WESTERLY, Rhode Island- For a small gathering of elementary and middle school children assembled in Jordan, a pivotal art lesson can become so much more than creating pretty colors on a page-it can become an enriching act that transcends economic barriers and brings enlightenment in the form of colorful innovation.
This captures the philosophy of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts (JNGFA) in Amman, which launches a Touring Museum every Tuesday in hopes of increasing visual literacy among Jordanians who have little exposure to fine art.
According to accomplished artist Suheil Baqaueen, addressing the impact of art is a proactive step in rebuilding a shattered community. “Art is a fundamental part of life… something that enriches life for everyone,” he said.
As a country hindered by poverty and economic downfalls, Jordan’s overall focus on art as serving any sort of value or benefit to society as a whole is rather limited. As a result, many citizens live rather indifferently towards art, and many school’s curriculum even neglect to introduce it as a subject.
The Museum’s mission statement aspires to “encourage cultural diversity, disseminate artistic knowledge and promote art from the Islamic and Developing worlds.”
In hopes of filling this gap in art education, the Touring Museum fills a van with art supplies and paintings and travels to schools, orphanages, rehabilitation centers, refugee camps, youth centers and juvenile centers.
Once there, instructors disembark from the van and proceed to channel the Touring Museum’s mission in encouraging art appreciation.
To showcase art in its raw, impactful form, workshops are conducted by individuals who are impassioned to lift their students out of their familiar, trite realities and introduce them to a new experience where they are encouraged to free their mind and imagination.
These workshops take a fun, light-hearted approach to art, as they aspire to show students the liberation one can achieve in art and all of the opportunities it can free up.
Baqaueen has conducted such an art workshop, in Ajloun, Jordan, a town 30 miles northwest of Amman. Armed with pastels, easels and museum paintings to draw upon as a reference, he instructed his students to paint either what they felt internally or what they observed externally.
The children eagerly took to their tasks-with much delight and enthusiasm.
The end result?
According to New York Times reporter Alana Chloe Esposito, who first-hand witnessed the class in session, many of the finished art products depicted the children’s homes, friends, and families-as well as providing a bit of insight into their hopes and dreams.
For Khaled Khreis, the gallery’s main director, it is this insight that can inspire a positive revolution among the young community.
“I want the JNGFA to be alive and to reach all kinds of people,” said Khreis. “That’s why we bring the art outside the museum’s walls and into different communities.”
The Touring Museum runs in coordination with the Education Ministry and is financially supported by the Ministries of Culture and Planning and International Cooperation.
– Kate Boisvert