During a two-week intensive credit course on “Multicultural Issues in Art Therapy” with graduate students from NYC's School of Visual Arts (SVA), we explored humility and cultural understanding in many meaningful ways. Art was our common vehicle for meeting, playing, learning and reflecting realities. The common dynamic of an educated foreigner imposing knowledge onto the local population was reversed, consciously putting local women and children in positions of strength and leadership. Traditional art forms were explored and appreciated in new ways by all, facilitating empowerment and connection within short-term work together. Our exchange successfully provided experiential awareness of themes including hierarchy, power, privilege, poverty, disability, and biases; all regularly processed in supervision/class sessions. Each student brought curiosity, sensitivity and a presence that continues to have a positive ripple effect in and around our community.
One of many insights highlighted by this group (and particularly relevant to life in Auroville), is the deep connection between meditation and art therapy. Both aim to establish awareness and acceptance, often articulated without words. Especially within the context of community, awareness and acceptance of the self is just as important as discovering both in others. A meditation practice naturally evolved to be included several times throughout most days in the program, allowing us to joyously and collectively embody consciousness together.
Many joined us for our culminating process-based exhibition, including response pieces and the co-creation of a mandala with flowers and grains. Several Tamil neighbors entered Auroville for the first time in the role of participant instead of a worker, being able to engage in an art activity and gathering based in true equality among all ages, genders, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and cultures. I will accompany and present our work in NYC when this exhibition is replicated at SVA in NYC this October! We will collaborate with SVA in another program in the summer of 2016, and we invite inquiries about engaging more Aurovilians with these students.
Gratitude to Iyyappan Jayamurthy for coordination, organization and generous sharing of local wisdom; our angelic volunteer Sarah Wray from Australia for so naturally complementing our vision and needs; Ilango and Purushotem for smiling while supporting us throughout; Joy GH team for accommodating and integrating us into the campus community; to the students and faculty of the SVA MPS Art Therapy program for traveling here and opening the doors for mutual learning; to the women and staff of Life Education Center for our increasingly meaningful collaboration over the past 4 years; to the people of Bharatipuram/Kottakarai and other surrounding villages who bravely joined us at the Art Cart and events in the last two weeks; Kalsang & Namgyal for holding what we shared so spontaneously in the sacred Pavilion of Tibetan Culture; Rubi & Shilpi for help with saris, Edo for photos; and to the extended community of Auroville for welcoming and providing the platform for this exchange to be possible.
This program was a long-envisioned dream in recent years, and the first major effort in a more active bridge between my life in NYC and Auroville. If this much is possible with our art center still in progress (but nearly there!), imagine the possibilities once we finally have our own base for activities. Looking forward to deepening this global intention of mutual learning through art in the coming months and years!
-Krupa for Sankalpa: Art Journeys,
a sub-unit of Thamarai, Auroville
a sub-unit of Thamarai, Auroville