At Kalpanadham, create art from anything and everything 

Students are encouraged to redefine art with what they create from their imagination at this abode of creativity 
Kalpanadham in Odisha
Kalpanadham in Odisha

Creativity is not only for the artistically inclined, it's for the curious and Kalpanadham is a living, breathing testament to this. How else do you explain how Bhavani, now a student of class IX and the in-house DJ at Kalpanadham, created a functional MP3 player with speakers and spare parts, without any formal training? This is just one instance that reflects the spirit of many others in this classroom converted into a studio space. It is at one of NGO Gram Vikas's oldest residential schools in Kankia village, Odisha which sees mostly tribal children in attendance.  

Wall work: Students with their creative caps on at Kalpanadham

Amongst commonly found material like waste cartoons, used paper, bottles, old National Geographic Magazines and much more, children are encouraged to create. With all this material accessibly stacked, while the expensive material is locked up (more on that later), the point is to stimulate creativity as children must learn to create and draw inspiration from whatever is lying around them. "You don't have to teach them creativity, you just need to provide the ecosystem," says Shalini Krishnan, who came to Odisha from Bengaluru as a SBI Youth for India Fellow and initiated this space. There is no timer above your head, counting the seconds, or intrusive resource personnel — children are just allowed to be their curious self.

Creativity is a much larger umbrella, anybody can be creative. Getting that communicated across the school was really hard

Shalini Krishnan

While being given a room in a resource-crunched school was a blessing, the miracle was winning against mindsets who thought that art was restricted to just painting. On May 7, 2015, a space for this creative outlet was inaugrated. The students, who grow up natural environment and are naturally skilled due to their tribal and hands-on way of life, have been redefining art here since then. At times, high quality resources are purchased using crown funded money for the space. And these innocent children, who may not have even seen a full, tall pencil in their life, sometimes keep these materials to themselves.

Book lovers: Books at the space

But not for long, for the fact that this space is in a residential school comes in play sooner or later, which results in children ratting each other out. The point to be noted here is that the onus lies on the students, (along with the teacher incharge of the studio) who keep each other in check. "It is better that you step back and let them figure out a system that makes sense to them," says Krishnan, who is in California nowadays. The children have the keys to the cupboard and studio and they are the ones who keep a watch, though an occasional disappearance of material is still not new, in which case they are asked to keep it and put it to good use. Gram Vikas’ founder Joe Madiath, principal of the Gram Vikas High School, Kankia Debendra Dash, Manager Co-Curricular Activities Gram Vikas Schools Siddharth Vashist, and Satyabhama Majhi are whom she'd like to thank for playing a major role in managing and sustaining Kalpanadham.

Full shot: Kalpanadham's full view

They are planning for a ‘cross-pollination’, which allows other school students to visit and learn at Kalpanadham, for exchange of creative thoughts and ideas.

Attention all: Students indulging in some face art 

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