top of page

The Story Of Kalpanadham - Part 4

Author: Shalini Krishnan


Once the summer break was over, around June 20th, the children started trickling in. All back to school. A lot of them travelled for kilometers, literally crossing mountains, rivers from across districts. Parents came to drop off their daughters and sons. They brought different kinds of goodies like rice grains, millet , farm fresh vegetables and fruits and artifacts like brooms made of weed plants, straw woven baskets and fans. A portion of the goodies was donated to the school. It was a norm every family followed. Each donation was noted down in a register.This scene was less of a fair and more of a quiet parting moment. It was harder on the younger ones as they missed their homes a lot more. The elder ones were, in a way, happy to be back with their friends and books. Many of these children help their family in the farms and household chores during the summer break, a time to contribute their bit to their family’s everyday life.

The Kalpanadham Lab space was all set. Stacked with materials : old and new books, used cardboard boxes, crayons, color pencils, paints, brush, lots of sketch notebooks, toys and other local artifacts. The first week of school was a bit quiet. As days passed, children started visiting the lab after school hours. They came to explore this new space and the things it housed. They were intrigued by the openness of the atmosphere, where they were free to access different materials and express themselves. They were shy initially, and as days passed, they started getting more comfortable.

Satyabhama Majhi, a Bhubaneswar based contemporary artist I had met during my early days of the fellowship, agreed to take the first art workshop themed “I have a dream” along with 4 of her students, Sibdas Sengupta, Julius Das, Rupali Ruchismita Kar & Snehalata Maharana, who willingly helped and volunteered. This was part of a community project of Vancouver Biennale, 2014-16 initiated by artist Shweta Bhattad. A 3-day intensive workshop with the use of found and frugal materials, this was the first time the school community was going to experience a workshop that involved the entire school.

We divided the children into 4-5 groups, each led by a an artist. Different mediums were being used – dried grass from neighboring villages, The artist group of 5 worked at multiple locations in the school, each focusing on a theme and medium. At the end of the 3 days, we had 7 installations around the campus, a one-of-its kind experience for the entire school community.

The ‘I have a dream’ workshop proved to be a great starting note to the Kalpanadham Creativity Lab giving a flavour to the community of art can bring togetherness and appreciation.

The participation of students and teachers considerably increased. They started flocking to the lab, inquisitively looking at other students tinkering and exploring.

Every evening we had the lab open for anyone to walk-in, borrow materials of their interest and start their exploration.

The second 10 day workshop we held was rather special. We were able to invite Hari and Deepti, a world renowned husband-wife artist duo based in Mumbai. As part of the art workshop, they conceptualized and painted a wall mural for the studio. The story of the mural was derived from its surroundings – the dreams, aspirations and mindsets of the tribal children living in the school. Amidst the thick jungle, is an astronaut reading a book. The sky lights up, the planets & the stars appear, and along with it all is a giant 4-legged walking telescope. Visit for a detailed account of the mural making. The wall mural painting went on for about 7 days. A wall space of ~25 X 15 feet was first treated by scraping it. The students participated wholeheartedly in the process, covering themselves in dust, head to toe! The tracing and painting of the mural happened over 6 days, in the sultry heat of the July month. Luckily the rain gods waited till we finished. The painting process was open for the entire community. Everyone was invited to participate and contribute their bit of the paint to the mural. Mr. Ajay Baral, the in-house artist at Gram Vikas extended immense support to help finish the mural on time.

While the mural making was the star attraction of their visit, we were able to squeeze in about 3 hours from their busy schedule for a Paper-cut light box workshop, an art that Hari and Deepti are famous for world over. A group of 40 students signed up for the limited space workshop and we had a chock-a-block session. Students were broken into groups of 4 and conceptualized and implemented their concept.

The vision of Kalpanadham is holistic development and performing arts being an important aspect of child development, we organized two workshops in the performing arts space. We partnered with SPICMACAY’s rural schools chapter and hosted an evening Kuchipudi performance by a world renowned artist, VV Naga Chalapathi Rao.

Later,we were able to invite a modern dance (Jazz, contemporary, ) enthusiast, Madhuri Krishnan, to conduct dance workshops for boys and girls. We had an enthusiastic group of 40 girls and 20 boys of mixed age groups. Students were given the freedom to choose a musical of their choice for choreography piece. The instructor helped the students understand body conditioning and dance grammer. Short choreography pieces were developed, each for girls and boys team, as part of a 10-day intensive. We practiced evening through night in the large library room with speakers we had bought out of the fundraiser money!

Both these workshops re-emphasized the fact that children need creative outlets and performing arts is one of most powerful human expressions of being.

All the activities, energy, knowledge and craft shared by all the artists, volunteers and experts, led to an overall atmosphere of vigour, vitality and curiosity. Now everyday was an exploration, the students came up with ideas, imagining and experimenting on their own in the lab.

Another workshop that happened right before the durga pooja break was a materials exploration workshop where we invited an independent Bhubaneswar based sculptor artist – Nityananda Ojha and Graphic Art Lecturer – Trinath Mohanty with his students Ritu Shivani Pattnayak, Sheshadev Sagria, Saroj Badatya and Barun Beherea, from Govt. College of Art & Crafts , Khallikote, approximately 60km from the school. Together we rummaged through Gram Vikas’ old warehouses, filled with years of unused items – earthen pots, hose pipes, floor tiles, broken machine and automobile parts, corrugated cement sheets, etc. We scavenged many things, put them in a carrier and lugged it all to the school.

The team was welcomed like Santa Claus. The next two days were a feast on material exploration. A team worked on creating Einstein’s face using automobile spare parts, another was making an installation with corrugated sheets, the third team worked on recreating the flora in the Lab space and last one was exploring m-seal as a material for creating tiny creature sculptures.

About the Author:

An Information Designer by profession, Shalini Krishnan, spent 7 years in the corporate world before choosing to apply her expertise to the social sector. She joined SBI’s ‘Youth for India’ one year fellowship program to engage with rural India at the grassroots level gaining strong hands-on experience and knowledge about the sector. She is currently based out of California where she practices Yoga and volunteers with different organisations.

25 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page