Colour the walls

Updated: Jul 07, 2019, 11:46 IST | Jane Borges | Mumbai

An art-lover and her team are getting kids from low-income groups to transform their learning spaces with murals that inspire

Alisha Aranha's Instagram page is a treat to browse through. A nude woman flying into space, a couple that she spied on at a beach, a Goan aunty selling choriz at a market, or the random doodle. There is always variety. Her art, though, is the world where she escapes into. When not sketching, the 31-year-old economics graduate freelances as a stockbroker and copy editor for research papers. "Growing up, I developed a deep connection with the visual arts, and it became a point of expression for me," says Aranha. "But, while I wanted to pursue it professionally, back then, my parents didn't think art education was a viable profession. They wanted me to take up something that guaranteed me a pay cheque." Her inability to join art school or the absence of a mentor, however, didn't stop Mumbai-based Aranha from immersing herself into her passion.

Not only did she continue to engage in it while juggling her 9 to 5 job, in 2013, she also started Scribble Foundation, with the simple idea of "providing accessibility to a good art teacher" to kids from low-income backgrounds. "I knew several government schools didn't have an art teacher, let alone an art budget," Aranha recalls. Driven by the desire to expose young minds to a world of possibilities, Aranha with the support of her art graduate friends led painting workshops at shelters and child-care centres in the city. A year later, she launched the Classroom Canvas Project, which has since, travelled the length and breadth of the country, where she gets kids to collaborate with artists to paint the corridors and walls of their shelters and classrooms.

Alisha Aranha
Alisha Aranha

"A lot of low-income schools have very poor infrastructure. The objective was to give children positive, warm and vibrant learning environments," says Aranha, adding, that she and her slowly-expanding team of like-minded artists decided to make aesthetic and infrastructural changes in these spaces by getting children, who belonged there, to become collaborators in this vision.

Scribble Foundation first shortlisted these schools, and then started by raising funds on social media to "hire masons to scrape down the walls and paint it". "We then invited artists who have experience in painting murals to re-imagine these spaces," she adds.

"Usually, the artists begin with an orientation, where they meet the kids, understand the environment and then conduct a drawing activity," says Aranha. She gives the example of the project the team recently did at the Udaan Community Centre in Malvani, Malad. "As part of the orientation for the artists, we walked them through the community to get a sense of where the kids come from and the kind of spaces they live in. This helps them figure what their mural could be like. For instance, artist Nandan Joshi did an activity where he told the kids to talk about their superpowers and draw it out on paper. He then took those portraits and re-created the same on the walls. So, you have someone playing the guitar or playing a mobile game."

Children paintingChildren are encouraged to collaborate to create the murals in their classrooms and corridors

Scribble Foundation has completed 10 projects across Mumbai, Goa, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu, where they have painted murals in 21 classrooms and five corridors. What this has also done is motivated children to come to school, says Aranha. "There is a sense of ownership. They do not only become consumers of the environment, but also co-creators. Most importantly, they have a say, in creating their learning space."

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