Published: 23rd October 2019
These five autistic kids in Bengaluru just got their art displayed in Paris. And it's awesome!
Done entirely by youngsters from Sense Kaleidoscopes, an art academy for autistic children, the art was featured at the Outsider Art Fair, after an expert saw some of it at the Kochi Biennale
When Anima Nair and Akshayee Shetty, co-founders of Sense Kaleidoscopes, an art academy in Bengaluru for autistic children, got to know that the paintings of the five youngsters studying at their organisation were selected for the Outsider Art Fair in Paris, they felt a sense of pride and felt that their years of hard work had finally paid off. The lucky youngsters - Ayush Bhambhani, Pranav Nair, Rohit Anand, Kalash Cariappa and Adarsh Shetty - have been studying in this organisation for more than six years now, and currently, 23 of their paintings are on display at this exhibition in Paris. And mind you, their artwork would put even a trained professional artist to shame.
It all started when a few months back when paintings of nine youngsters from Sense Kaleidoscopes got exhibited at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and several international organisations, including the Outsider Art Fair in Paris, noticed their work. Anima says, "Art by many people with autism was exhibited at Kochi Biennale. But we stood out because we adhere to high standards of professionalism. Everything was intricately done and each work of art was nothing short of a marvel. One of the individuals took notice of our art and wrote to us about exhibiting it in Paris. That’s how these five youngsters’ pieces were selected."
Faces on canvas: Adarsh loves to paint portraits
The five budding artists have their own unique styles. While Ayush Bhambhani dabbles in zentangle art, Rohit expresses his experiences through painting - he has been doing this since he was four years old. Pranav makes art using geometric patterns which reflects the way his brain functions. Kalash creates web-like structures which are unique and falls within the realm of abstract art. Adarsh likes to do portraits and he is into monoprints, which is different from digital print.
She was excited about exhibiting the art at Paris until Anima realised that it would be an expensive affair. That’s when they told the organisers that they lack the financial resources to get it to Europe. But by and by Anima and Akshayee were able to raise funds to courier the youngsters' artwork by reframing them. She says, "It was a big challenge for us to take paintings all the way to Paris. It cost us over Rs 1 lakh just to courier these paintings along with insurance and other necessary formalities. Apart from this, we spent Rs 4,000 to reframe each painting in a wooden frame. As it was an expensive affair, only Akshayee was able to travel to Paris and the artists could not go. But, I hope that these paintings are sold in the exhibition. 60 per cent of the money that we get from the sale will be transferred to the children's account and the rest will be used as funds to go to the Outsider Art Fair in New York."
Triangles and circles: Pranav is specialised in making art that consists geometrical figures
Unique curriculum and individual attention
It was the duo's hard work and the effective curriculum they developed at Sense Kaleidoscopes that took the youngsters this far. When we asked Anima about what pushed her to start a school like Sense Kaleidoscopes, she says, "My son is an autistic child and when he was studying in a school, Akshayee has come to conduct a session on developing art and painting skills for autistic kids. I felt that the subject was very interesting. I was very keen to do something on this subject and let my son explore his skills. Hence, in 2013, we got together and started our own art academy that helps autistic kids and youngsters to explore their artistic talents."
While it is true that the main aim of Art Therapy is to calm children and provide an outlet for their sensory needs, the duo has a systematic curriculum like other educational institutions. From drawing a line to colouring them, everything is covered under their curriculum that is ever-evolving. For example, if the kids enjoy doing Madhubani paintings, then the co-founders will include it in their curriculum. Anima says, "One day, we hope to take this curriculum to policymakers and request them to make it a must for children with autism. We want to leave a legacy by implementing it to a large number of people with autism."
Creativity: Ayush Bhambhani's art includes various designs created in a dog
Unlike other institutions, Sense Kaleidoscopes does not force children to learn the curriculum within a specific time frame. Explaining the reason behind it, Anima shares, “Since we deal with autistic kids, every child takes their own time to pick up the skills. Sometimes, we have a 12-year-old child who functions like a six-year-old. In such cases, we need time to find out their interests and explain what is good for them. Many times, we have figured out that most of the parents do not know what their child's interests are. Apart from teaching them, we also help them in merchandising their products. We create a separate portfolio for these students to display their works. All these factors have to sync to see the results that we are getting today.”
Currently, Anima's team caters to the needs of 15 youngsters with autism who belong to the age group of 12 to 23-year-olds. And Ayush has been one of the best examples of how Sense Kaleidoscopes moulds these children. "He was 15 years old when he came to our institution, and he could not even hold a pen or pencil, let alone draw a line. We tried experimenting with different methods to help him realise his potential. One day, Akshayee gave him the Rotring pen that architects use, and he started painting with them. From then on, there was no looking back. He has sold many paintings till date and has earned close to Rs 10 lakh. Whenever new parents visit us, we show them the kind of work Ayush has been doing and how he has evolved in the past five years," smiles Anima.