Little Artists Art Studio: Talent In All Forms
Shalini Kapoor is confident of her ability as an art educator. “I believe that I can teach anyone. Even those who are not interested—I can show them the magic”, she tells me, laughing.
It’s a surprisingly strong statement coming from the gently spoken, kohl-eyed artist sitting across from me, yet I sense the clarity of conviction and purpose behind her words. And as a glowing testament to her ethos, Little Artists Art Studio, the art school that she founded and runs, is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The occasion is being marked with an exhibition of 258 works by Shalini’s students at the National Gallery Singapore, showcasing the artistic creations of 2.5- to 17-year-olds, including some with special needs. The pieces feature a wide range of mediums including sculpture, painting, photography and linocuts, and Shalini is quick but firm to preface that one will not be able to discriminate between the quality of art work by her students, special needs or otherwise.
Shalini is a firm believer that creating art is not only for the naturally gifted. Instead, it is through proper exposure and training—the opening of minds and the building of confidence—that artists are made. She tells me, “As a visual medium, art is a very strong means of communication. It’s a soft but effective way to develop conceptual thinking and expression of thoughts and one’s self in society. A great artist is a deep thinker: someone who works originally and with no inhibitions or worry about their skills, simply knowing that they have thoughts which they would like to place on the table. An artist should have lots to communicate.”
With communication as key, Shalini’s teaching is part of a cause that lies close to her heart. Banking on her background in art therapy and strong experience working with both the young and mental health patients, she’s witnessed the holistic benefits of how art can help students from as young as 2.5-years-old, as well as those who suffer from conditions such as stuttering, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder), dyslexia and even schizophrenia.
“My first step when meeting and teaching somebody is to make them believe in themselves. Our special needs students often suffer from issues of low self-esteem, because their conditions affect comprehension and performance in core subjects like English and Math at school. Being able to focus and shine in a subject like art, helps them believe in their capabilities. Their overall performance at school also improves, because even though they still struggle, they’re calmer and less stressed out. Building confidence starts a positive cycle and I’ve seen fantastic results.”
Numerous former students of Little Artists Art Studio have gone on to earn sought-after places at schools such as Pratt Institute, Parsons School of Design and New York University, and hold successful careers in various fields ranging from film-making and illustration to environmental design and branding. They credit it to the skills that they first picked up under Shalini’s guidance, and she shares with me her secrets. “Art teaches one to become more solution-oriented. You don’t give up as easily and try different means and ways to achieve your results, melting away rigidity in thought. We allow our children to take risks, make mistakes, and support them when things are not perfect. It goes a long way into turning them into self-starting individuals who are not afraid of risk.”
On her greatest lesson as an educator, Shalini acknowledges that “sometimes we make quick, easy judgements on somebody else’s abilities. We think that they are limited only to a certain level, but our students constantly surprise me with their capabilities, which reminds me of the importance of staying open to and accepting of possibilities.”
Little Artists Art Studio’s latest project with a social cause will serve the underprivileged. “We did a workshop for MOM last year, working with children from a home, and it was one of my most memorable experiences,” she says, adding that even though the children in the workshop were only 7 to 9 years old, the “level of keenness, concentration and talent that they consistently displayed”, was something that she had never witnessed before in her career.
In addition, Shalini is also working on sponsoring three of them in their studies, with the aim of grooming them to apply for art school in the future. “We want them to land up in roles that match their talents, and I also want to show others the turnaround, hoping that can provoke a difference. One person alone cannot change things, but a larger society can”, Shalini shares.
As an artist and an educator, Shalini’s message is one of openness, enablement, and possibilities. “I hold no requirements of my students. As long as I feel that I can make a difference in somebody’s life through art, I am willing to take them under my wings. I’ve accepted students with no abilities in art, or interest, even, and the only requirement that I have is for myself. I want to know that any child or individual who’s been to my studio must leave with the knowledge that they can do art.”
“LAUREATES Exhibition” by Little Artists Art Studio will be held on 2nd and 3rd September 2017, at the National Gallery Singapore from 11 a.m. onwards.
Tickets cost $5. For more information, please visit www.little-artists.com.