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Teaching is an ART

And I was to teach ART at FLAME University.

My first session with the Flame students was an experience, setting me on a new journey.

The students were anxiously waiting, when I entered the studio. Introducing myself, I placed small clay balls in front of each student. An electric shock went through the whole class as the boys touched clay. Before I could say anything, the boys were throwing clay at each other, across the studio, splashing on the walls, roof, floor....and it left me shocked. I didn't even try to calm them, realizing it is of no use. Probably it was the archetypal human connection with clay.

Not affected by the chaos, there was another student, sitting quietly, looking very confused. As I approached her, she pointed at the clay and asked me” What do I do with this?”.

On one hand, I had these boys who were excited with mere touch of clay, and here I had another of their kind, who did not even want to touch the clay.

So, where did I go wrong?

Not that this is the first time I began a clay dialogue in this fashion. The students, back in my studio, would create fantastic clay objects instead. We would take it up from there, discussing the scope of improvement, along with other artists' work as a reference.

The students back in my studio were the art students, aspiring to be an artist. Here, the students at liberal education were the students who came to explore themselves by looking at a variety of subjects, creativity being one of them. Thus my role as an art instructor became to initiate creativity, giving them an overall experience, to hook them to ART for life.

Taking it up as a challenge, I began by simplifying clay modelling techniques. I also realized that something simple for an art student is not easy for them. Breaking down the process further, gradually I could create a systematic course of steps, to establish a physical connection between the student and clay. Engrossed with the clay exercises, the students were enjoying the everyday challenge, to creating the form I was dictating. They were happy.

Gaining confidence, one day I decided to treat them by giving them a fun exercise,“ today, you can make a form of your own choice”.

The students had no form of their own, no thought of their own.

It turned out to be a big flop decision. Many years later one of my students told me that, this was the most difficult exercise they ever faced. Remembering my studio days, my thoughts went back to this lady, who had come to learn with me. “I have been learning to paint for three years”, she said, “give me any painting and I can replicate it ditto. But today when I want to paint on my own, I cannot. I have become a copycat. That is making me miserable. I want to paint”. That day, I wrote it off, thinking that it was the teacher's fault.

But today, I was the teacher.

The students were learning ART, and, I was busy finding my way to graduation in teaching. Revisited my college days, I remember my main inquiry was to understand, ‘What is art?’. My skill and forms s were always good, but what do I do with it? was always the problem.

What I did make, was that ART?

What am I going to tell these students, who were already told that ART is an extra-curriculum activity? Unless they understand why they are learning, why should they take it up seriously?

What is ART?

Art is the various deliverables at many halt at various stations on the ongoing journey/the creative process , towards explorations and experiments.

Art is the creative process, where one indulges with intellectual thoughts and aesthetics, a self-exploratory journey, expressing through a medium. It is a journey, into the unknown. Thus, it makes it difficult to teach.

Creativity is an attitude that has to be cultivated. The teacher becomes the felicitation. , ’U don’t teach creativity, u allow, u teach the tools that people can use,...creativity- playfulness of the moment” tweets Shekhar Kapoor. ‘No creative act is possible without a new journey into the unknown”.

As a teacher, all I have to do is to put them on the journey.

He refers to the tools as the material skills, one learns to establish a physical relationship with the medium. It is like learning a language to express oneself. In the age where, one is constantly told, spoon-fed by parents, society, teachers and the media, one stops to think. Art opens up a space where one has freedom of expression

Today, when students tell me, “I want to learn, but, I am not creative”, I enjoy proving them wrong.

- Prof. Gauri Gandhi, M.A. - Fine Arts | M.S. University - Vadodara

*Views expressed are personal.