Celebrating Creativity, Inclusivity and Equality through Apeejay Anand Children’s Library’s annual Art Workshop

By Rita Chatterjee

My life has been about children – shaping, changing minds and building character. Annually, I meet more than 1000 new kids and what we do with them brings me great joy. This year too, the Art Workshop, was organised on 26th February by Apeejay Anand Children’s Library Kolkata in commemoration and celebration of the birth anniversary of Anand Paul. The 2020 edition of the Art Workshop saw students splashing and sketching with panache, letting their thoughts and creativity flow free and expressing themselves in a vibrant and jocund way.

Art Workshop 2020 held at the lawns of Apeejay House in Park Street

Organised in the precincts and ground of Apeejay House Lawns on Park Street, the workshop is like a festival that commemorates the birthday of Anand Paul. With the desire to reach out to the lesser privileged, his sister Ms Priti Paul, Director, Apeejay Surrendra Group conceptualized and initiated the venture of opening the doors of Apeejay Anand Children’s library to the children of the slums in 1992 and in the following year, the Art Workshop was launched.

The Art Workshop this year, espousing the theme, “रंगों का खेला, खुशियों का मेलाRango ka Khela, Khushiyon ka Mela”, saw thousands of children from the city and its peripheral areas, both from mainstream institutions and NGOs, explore the world of shades and hues, thus inspiring the insipid society to view the world in meaningful and variegated colours. Participating schools and organizations included Laxmipat Singhania Academy, Loreto (Sealdah), South Point School, Sri Sri Academy, Manovikas Kendra , Ideal School for Deaf, Rainbow project, Children Welfare, CINI Kolkata Unit Association, Pratham Padaskhep(Special), and FOCUS and the list goes on.

The children on the lawns, under the blue sky, displayed their imaginative and creative skills by conceptualizing the theme in graphic form and riot of colours achieved through mixing of paints on the umbrellas provided to them by Apeejay Anand Children’s Library using the quaint world of their imagination, resplendent in yellow, green, red and blue, depicting diverse designs.

Each umbrella depicted a concept directly from the imagination of the child!

Mr. Bimal Kundu, painter, sculptor, winner of Shera Bangali 2019 and several other national awards, graced the occasion as the chief guest and motivated the budding artists by sharing his valuable inputs. The accomplished Mr Kundu has a long association with the Group dating back more than a decade. He had designed the trophy for the Group’s pioneering Apeejay India Volunteer Awards 2011, a first-of-its-kind premier national recognition focused on celebrating, rewarding and promoting individuals who volunteer, NGOs with best volunteer engaging policies and corporates with best employee volunteer programs in India. Here he speaks about his 10 year old association with Apeejay Surrendra Group thanking Apeejay School, its patrons, teachers and parents for inviting him as Chief Guest to the 28th Art Workshop organized by Apeejay Anand Children’s Library at Apeejay House today.

Bimal Kundu speaking about his 10 year old association with the Art Workshop

Other eminent judges of the workshop included the contemporary artists of the city like Srimati Chandrima Roy, Sri Sujit Ghosh, Sri Samir Sarkar, Sri Shyamal Roy, Sri Ranadeep Das, Sri Debotosh Kar, Sri Partha Dasgupta, Sri Volanath Rudra, Sri Srikanta Paul, Sri Soumen Khanrui, and SriDevitMalakar. The judges enjoyed watching the children recreate original and unique designs and had to face the challenge of selecting the best painted umbrellas after deep analysis and evaluation of every art work.

The kids became Show Stoppers bringing the passersby on Park Street to a stand still!

The Art workshop is a wonderful platform for the gifted children to be absorbed for further studies in Arts, which is funded by the Apeejay Education Trust. This celebration, over the years, has spread its wings and reached out to the hundreds of children in Delhi, Gurgaon alongside Kolkata and Chennai. The Apeejay Anand Children’s Library, Kolkata working under the guidance of Ms. Priti Paul, Director, Apeejay Surrendra Group, undertakes several initiatives to help the urban and poor children in the various metropolises.

