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A Colourful Escape - Curiosity and Joy at Saturday Art Class

Lack of creativity in schools has become a steadily growing concern in many schools across India. Children often struggle to think creatively or find inspiration to express themselves through art. This issue is exacerbated in a government school classroom by a lack of staff members, dedicated top teaching Art, available to support and guide students. In the absence of such teachers, other subject teachers, who lack proper training are unable to foster an environment that encouraged artistic exploration and the development of new ideas.

The result - a stifling of children's artistic growth, leaving them unable to fully express themselves through art. This bleak scenario, a reality of multiple classrooms across the country makes it crucial that steps are taken to address this problem and provide the necessary training and support to both teachers and students.

Unleashing the Picasso Within: How Saturday Art Class Transforms Young Minds

In a world where young minds often find themselves navigating through a maze of academic pressures and standardized routines, a vibrant and transformative oasis of creativity awaits them every Saturday.

Welcome to Saturday Art Class - a captivating initiative that defies convention and nurtures the innate artist within each child. Beyond the four walls of a traditional classroom, this artistic haven empowers the next generation with brushes of imagination, strokes of critical thinking, and colors of collaboration. As the sun rises on these extraordinary weekends, a masterpiece of possibilities unfolds, shaping young hearts and minds into the confident, innovative, and compassionate leaders of tomorrow.

We had the opportunity to speak to Rukhmini Bhatia, Program Lead at Saturday Art Class. When asked how Saturday Art Class reaches children, she explained,

"By partnering with other NGOs working with children, we train teachers to teach art to their students, while also working to re-shape their mindset that art is an essential tool for their students. These teachers then go on to teach our curriculum to their students."

This curriculum, as Rukhmini Ma'am went on to explain, is well-researched,

"based on interviews and observations of children in art classes, as well as in non-art classes. In these interviews, we listen to students - their challenges, likes and dislikes."
A drawing by a student of one of Saturday Art Class' programs. Source: Saturday Art Class

Saturday Art Class' research team did not stop there. Poring through multiple research studies, they also explored how they could bring socio-emotional learning skills to their students through art. All of this effort brought to life their curriculum, focussing on 5 SEL competencies that can be brought out through art - critical thinking, perseverance, imagination, collaboration and communication in children.

But as Rukhmini Ma'am shared, SAC (Saturday Art Class) does not stop there. Their classes also focus on "bringing out joy and happiness in children, because art helps them express their thoughts and ideas."

Ma'am also shared a story about her classroom and her students' experience of attending SAC's art classes:

"When I entered my classroom, I noticed that not every child liked art. In the beginning, all they drew were stick figures. But as the classes progressed, and through the topics we got, I saw that the children started taking more interest in art. They realised that it's not just some topic that Ma'am is giving in class, these topics help me think about myself, help me learn more about my partner and my group. I noticed that through these Saturday Art Classes, my children were learning to express, not just through art, but even through their words - they were sharing their feelings and truly expressing themselves."
Students hard at work on their drawings. Source: Saturday Art Class

Rukhmini Ma'am also took us through what some of these classes look like, and the way SEL skills are developed - Critical thinking skills are developed when students assess and analyse numerous works of art, strengthening their capacity to think critically and solve problems. Discussions on their artwork and communicating their ideas to others help them build effective communication skills. Creating art in groups helps students build collaboration skills, and push them to use their imagination. Furthermore, painting is a process that requires endurance and patience, encouraging youngsters to persevere, embrace obstacles and learn from failures.

Children in these sessions are exposed to a wide range of art genres, from painting and sketching to sculpture and mixed media. Young painters are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild by experimenting with colours, shapes, and textures. This ability to experiment and create without fear of being judged fosters their creative confidence and instills a feeling of wonder and curiosity in them. It's no wonder then, that from 2017 till date:

  • 18,527+ Students were given access to visual arts

  • 2,195 Educators were trained through Saturday Art Class' programs

  • 60+ partnerships were initiated

  • 1300+ volunteers were sensitized

  • 10,64,925+ users were reached through their digital resources

Of course, this journey has not been all smooth sailing. Rukhmini Ma'am was also gracious enough to tell us about challenges that Saturday Art Class faced.

In early iterations of their curriculum, educators found that the sessions were very long, which meant that students were losing focus and not concentrating on all parts of the classes. While this is a challenge they have long since tacked. there are others that they still continue to face.

"Lots of educators Saturday Art Class trains still don't agree that art is an important topic for students to learn. Portion completion and focus on other classes is still more important for them. We often need to show them the value that art brings, not just for their students, but also in the skills that they, as educators, can build.", Rukhmini Ma'am shared.

Getting partners on board is also a challenge Saturday art Class faces, since, like teachers, partner organizations also sometimes don't see value in art education. As Rukhmini Ma'am shared, "These are challenges we continue to face. But we still try out best, and we hope to persevere!" It's not lost on us that even as she said this, she showed us an example of a skill Saturday Art Class tries to teach students through their programs!

A student with her artwork. Source: Saturday Art Class

Saturday Art Class is not just about teaching children how to draw or paint; it is a platform that empowers young minds to embrace creativity, critical thinking, communication, perseverance, and collaboration. By encouraging them to explore art and express themselves freely, the organization is sowing the seeds for a future generation of innovative and empathetic individuals. As we continue to navigate a complex and rapidly changing world, Saturday Art Class serves as a beacon of hope, reminding us of the transformative power of art and the lasting impact it can have on young minds.

This solutions focussed story has been written by student journalists of the Re-Imagining Media program and edited by Team Via News Didi. We are thankful to Ms. Rukhmini Bhatia for her time and for answering all our questions patiently.


A Message for Saturday Art Class, from us student journalists:

Dear Ms. Rukhmini,

Interviewing you was truly inspiring. Your approach to making the classroom more inclusive and enjoyable is nothing short of remarkable. Learning about your commitment to breaking away from traditional teaching patterns was an eyeopener. At Saturday Art Class, you exemplify the idea that education can be a dynamic and creative journey.

A memorable moment from the interview was when you emphasized the beauty of art by highlighting that there are no wrong answers in creativity. Your perspective on nurturing free creativity resonated deeply with us. It's a mindset that encourages students to embrace their uniqueness and explore without fear.

We'd like to express our sincere gratitude to the team of Saturday Art Class for sharing their insights and experiences. Their dedication to fostering an environment where students can thrive is commendable and much appreciated. Thank you for reminding us that education is not just about information transfer but also about fostering a lifelong love for learning. Your impact will undoubtedly be felt for years to come.

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