How Ritu Khoda began Art1st
Excerpts from an Asian Age interview with Art1st Founder Ritu Khoda:
Art has always received step-motherly treatment from school, where it is often reduced to an extracurricular subject. When Ritu Khoda, founder of Art1st foundation noticed this in what her son was learning as part of art education, she realised something had to be done.
“My son and I have a certain age difference, and the art-related material he was learning at that time was similar to what I had learnt when I was a child. It made me question what is happening. We are very visual as human beings, so I thought the subject was not given the importance it deserved,” she shares.
This led Ritu to start Art1st, focusing on not only creating a curriculum for art education, but also find a way to implement it at schools. “The aim of the foundation was to focus on visual art education, which acquires a marginal position in schools. Our objective is to make art a core subject in schools; to look at the existing education system, build relevance and a case of art,” she explains.
The curriculum designed by Ritu is divided into three parts, starting from as young as preschool kids. The focus of the curriculum for preschool students focuses on accidental discovery and experimentation. However, she wants to give more attention to the next level, as she feels that a child becomes rigid around fourth grade. “When you go to class 1 to 5, the focus is on retaining the child’s creativity. The education structure makes them very rigid in the way they look at things around them, so to empower them and let their creativity bloom, we focus a lot on them. The curriculum we set for this age group is about engaging with the subject in a fun, playful method of learning,” the founder shares.
The entrepreneur, who has been working with BMC schools, private schools and schools for special need children in the city, feels that educational institutes are willing to make a change but are not sure how to implement it. “For schools who agree with the curriculum, they might not have clarity about what it takes to bring about that change in their education system. It’s a shift that is going to take a while, but I think that people are becoming more aware. Additionally, some of the subjects will help develop values like having a flexible, adaptable and creative mind,” she says.
Unlike the current system which does not include any books for art education, Art1st Foundation brings together practicing artists, professionals, art scholars, art historians, and psychologists to research and curate suitable books for the curriculum.
While some believe that art education doesn’t lead to a successful career path, Ritu believes that it teaches you skills that will help you despite the stream you choose. “To be able to succeed at any job, you need to have a very creative mind. Every organisation now is looking for an individual who can innovate and come up with creative solutions to issues, and visual art provides an environment that helps evolve these values,” she concludes.