On a Sunday afternoon, the children at Udhaya Bhavan showed us the models of houses they’d made from ice-cream sticks, smiling with pride. Each house had a picture of what he/she wanted to become when they grow up. Some wanted to be policemen, some movie stars, some even artists. Through this exercise, they learned techniques of painting. But most importantly, they were able to freely express themselves through art. This was one of the many workshops conducted by The Art Outreach Society (TAOS).
TAOS is a non-profit organization in Kochi that strives to bring about a positive change to society through art. They use art as a tool for emotional healing and to facilitate communal and social understanding, which they achieve through several workshops and art therapy sessions
TAOS founder, Tanya Abraham, realized that she wanted to start the organisation after experiencing the healing effects of art herself. “I’d always wanted to start an organisation to promote art therapy but something was holding me back—maybe the fear of failure. Then I attended a workshop and felt something loosening within me. And I knew I had to start TAOS.” she says.
Tanya points out that in today’s fast-paced life, where so much importance is given to science and technology, we often overlook the impact and importance art can have in our lives. “Art Therapy is an excellent way to approach the subject of emotional health. It is a practical and good way to approach mental health in our country where we don’t talk about it at all. Besides, art is about creativity. Human beings are born creative, creativity is in us all. In a way, creativity is God, and it’s spiritual. It can bring emotional healing as prayer does”, says Tanya.
Education syllabuses today do not often provide for creativity, and often undermine the role art plays in the development of a child. TAOS identifies these problems and their workshops prove just how vital art is for the overall development of a child. “ TAOS is doing a great service to society by providing exposure and opportunities to schools that cannot afford education in the arts. Art education instills confidence and in turn, leadership skills; students are able to process visual information effectively and this helps in the study of other subjects too.’’ says Sister Lissy, the Principal of Our Ladies Convent Girls High School. TAOS is tied up with several schools around the city and has conducted several workshops and talks by prominent artists like Brazilian origami artist Maira Gouveia.
TAOS doesn’t just focus on children alone; they also run art therapy sessions and workshops for adults, especially women. Last year, a Women’s Empowerment Workshop was organized by TAOS in collaboration with Edmundo Dos Santos, an art therapist from Barcelona. The workshop involved understanding a woman’s life in terms of relationships, desires, and needs, and emphasized the importance of letting go of negative emotions.
All images credit: Facebook
Written by Theresa Sebastian Tharakan