized that it was a much different place than Chennai.  Jaipur seemed to be a bit more conservative, and there was a clear dividing line between tourists and citizens.  I really  hadn’t experienced that in Chennai, even though it was obvious that I was an outsider.

I was glad I got to observe these kinds of experiences, it made me think about how India is such a diverse place, full of possibilities, challenges, experiences, and cultures.  There is no wrong, there is just different.  It’s hard for me to lump India into just one package now.  There isn’t just one India.  It would be like saying the United States is all the same.  Each region has it’s own special traditions, culture, and attitudes. The more I visited, observed and took part in the daily life, the more I learned about that particular place and myself.

IMG_3754
Amazing view from my window, over to the right is where you would go to see Old Jaipur.
IMG_3759
Roof top party!
IMG_1059
Well appointed room, but later in the week I could hear everything that was happening below it….weddings, parties, turban ceremonies.
IMG_1061
Carved wall in the hotel.
IMG_1108
Strange prints in the elevator.
IMG_4660
Turban wrapping ceremony.  I was engaged in this activity for at least an hour.

IMG_4682IMG_4692

IMG_4701
This woman was looking for her “date”.  I saw her come in, look around, and she couldn’t find him in the sea of turbans.

IMG_4712IMG_4694

IMG_1194
Hanuman!
IMG_1298
In the lobby area, every evening they had traditional Rajasthani dancers and musicians perform for the patrons. 

IMG_1363
Something is going on down there.
IMG_1365
Last meal in the restaurant.  The staff worked long shifts, we would be down there at any time of day and see the same staff.  This restaurant was called the 24/7 restaurant, and I think it meant that anyone who worked there, also worked that shift.  We were well taken care of.  The staff worked hard.
IMG_1358
It actually stormed!