From illustrating storybooks to textbooks, Srivi Kalyan discovered that art can play a crucial role in children’s education
Srivi Kalyan has numerous stories to tell about how children express themselves through art. Artist, illustrator, educator, graphic designer, writer and poet (closet dancer too!), she has not only illustrated and written stories and textbooks for children, but also used her multifarious skills to teach children.
Even as an undergraduate student at Stella Maris College, Srivi would illustrate textbooks and other academic publications. After completing her Masters in Graphic Design, she taught at a school in Chikmagalur for a couple of years. It is then that Srivi illustrated her first children’s book Hanuman’s Adventures in the Nether World for Katha Publications. “After illustrating a few more storybooks, I began working with the NCERT to illustrate primary school textbooks (Standards II to V),” she says. “They were looking at changing the way math was taught and brought in colourful elements into the textbooks. This made me realise what I could do in the field of children’s education.”
Around 10 lakh textbooks are distributed among children every year. “The reach my books enjoy is inspiring,” says Srivi. “I enjoyed art even as a child and learnt all that I know through it. When I saw that the role played by art in school education was minimal — people felt it was something that could be removed from the curriculum — I was sad. What you learn through art is amazing; you learn to express your emotions in different ways.”
“Before I entered the field of education, I wanted to learn the process. There were so many thoughts and ideas I needed to understand,” says Srivi. This was when she discovered the Arts in Education programme at Harvard. “It looked at the philosophy of art. They don’t teach you to teach but to look at different ways of engaging with students and their projects, and developing a curriculum. The focus was more on learning than the system.” It was a nine-month programme that introduced Srivi to another world. “There were sculptors, poets, dancers, artists and people from diverse backgrounds. The kind of intelligence that I came across was remarkable. You could discuss any idea there.”
When she returned, Srivi joined Sesame Street, where she worked on creating educative media for less privileged children. “We looked at how children could learn concepts and produced 18 kits in five years. This was based on the Galli Galli Sim Sim television programme. These kits were used by children in Government-run schools,” she explains.
After working with Katha, Puffin, Tulika, Oxford Bookstore, Reader’s Digest and Manoj Prakashan, and writing and illustrating around 40 books, Srivi started FooniFerse, an art collective, in 2009. “FooniFerse is about bringing together people from different fields and working with them through art. It looks at art as a tool for social change and hopes to provide a 360-degree view of all the arts,” she says. She is currently putting the website together.
Srivi teaches children creative writing, besides working on other design projects. She is co-authoring a book on art. Her passion for Nature is also evident in her work. “My art has elements of Nature in it. I think it is important for children to be able to experience Nature,” she says, “My vision is to help people express themselves through art. All cannot express themselves through painting or drawing alone. There are other ways too — prose, poetry and dance. The idea is to connect people through the arts.”