Saroj Patel is a designer and artist who last year, travelled to India to establish Project Paintbrush: a scheme encouraging children to explore their creativity and try making art. Here Saroj tells us about her experiences encouraging the children to paint and her desire to bring communities together with art!
Last year, I had the idea of bringing art into the lives of disadvantaged children through organising art projects and providing each child with an art kit of their own. In December, I travelled to India with a small team and organised 3 projects in 3 different towns. With the support of friends, family and the public, we raised money to buy art kits for 200 children in India.
We started in Gujarat. The first project was in the town of Chanod, where we worked with children from the Gyan Sadhana Ashram (Gyan Sadhana meaning “path of knowledge” and Ashram, a term for a spiritual monastery in Indian religions). We painted murals outside the children’s living area. The project consisted of working with young orphaned children and inspiring them to be creative, whilst working with them to paint nature-based murals. These children had never worked with paints or brushes before and it was incredible to see them confidently paint away with such concentration! They did not want to stop.
The next leg of the journey, also in Gujarat, was with children in a village school in Sagra. We ran a painting class where children would work in pairs observing each other and painting their partner’s portrait. We wanted to teach them how to use the paint sets we provided, but also to have fun with each other and express themselves through colour!
The final project was in Mapusa, Goa. We worked with a charity called Goa Outreach, who aim to get street and slum children into schools. It was a great to experience to see the work Goa Outreach do and to meet the children they work with.
One group of children who we worked with lived with their families in small 4 m x 4 m houses and painted murals on the outside of their own homes. The murals brightened up their little street and inspired them to be creative! It was incredible to see how much they enjoyed painting on the walls and how collectively we worked together.
Project Paintbrush gave us an amazing opportunity to get to know children in these small communities in India. We learnt about their personalities and tried to understand their ways of life. It was always the small things that would amaze us, like the stories they would share, the jokes they would tell… Being with them was an incredible experience. The children had real passion and they got really excited just having a paintbrush and some paint; it was heart-warming to see the concentration they devoted to their art. All the kids took it very seriously and wanted to paint the best they could. It was great to see a bunch of loud and excitable children all go quiet and focused while they worked and seeing their inner artist come alive!
Overall we felt the children really loved making art, and we hope to create more projects working with children and taking more people with us to work on these projects.
Written by Saroj Patel
Images courtesy of Saroj Patel