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Arts incubator : Youngsters enjoy and learn about the arts at the recent Samui Youth Arts Camp

by NathonCity @August,11 2009 16.09 ( IP : 112...240 ) | Tags : เก็บข่าวมาเล่า , ศิลปะ

จาก Bangkok Post
Writer: Story and Photos by PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN SURAT THANI
Published: 11/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Learningpost

 


'Art is a fundamental element in every field of education," said Sangkom Thongmee, or Kru Sangkom (Kru means teacher in Thai), the director of Princess Sirindhorn Arts Center at Srisongkram Wittaya School, Loei province, and a well-known Thai arts educator. 


"Many people frequently ask, 'How will you earn a living if you study art?"' he added, referring to most Thais' perception of an education centred on art. His statement is based on his experience as an arts teacher for over 30 years. He concedes that this out-of-date view has been diminishing over the years, but he reiterates that it still exists to a worrying degree.


Earlier, on Samui Island, in Surat Thani province, Kru Sangkom and his colleagues conducted the 10th Samui Youth Arts Camp, organised by Bangkok Airways and the Samui Island municipal office, to teach arts to over 100 students from 26 schools in the area and to guide them on how to appreciate them. The camp won't change the public's outdated perception of arts overnight, but the enthusiasm that this small move has generated shows the promise of bigger things to come.


Arts for fun


The three-day camp was held at the seaside Sila Ngu Temple on the third-largest island in Thailand. The young campers assembled near the beach and the scenic view gave free rein to the furtive imaginations of the young people.


Lessons focused on the basic elements of painting and drawing techniques and how to draw simple human figures and actions. The session was handled professionally and wittily by Paiboon Thamruangrit, or Kru Berm, president of Child Arts Project and one of Kru Sangkom's peers.


The lessons provided the foundations for the two main projects assigned to be completed before the end of camp. Each student had to complete two paintings: one under the topic of "Family in action" and the other under "Facial expressions".


For the first assignment, the campers had to express through their paintings an activity that they performed with their family, which could show their family at work or play. Students were encouraged to use pastels, poster colours or a combination of both mediums for their works.


The assignment was designed to encourage students to free their imaginations, according to Kru Berm.


Lots of children, especially those in their early ages, by their very nature, love to draw and paint. Nonetheless, stimulating them to derive enjoyment from drawing and painting in a classroom environment is a challenging task.


"We insert cheer throughout lessons to convey to the youngsters that learning art can be fun and entertaining. Comedy allows them to become more familiar with us, too," Kru Berm elaborated. "Sometimes, students are reluctant to express themselves unreservedly because they are not familiar with their new teachers or the new environment. So, we need to get acquainted with them first, and then they will be brave enough to reveal their inner thoughts."


Kru Berm's cheerful teaching style quickly got the students immersed in his lessons. "The most important thing in teaching art is that the learners have to be happy. People cannot be forced to study arts. It is up to their own will," he said, philosophically.


Young Picassos paint up a storm


Initially, the Samui Youth Arts Camp started as a painting competition. "The first time we organised the contest, we knew immediately that Samui students had not been properly tutored in an arts class. We soon concluded that providing useful but basic arts lessons was a better idea than setting up a tournament," said Sumalee Chaitien, corporate communications director at Bangkok Airways.


Today, the camp is a stage for Samui children to showcase their creativity, with each school sending students who appreciate art most to participate in the camp. At the end of the workshop, the best sample of a student's work is entered into a competition in Japan.


Patthri Namkaew, 15, a Mathayom 3 (Grade 9) student from Theeparatpittaya School, was one of the young arts aficionados. Her passion for arts spurred her to join the camp again this year - her fourth year as a participant. 


Patthri drew a painting of herself and her family at a sunflower field in Lop Buri province. She has never been there, but she dreams of visiting the place with her family at least once in her lifetime. "I just want to be with my family in a beautiful place," she gushed excitedly.


While most of the young campers chose pastels, Patthri opted to utilise poster colours, a medium she recently mastered. She said that it was quicker than using pastels to do the work.


