What did I do over my summer break? I went to India! It was my first time (and likely the only time) but it became an opportunity for India arts education and art appreciation. It all started with shopping at a local mall in Pune to attire myself for my friend’s wedding. The fabrics, the handiwork, the block designs, the tie-dye, the embroidery, the colors, the accessories – it all overwhelmed me and blew me away. I’ve never seen such artistry in clothing stores in a mall before.
Next came the weekend of wedding festivities in Goa. It started with the Mehendi where amazing artists drew elaborate designs over the hands and arms of the bride and many other women there for the celebrations. Even the groom received a design on his palms with the initials of the bride hidden within the design. I was overwhelmed with the talent, patience, and beauty of this art and the artists who made it. That was followed by the blessing ceremony rich with flowers, water, fire, symbolism, and chanting.
Later there was singing and dancing – some planned, some spontaneous, some traditional and some modern, but all beautiful. Finally, all joined in the dance. The weekend ended with a day of traditions: turmeric paste applied to the bride and groom in the morning to give them a glow; turbans tied onto the heads of the men right before the wedding ceremony; the groom and his friends and family following drummers to process into the wedding singing and dancing all the way; the wedding ceremony itself with the richness of the flowers, the colorful and elaborate clothing, the traditions of the ceremony; and more singing and dancing late into the night.
My journey in India arts education ended with a 5-day tour of a few cities: Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi. In each, I was able to savor the architecture of buildings created hundreds of years before most buildings in my home country. The ingenuity of the architects to create natural ways to heat and cool while never losing track of the aesthetics was mind-blowing. The tour guides helped to educate us tourists explaining the significance of the decorative features that included Hindi, Muslim and Christian symbolism in the architectural designs.
India arts education also took us to emporiums and craft “cottages” who take you in, educate you in the craft, have you meet some of the artisans at work, give you refreshments and then have you relax as they show you their wares. Brilliant. Being educated in what goes into the creating the block prints, the hand-knotted rugs, the marble work with each part of a flower requiring at least 3 small hand-cut pieces of stone not only educates you but makes you a more willing supporter of the art form.
From beginning to end, my trip was a feast for the senses from the colorful and intricate saris that women wore to do household chores or run errands down to the marble work in my hotel room or the decorative bowls of flowers floating on water in the lobby washrooms. I literally spent hours just taking in the beauty of the art around me and could have just sat and taken in more if I’d had more time.
I know that there is art in my everyday life here in the United States as well – that everything I use and wear was designed by someone and required some artistry at some point in its creation but India arts education is truly an art appreciation.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.