Art1st Take: Relevance of Children’s Books on Art
Following team Art1st’s win at the IPPY awards, ART1ST COO, Rivka Sadarangani did a written interview for the Instagram page @the.artinsider, run by the passionate Shivani Mutatkar. Sharing excerpts here:
@the.artinsider: Can you tell me a little about your background and your association with art?
Rivka: As a child I started reading, writing and drawing I have never stopped since. I dreamed of being a poet, philosopher, thinker and artist and found my calling as an artist, art educator, curator and arts manager. I have worked in art, culture and media organisations in the USA and India for over 20 years. In my early work I was focused on integrating the use of art and technology with youth voice, identity and expression at Street-Level Youth Media, Chicago, IL. Following which I developed innovative and inclusive programming for Portland’s Community Television Agency, Portland OR. In Mumbai. I have worked with various artists, galleries and creative spaces focusing on contemporary Indian voices. I received a Bachelors in Fine Arts degree, Art and Technology and Visual Communications from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL.
@the.artinsider: What is your earliest art related memory?
Rivka: Spending hours mark making on every surface I could find. Address books, school text books, scraps of paper, finally my mother got me a few sketch pads, but I still drew on anything I could get my hands on.
@the.artinsider: Tell me about what led you (Ritu) to starting Art1st? What is the goal of the organisation?
Rivka: Art1st was founded by Ritu Khoda, she wanted to challenge the existing paradigm of a myopic outlook of arts in schools by developing a full-fledged Visual Arts Curriculum. Art1st was created as a direct response to the current formal educational systems which are challenged due to lack of infrastructure, well-trained teachers and equitable learning practices. Art1st redefines the role of art curriculum orienting towards the dynamic, evolving and wholesome growth of the child.
Using the visual arts as a pedagogical tool for creating learning environments for the child, the Art1st model celebrates and draws inspirations from the rich visual arts tradition of India. The model supports schools and educators to implement a strong arts education program and fosters original thought and imagination.
Ritu Khoda is a social entrepreneur, award-winning author, producer of critically acclaimed films, TEDx speaker and founder of Art1st and Little Light. She’s working towards creating a paradigm shift in teaching by encouraging a fresh pedagogy, on systematising art education at the school level, and enhancing capabilities of teachers. Ritu holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration, IIM Kolkata and a B.A. (Hons.) in Psychology, Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi.
@the.artinsider: What are some of the challenges Art1st has faced in getting art books for kids to the market?
Rivka: Art Books for children is a very niche part of a nascent independent publishing market in India. Developing this niche takes patience and time. The art books are an extension of our Art Education Program and raise awareness of Indian visual culture, from traditional and folk to modern and contemporary art through original content that delights, enlightens and engages children. Building visibility and awareness of our work and the cost of production are ongoing challenges, nevertheless we are passionate about our work and are planning for the future. We plan to publish 3-4 books per year and expand each series, from Pre-School to the Art Exploration Series (Elementary) and Eye Spy and Arts Integrated series (Middle School). We are in development for a new series connecting Art and Spirituality.
@the.artinsider: Why do you think it’s important for children to engage with and learn about Indian art?
Rivka: Indian art and culture is abundant, from the variety of art forms, the multitude of traditions and techniques, to the diversity in expression. Our artistic and cultural traditions hold our heritage and history, informing and shaping our identities. Engaging children with Indian art is key for them to stay connected to their culture, appreciate their rich heritage while empowering them to create unique forms of expression.
@the.artinsider: What is lacking in the space of art education today?
Rivka: Art cultivates the whole child and builds multiple forms of literacy while developing intuition, reasoning, imagination, and dexterity. However, Art does not get enough importance in school curriculum, there is a gap between art education policies, curriculum and current teaching strategies. Art is not considered a core academic subject however it is one of the few subjects where imagination, creative thinking, visual thinking can be cultivated and nourished.
@the.artinsider: Now that art is available through a screen, do you worry that today’s generation may find books obsolete?
Rivka: Nothing replaces the tactile connection between a reader and the book in their hands. My childhood memories are filled with my head bent over a book, looking, turning and touching, absorbing every detail on the page, books were my first source of knowledge. Reading out loud to children from their favourite books, story-telling at bed-time from a well-worn book cannot be replaced with a screen. Screen fatigue as we know is a very real issue and has long-term negative impact on vision. When digital readers were first introduced, this same question was raised, e-books have had great impact on the way the publishing industry operates and offer a level of convenience to the reader, however I find that most children and parents love paper-based books.
@the.artinsider: What are some of your own favourite art books for kids?
Rivka: Our very own IPPY award-winning Art is Verb is at the top of my list, it brings Art to life!
Up in the Tree by Margaret Atwood, is a lovely story connecting people and nature. What makes the book special is that Atwood wrote, illustrated and hand lettered the type, it a a charming, ever-green classic for children.
My Museum illustrated by Joanne Liu, is a text-free book that presents the museum as a
fascinating space for curious children and is a wonderful introduction to great works of art.
You can read the final piece here on @the.artinsider’s Instagram Profile.
Read more about Art1st books at: http://www.art1st.co.in/publications