Her participation at the camp is a prologue to her future, as she pledges to pursue a career in the arts industry. "I've set my goals for the future. I'll take a product design course," she says, adding that she wants to open her own handicraft shop later.


Arts give more than pleasure to this young artist. "Arts cool me down a lot," Patthri says. "I've got a very hot temper, but when I draw or paint, I can be alone by myself, quietly working on my paintings. The moments of silence allow me to thoroughly reconsider what I have done and that really cools me down," she elaborates.


Storytelling


While the older students enjoyed the painting sessions, the camp's kindergarteners became engrossed in the storytelling sessions. The special storytelling-cum-arts classes were added to the camp's agenda for the first time this year. They are designed to encourage children to develop a love for reading.


The storytelling was delivered by Anusara Deewai, editor of Praew Puen Dek, a division of Amarin Printing and Publishing, and Assoc Prof Tinnakorn Kasornsuwan, assistant to the president for student affairs at the Wang Tha Phra campus of Silpakorn University.


"To children, the colourful illustrations in children's books are like a mini gallery," says Ms Anusara. "In their daily lives, children are likely to be exposed to stark pictures or scenes of real-life events that are depicted in photographs and television programmes. Children's books, on the other hand, contain illustrations that are drawn by artists, which help extend their horizon and creativity," she adds.


The children at the camp not only benefited from seeing a range of artistic and creative colourful images, but were also awakened to the magic of combining pictures with storytelling in the innovative lessons led by Ms Anusara and Assoc Prof Tinnakorn.


Ms Anusara expounded on the duo's teaching methodology. She said that while she read the story The Rabbit and the Tortoise to the children, Assoc Prof Tinnakorn drew lines and curves to accompany her graphically.


He first inserted a point to represent the rabbit's starting point, then he drew an arc from that point to depict the route taken by the rabbit, and a second arc to represent the turtle's path. The two arcs intersected and continued onwards. Ms Anusara and Assoc Prof Tinnakorn then challenged the children to guess what image would be created by joining the ends of the two arcs. The answer was the picture of a fish, and the children had a lot of fun offering their own possibilities.


The two educators' creative approaches helped to amplify the children's mental capabilities through visual association.


Beyond the camp


The campers clearly reaped tremendous benefits from the informal workshop. It is undeniable that to achieve a structured understanding of art, the teaching of arts to children should be formally and professionally performed by schools.


However, at present, too many of the schools are not doing a very good job teaching arts courses, according to Kru Sangkom.


The problem is "the lack of skilled arts and crafts teachers at the kindergarten and primary school levels", Kru Sangkom says, explaining the key factor that prevents the proper delivery of arts education to children today.


"Most schools under the Office of the Basic Education Commission are still short of skilled arts teachers," he adds. Schools need more skilled arts teachers and teachers who are professionally trained in child psychology and development.


The teacher-shortage problem is a consequence of the notion that "any person can teach arts", which has arisen partly from the misconception of the intricacies and devaluation of the subject by many people, Kru Sangkom explained.


"We lack teachers who truly understand children at each stage of educational development. At the kindergarten level, teachers don't necessarily have to be arts graduates, but they need to understand the development of children's artistic expressions," he says, adding that many teachers still judge children's performances by their ability to imitate (professional) drawings or pictures, or whether they use the proper drawing techniques, without focusing on expanding a child's creativity and developing his or her imagination.


Besides developing the profession of arts teachers at the lower levels and changing the negative attitudes towards arts, Kru Sangkom suggested that "we need to have a permanent arts centre for children that regularly arranges activities for them".


Kru Sangkom sees an activity like the Samui Youth Arts Camp and other arts events for children, including arts competitions and exhibitions, as moves that help to stimulate interest in learning arts skills among children and school administrators. This will eventually lead to a shift in the adverse perception of teaching and learning arts.


During the last decade, the series of camps on Samui Island attempted to foster a positive attitude towards the pursuit of arts studies.


In the long term, such a matrix could very well pave the way to greater respect for arts practitioners, and ultimately, the question, "What will you do to earn a living if you study art?" will cease to be uttered.



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