It was time for the colours to dry up on the umbrellas, as the creatively vigorous day, reached its end with the prize distribution ceremony. The awards and certificates given out, were not only limited to 1st, 2nd and 3rd categories but also included Certificates of Appreciation, Best Effort, Librarian’s Choice, Judges Choice, and Most Promising candidate. The winners stood proud as they received their prizes from the panel of judges. Credit for this new idea of expanding the Art Workshop awards goes to a little child whose desire to be recognized gave birth to the expanded appreciations. Appreciation acts as a booster and when brought into the fold of merit encourages kids, fills them with enthusiasm and makes them value Imagination – unique and precious to each one of us – and is the value that is at the core of and driven with love every day at Apeejay Anand Children’s Libraries. Im happy to see Art Workshop expand every year with new ideas just like the Apeejay Anand Children’s Library’s footprint does,

The winners of the 28th Art Workshop on 26th Feb 2020 were:

  • Akalsha Ghosh -Loreto Day School – 1st Prize
  • Chabi Biswas -Bali Chorus- 2nd Prize
  • Zarin Khatoon- ApeejayAnand Children’s Library – 3rd Prize
  • Lenia Chatterji- Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan- Certificate of Appreciation
  • Debasmi Bhowmick- Delhi Public School Ruby ParkPrize for Judges Choice
  • Pooja Chokraborty – Bali Chorus- Most Promising prize
  • Zenia Bhattacharya- Modern High School- Prize for Best Effort
  • Rizwana      Khatoon – Smt Jahar Nandi Vidyapeeth– Prize for Librarian’s Choice

The acclaim and appreciation enthralled the kids, filling them with renewed zeal. A gift hamper – containing a tube of toothpaste, a pencil box with stationary, a tiffin box with a slice of cake, a perk bar, a packet of biscuits, wafer chips, an art book, art worksheets, crayons,  puzzle boards, rubric’s cube, paper mask, ball, camel colours, chocolates, fruit juice, a packet of noodles and much more along with the self-painted umbrella – was gifted to all the children as a token of appreciation for their sincere effort and to recognise the spirit of participation that is in no way any less than winning.

The officials and teachers associated with Apeejay Anand Children’s Library, council members, and staff were seen putting their best foot forward, making the event a spectacular success as was evident from the smiling faces of the participants. The press, that came, was delighted at the enthusiasm of the inclusivity and the children’s’ involvement and could not but comment about the immense significance this event has on these tender lives. Here’s what Sanmarg’s camera caught.

Lovely moments captured by Sanmarg’s camera – virtual tour – as 1200 odd kids from 74 schools and NGOs of the City of Joy set Apeejay Headquaters abuzz with their creativity

Apeejay Anand Children’s Library, an Education Support Program, was incorporated in 1992 in Kolkata in the loving memory of Priti, Priya and Karan Paul’s brother Anand Paul [1972-1989]. Conceptualized as a visually exciting and happy space that draws kids in, Apeejay Anand Children’s Library has, over the years, become stimulating learning stations and a safe haven that protects children’s reveries and gives flight to what they had thought were just fanciful day dreams. The books in the library are donated by the Group’s bookstore chain, Oxford Bookstore, and the joy of reading and literature is also open at numerous shelter homes across India – in Delhi – NCR, at a 24 hours shelter home for Boys, a 24 hours shelter home for girls run by Salaam Baalak Trust in Gurugram and at a 24 hour shelter home for girls in Najafgarh; in Kolkata’s Khidirpur Docks in a Shelter Home run by ApneAap and in Chandigarh at a Shelter Home run by Vatsal Chaya Trust.

With the winds of change felt in the arrival of spring, the Art workshop, has become the symbol of celebration of colours amidst dreariness, creativity amidst discord. A testimony to the value of inclusivity, and unquestioned acceptance, the workshop gave the students an opportunity to paint the rainbow of happiness and freedom, breaking all boundaries, in the clear blue Kolkata sky, and to realise their potential.

Rita Chatterjee is Principal and Administrator, Apeejay Schools

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