An international artist in residence program is bringing joy to students with disabilities affected by lockdowns in Melbourne.
Hygenia Lobo, teacher at VMCH’s St Paul’s College specialist school in Balwyn, was inspired to think outside the square during lockdown 4.0 and help lift the spirits of her six students.
She contacted three artist friends, Alisha Aranha and Nandan Joshi, who both live in Mumbai, and Savanthi Jayawickrema from Melbourne, to run online artist in residence classes.
“The past lockdowns had a significant impact on our students’ learning and the fourth and sudden lockdown got me thinking more about the personal and social wellbeing of my students,” Hygenia said.
“I wanted to bring something different and creative to my online classes. Since all my students love art, the idea of bringing guest artists online was a perfect way to meaningfully engage and connect them to their learning and interests.”
The sessions were a hit, with students embracing the opportunity to express themselves through art and connect with their new artist friends.
“I liked painting with Nandan,” Lola (pictured below left) said. “I made a ladybug using markers. He made it easy to draw. It was nice.”
Liyuan said: “I liked painting with Alisha because the scribbles are fun to do. I used water paint with two colours. I can’t wait to do it again!”
Artist and budding children’s writer Nandan, whose homeland India has been hit hard by the pandemic, said the program was a “rich experience”.
“The pandemic has not been easy. I look for ways to help, learn, engage with children and animals in this time. It keeps me going. Hygu’s program was an opportunity to do something for children with my skills.”
Alisha agreed. “The program is a fantastic learning opportunity, not just for the students but also for the artists. If anything, the pandemic has helped do away with geographical boundaries, especially in terms of exchanges related to the arts and education.”
Savanthi described the experience as “joyous beyond words”. “The children were engaging and all of them created beautiful art unique to everyone. It’s an experience I will never forget. I loved it.”
Hygenia plans to make the program ongoing. Nandan and Alisha would like to create a storybook with students, featuring their illustrations.
“This opens up a whole new world for students, they get to engage with artists from other parts of the world, immersing them with new experiences and culture,” Hygenia said. “It allows students to connect and create art that has meaning to them.”