Thursday, January 24, 2008

Importance of Art

On Words

Importance of Art


Jakarta – When school budgets are cut, art is often the first class to go.

The groupthink seems to be that studying art is fine as long as time and other resources allow. Otherwise, it is treated as if it were a disposable subject; something that is at its heart little more than an entertainment that can be guiltlessly thrown away.

True, most students do not grow up to be professional artists. But then again most do not become mathematicians, authors or scientists either. However, since we understand how the macro skills taught through math, language and science instruction spread into all areas of our lives, those later subjects remain untouchable.

What we fail to keep in mind is that when we study art we discover new ways of looking. Art opens our eyes. Without fresh perspectives there will be few new ideas in math, science, literature, business or life. A background in art gives us the ability to see the world from different angles. This is a skill that colors all that we do.

One of the best ways parents can foster their children’s natural love of art is to introduce them to museums and clubs that stimulate their interests. In Jakarta, we are fortunate to live in close proximity to all sorts of galleries, art clubs and art schools. One such club, profiled in the last OnWords, Jakarta Art Teachers and I, offers art workshops. I was fortunate to be able to discuss one of these workshops with the participants of a recent gathering.

Consisting of a variety of workshops and instructed by 15 art teachers, the workshop gave students the opportunity to learn from new friends. Teacher Judi Harwin says that although the students started off a little shy they were eager to learn new skills and "were extremely motivated by working alongside students from different schools."

Participant eleventh-grader Satoshi agrees saying, “It’s a good idea to have this kind of event, because we were able to learn lots of art techniques from different teachers and share our knowledge of art with other students.”

Tuktik, another eleventh-grader, was also pleased with her experience. "I’ve learnt new things,” she recalls, “gained new skills, experienced new styles of teaching. It seems to me the world is wider.”

Art workshops provide students safe places from which to address difficult subjects. Satoshi is especially proud of his work on racism saying, "I did nine paintings of students' faces. It was a bit hard, but it was fun as well… I used black, white and gray for the painting on canvas in a black frame. The idea is to show that if you take the color out people, we are all the same."

An additional beaming participant, tenth-grade student Hana, says about her project, "I wanted to focus on an Indonesian concern. I picked the Bird of Paradise because the bird is only found in Indonesia. I wanted to make the style of my art unique by using spices as a painting material. Spices symbolize Indonesia. The colors of spices are limited and I struggled hard to find a perfect match for the plumage of the bird. This project has been a real challenge for me as I had never drawn with spices before, and I had to do lots of trial before the final piece."

Learning from others is one the keys to the success of these workshops. Simon Mortimer, the leader of the workshop's etching work station, says, "The focus was on giving students from different schools the same collective artistic experience, but more importantly, to allow them to have fun experimenting with different media and techniques."

Harwin agrees adding that she believes that both teachers and students got the chance to grow. She says, "There is a great diversity of international and national teachers, different ages, yet with a common focus… We all have our own individual strengths and weaknesses, so we pick up lots of helpful advice.”

For further information about joining an art club or school contact JATI at, Mitra Rahardi Prana Art School at 719-4715 or Kelas Melukis Yudacitra Art Classes at 719-1042.

Until next column,

Happy Creating,


This article was originally published Nov. 11, 2007 in The Jakarta Post.

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