The Art Outreach Society in Kerala is using art as a tool to improve the emotional health of children

The founder of the The Art Outreach Society speaks about shaping education with a steady focus on creativity
The organisation’s motto is to foster ‘Minds of innovation and well being through the arts’
The organisation’s motto is to foster ‘Minds of innovation and well being through the arts’

As novel as the work The Art Outreach Society (TAOS) has been doing may seem, its Founder-Director, Tanya Abraham insists that their vision was one that Indian culture had embraced years ago. The organisation was born with the simple and determined vision to use creativity as a tool for innovative thinking and developing the emotional health of children. Tanya explains, “Yes, this is a completely new concept of bringing art education into schools and it’s very important. However, in ancient Indian culture, this concept was very prominent. We’ve sort of lost it now.” And if nothing else, TAOS is determined to bring it back.

“The point is that we need creativity right from a very young age because it has been proven that you can enhance a child’s intelligence with the help of any form of art,” begins Tanya. “When children continuously work on art education, there is a certain fine-tuning that happens in their brains, they get accustomed to innovative thinking. So you learn how to think outside the box and to solve problems. That is what we are doing with the government schools here.” 

COLOUR LINES: TAOS focuses on four main art programmes

TAOS has four main programmes that come under it: Art Education, Art Appreciation, Art and Health, and Community Building. The organisation has developed its own art education curriculum through years of research and on-the-field experience. Professionally trained art educators are also on board and they work personally with the children. The other side of what TAOS does is using creativity for emotional health. “EQ is as important as IQ for success and that’s a fundamental belief that our work is centred around,” says Tanya. “So we have psychologists and art therapists who work actively with us to help in the formation of this curriculum.”

The organisation’s work is based on a volunteer-based system. Their work is focused on schools that may not be able to afford an art education programme. “The point is that creativity is such a powerful tool but it has been ignored by schools, parents and society as a whole. We are basing the importance of this on the fact that we are heading towards an economic future where everything will be technologically tuned. Technology itself will need more innovative minds to develop it further. So unless we have that capacity as human beings to think differently, we won’t get that far ahead.”

START SMART: The programme partners with schools around Kochi

“Since we create the curriculum, we shift it around depending on who the audience is. In fact, there is a different curriculum for each age group within the organisation,” says Tanya. TAOS also works with juvenile inmates at Kakkanad prison. In such environments, the organisation focuses less on art education and more on being more delicate and making sure that psychologists are more involved. She continues, “We work with a similar concept of enhancing creativity and focus on giving them the ability to push forward in life.”

Tanya says, “That is the basic crux of what the organisation represents: bringing communities together. We bring different schools, social circles, and economic backgrounds together in this attempt to embrace true creativity. And at the end of the day, all this helps in the overall growth of the children.” Some of the schools have children who have special needs. “We’ve seen in these children that they are more inclusive now and their attention span has improved. If it can create this sort of shift, the effect on the average education curriculum would be phenomenal,” she says.

“Unless we have the creative side fueled with the kids, we’re are going to have a very stagnant education system,” states Tanya. “Children are not the same, but in terms of creativity, all human beings are naturally inclined towards it.” And with the brand of outreach that TAOS represents, let’s hope that such ignorance is short-lived.

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