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Inside Sarwat Gilani’s Art House

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By US Desk
Fri, 05, 22

Very passionately to Us during the interview, remained attentive to the kids who came up to her to talk or showcase their work....

Inside Sarwat Gilani’s Art House

COVER STORY

Art House by Sarwat Gilani creatively reflects the positive energy of its founder, Sarwat Gilani. On our visit, we were pleasantly surprised by its ambiance. Actors often choose the field of fashion when they venture out into entrepreneurship. It’s rare to see one to not just lend their name but also be actively involved in a project, more so if the project is related to art education. Sarwat, who talked about her brainchild very fondly, very passionately to Us during the interview, remained attentive to the kids who came up to her to talk or showcase their work.

Us: What inspired Art House project?

SG: During the lockdown due to Covid-19, I started arts and crafts classes online. The interaction with the audience made me realise that there was a large gap between the children and parents in this day and age. Mothers would ask me how I kept my kids “involved and engaged”. The feedback showed that as a nation we were starved for some healthy activities for our children, clueless how to encourage them to take interest in arts and crafts. Art House was created as a space where holistic learning could take place. As an artist, my emphasis was on learning through play for the young ones. As a parent, my aim was to help fathers and mothers with conscious parenting.

It’s like the quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn!” Everyone at the Art House is invited to explore what interests them, to inquire and engage. Programmes like self-defence create awareness through storytelling, discussing topics such as ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ that parents usually shy away from.

Us: In your opinion, what role does art play in our lives and why are such spaces important for our society?

SG: When we look at other countries, we see that community service is a very significant part of people’s lives there. They care about their society; they are enthusiastic to learn about and take care of their environment, to teach underprivileged kids, etc. We hardly see it practiced in Pakistan. Art House is a place where we ensure children develop emotionally, skillfully, and socially. Let’s suppose the activity of the day is to make a bird (using a paper plate), then rest assured it’s not just the creative side of the children that’s being nurtured since it also initiates a conversation on installing of bird feeders at our homes, helping them understand why it’s critical and how it can be managed. Similarly, if it’s a water-based activity, then it’s not all play and fun that’s happening; there’s also academic knowledge that’s being imparted as well by teaching them to appreciate nature, to save water in whatever ways they can, to count their blessings if they have access to clean, drinking water and provide it to those who cannot afford to buy it. So, consequently, they become responsible individuals and valued members of our society.

A commonly held belief is art is only games whereas in reality art is another very important subject, which you need to teach yourself. It can be associated with Math, with Science, with any and all subjects that are taught formally. Learning actually becomes quite easy when you use art, because it broadens your imagination and helps you see things with different perspectives. That is what I love about art: art is not in a box. It opens your mind and makes you see things that you couldn’t see before. It’s magic and I think that magic is important in everybody’s life.

Inside Sarwat Gilani’s Art House

Us: Is Art House inclusive?

SG: Yes! Having worked with Kiran Foundation and also currently as the ambassador of Special Olympics Pakistan, I felt the need of a place where children get to interact with differently abled or neurodivergent children (an experience that they don’t get at mainstream schools). We have special days to cater to children with special needs. We’ve literally had parents here, crying, for lack of places in our country that would accommodate their child(ren) with special needs. It was a very overwhelming experience for me, one which made me firm in my resolve to provide a service that would cater to everyone. By everyone, I mean everyone – the underprivileged, the hearing-impaired, the ones with Down Syndrome, the autistic ones, and others. Simply put, my belief is that art is not exclusive to those who can ‘afford’ it, those who belong to elite families living in Defence; no, it’s equally for those who live in other, far-flung areas of the city, belonging to a lower socio-economic stratum of our society. Because I’ve seen how pure and unbiased those kids are and I love working with them!

There are nine comprehensive programmes being offered at the Art House by Sarwat Gilani:

1. Arts and crafts – Here, children are invited to peep through the lens of design so that they learn to identify and apply the various aspects of decorative or functional art to almost all activities, problems, and even simple decisions very early in life.

2. Music – Early exposure to music offers children multi-sensory experiences, speeding up all areas of child development. The music teachers begin the learner’s journey with singing and instruments like piano, violin, and guitar followed by some interesting smaller percussion from different musical traditions.

3. Little chefs - Baking gives a deeper understanding of farm-to-table produce and how to develop healthy eating habits. It also teaches children about safety in the kitchen, encourages experimentation through safe kitchen play, enhances sensory and cultural awareness, and promotes language and basic math skills.

4. Self-defence and boundaries – This programme covers some very pertinent subjects, such as how to set strong verbal boundaries, keeping a safe distance, positive action instead of a negative reaction and how to use an element of surprise to escape or move away from a threatening situation or person. This kind of knowledge empowers children to move through various settings with ease.

5. Robotics and coding – Children learn best by playing with physical objects, i.e. making things, understanding their mechanism and eventually putting them to test. The robotics programme, following a total hands-on learning approach, involves lots of toolkits for the young minds to explore.

6. Archery - Art House looks at this sport as a refined and mindful approach to child development. Archery is the quickest confidence building sport for children. Its greatest impact is felt on the development of hand-eye coordination, which also improves the ability to focus better by aiming and firing the arrows. It improves their patience and presence of mind and offers them a sense of accomplishment.

7. Gardening and pottery - The garden is an interactive playground that engages many senses and gardening, a fascinating activity that encourages children’s innate curiosity about nature and environment. It ignites their sense of wonder. The reason for including pottery in this programme is the manifold learning that takes place through the process of the immersive activity.

8. Yoga and mindfulness - The practice of yoga and aerobics can help achieve a perfect mind and body balance in our young learners, and also inculcate life-long habits of staying fit and healthy.

9. Conscience parenting - This programme helps focus on better communication skills and techniques, through supervised activities, active listening, enabling the awareness of emotional health, and a circle of truth enabling a more comfortable and trusting relationship between each family.

At present, there are two programmes for children with special needs – arts and crafts, and karate.

Besides 10 specialised programme instructors, the team at Art House includes two qualified child therapists to help each child explore their respective strengths and interests.

Other summer camps happening in Karachi

Artrageous 2022

Inside Sarwat Gilani’s Art House

Since 2009, IVS-CEP organizes Summer Artrageous for children and young adults with an aim to unlock their creative potential. Artrageous has become a platform where children can freely explore and develop their creative interests. Ranging from painting forms, pottery, doodling, caricature drawing, creative writing to dance, music, digital storytelling, theatre, photography, animation, origami, paper crafts, embroidery, Artrageous offers a 10-day excitement-filled social and creative experience.

IVS is offering 4 rounds this June and July:

Round 1: May 30 – June 10

Round 2: June 13 – 24

Round 3: June 27 – July 8

Round 4: July 18 – 29

The class timings will be from 10am to 1.30pm every day (in each round). You can enroll in a minimum of two courses. Artrageous is open to 8-15 years old.

STEAM Champ Summer Camp

Inside Sarwat Gilani’s Art House

TDF MagnifiScience Centre is offering science experiments related to everyday life, such as how water can be used as a coolant, role of CO2 in daily life, use of catalyst, etc. Students will also learn how to code a robot to perform specific tasks, and develop their own game. There will be DIY activities, arts and crafts, storytelling sessions and music.

The programme is for three different age groups: 3-6-year-old (mother and toddler programme); 7-12-year-old; and 13-16-year-old.

The cost of the camp is Rs. 12,000.