AER 2019: Kolkata

Art Education Roundtable at Alliance Française on 26th April 2019

The second AER 2019 in the planned series leading up to the Annual Seminar (December, Delhi)  was successfully held in Kolkata at Alliance Française du Bengale. Kolkata is considered to be one of the cultural and educational hubs of the country. It has a rich socio-cultural and literary history, and has a current literacy rate of 86.31%. Alliance Française du Bengale, a cultural institution, a centre for documentation and a French learning institute, hosted the AER Kolkata 2019.

The AERs held across 7 different cities will lead to an Annual Seminar organised in the memory of noted artist and pedagogue Tushar Joag,  the advisor of Art1st Foundation, who passed away in 2018. He was a remarkable artist and a passionate activist who was also actively engaged in the development of arts curriculum at the school and the higher education level. His belief in art education being an integral part of the growth of children and youth inspired the vision of the Art Education Roundtables 2019.


Mr. Fabrice PLANÇON, the director of AF du Bengale, spoke at the outset about the institution and their support for the vision of the ARs. Just as the Delhi AER, the Kolkata AER also featured a multi-disciplinary panel bringing in diverse perspectives to the topic at hand – the future of arts pedagogy in India. The panel had Mr Amit Mukhopadhyay (Curator, Critic & Art Historian), Dr. Bishnupada Nanda (Professor & HOD, Department of Education, Jadavpur University) and Dr. Tapati Guha-Thakurta (Professor in History, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata). The session was moderated by the Director-Outreach of Art1st Foundation, Premjish Achari, also a writer and curator.

A balanced/ holistic practice in art education from the school level itself

Dr. Guha-Thakurta, whose research focus is in the history of art education in India,  spoke about her own research on the colonial period and the formation of art institutes in different provinces, which were initially designed to train students in industrial arts. When these institutes were transformed into art colleges, which teaches fine arts, craft practices or things which were made by traditional communities was seen as inferior. She spoke about the necessity to bridge the gap between art and craft in the art institutes. This also has to be done at the school levels so that the students do not inherit this hierarchy.



She also drew the audience’s attention towards the current insular nature of art history as a discipline. She thinks that an interdisciplinary approach can make the future of art education or art history ideal. She left us with the example of Shantiniketan in Kolkata which tried to integrate arts and crafts into the curriculum.

Redefining exhibitions as active and interactive spaces of learning

Mr. Mukhopadhyay recounted his experience of designing and executing his exhibition on the Paris Student Protests of 1968. He went on to establish the relevance of making exhibitions accessible for the youth. He specifically talked about how screen printing was introduced in this exhibition to recreate the posters so that the viewers can also be a part of the exhibition. He emphasised on the effectiveness and relevance of the workshop model in exhibitions to attract young artists and school students. Workshops such as linocuts, woodcuts, etc. could be organised along with the exhibition to get students.


Specific to school education, a strategy that was discussed was taking exhibitions to schools. These exhibitions need to be interactive, decentralised and democratised so that the exhibition space is not a passive, intimidating space but rather activated spaces of learning and creativity.

Relevance of art in rehabilitative practices

Dr. Nanda’s talk focussed on the necessity of an inclusive educative model so as to aid in the rehabilitation of the physically disabled. He introduced the relevance of Cognitive Behavioral Intervention (CBI), a kind of treatment approach often used to support the psychological aspects related to a traumatic experience.


He went on to expand on the relevance of Art Therapy in the use of rehabilitation of the disabled. Art can be used to aid personality development and also to inspire emotional growth. This is beyond the support it can give to improve motor skills and body movements. Although his work and research are directed towards disabled students, his learnings reveal the necessity to use art in the emotional growth of the child.



The talks were followed by a lively interaction with the audience. The first question was about the absence of music or the marginalisation of music in the teaching of arts. Mr. Achari shared the vision of the integrated approach where art, performance, literature, etc play equal role in the creative growth of the child. He briefly introduced the curriculum design of Art1st’s Art Education Program (AEP), where the aim is also towards the integration of the arts with other subjects such as mathematics, geography, sciences, etc., or the usage of arts to teach these subjects creatively. Following this a question was raised about the integrated approach and what kind of models currently exist. Mr Achari gave the examples the integrated approach of National Curriculum Frameworks (NCFs) and Kali-Kalisu.

The third in the series will be held in Baroda on the 24th of May 2019. Join us and be a part of this conversation!

Further Readings for the curious:

Paul O’Neill & Mick Wilson (Eds.), Curating and the Educational Turn, de Appel, 2010

Developing Interactive Exhibitions at the Smithsonian.

Premjish Achari. Aesthetic Education: Exhibition Practice and the Kochi Muziris Biennale. Art and Education. 2019.

Tapati Guha-Thakurta, The Making of a New Indian Art: Artists, Aesthetics and Nationalism in Bengal, c.1850-1920 (Cambridge University Press, South Asian Series)

Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Post-colonial India (Columbia University Press, New York and Permanent Black, New Delhi)

Chandrica Barua | Research Assistant | Art1st Foundation


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