Artistic learning at Farjam

Anna Seaman visits the Farjam Foundation in the second week of its annual summer camp and talks to some of the children who are learning about contemporary art and its techniques.

Children participate in the summer camp at the Farjam Foundation. Antonie Robertson / The National
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On the wall in the Farjam Foundation this month are six posters of pieces of internationally acclaimed contemporary art from the Farjam Collection. The American artist Robert Indiana's famous Love sculpture is one that most people would recognise as well as Andreas Gurksy's landscape architectural photograph titled Stateville, Indiana. But even if they are familiar with the images, it is not likely that passers-by in Dubai International Financial Centre's (DIFC) Gate Village, where the gallery is situated, would be able to call to mind all the artists' names.

Not so for the 10 children currently undertaking summer camp at the gallery.

George Alexander Beer, who is 10, and his younger brother Henry, 8, know all about Indiana and Gursky. They are also familiar with the cartoonish curves of Keith Haring’s work and are in the midst of chalking out a pastel recreation of his work for presentation at the end of the second week of the camp.

“Today we are focusing on Keith Haring and since he usually draws people and animals and he uses big bold lines, we are drawing our own like that,” George explains. “Usually I like cartoons and graffiti and he did that on the streets, but he’s dead now so it’s pretty sad that I can’t see any of it.”

Themed weeks

The six weeks of summer camp are divided into six themes, each focusing on one medium relevant to the pieces displayed on the wall. The first week was photography week, where the children took inspiration from Gursky – who is one of the most well-known photographers in the world – and were given cameras to take their own photographs around DIFC. Week two was for Keith Haring and the children were working with chalk. This week is sculpture, inspired by Indiana. Over the last half of the course, the children will practise collage, painting and pottery.

“The idea is to teach them how to use the different techniques and mediums and we don’t restrict them,” explains Anastasia Shelkovenko, one of the interns supervising the children. “This is the best way for them to learn.”

Curated exhibition

At the end of each week, the children display their art in a curated exhibition for their parents to come and see. It is a chance for them to work towards a goal as well as to talk about their creative expressions. The result is an all-round educational and engaging experience for all the children, says Shelkovenko. “Through art you can teach a lot of things – how to be confident, how to work together, how to express yourself and how to behave yourself. We try to concentrate on those things as well.”

It was for that reason, adds Marjan Farjam, the gallery’s director, that they decided to allow the children to work together and to keep the age range between 7 and 10.

“The collection is not just for adults. It is really 50-50 in terms of our educational programming and the energy that the children bring when they come is incomparable to the rest of the year,” she says.

The children’s reaction

Elea Claudelle Karam is one of the children enrolled at the camp and although she is only 8, she can really articulate why she enjoys the Farjam art camp that she has been coming to since it began four years ago.

“It is really a wonderful time in art camp. Today, for example, we learnt about how to use the shadows of colours inspired by Keith Haring and it is amazing.

“I love art because when you draw you can imagine things you can’t in real life and no one can judge art. To me, art is so wonderful, I really enjoy it.”

Special needs

To round off each week and in collaboration with the Start charity, on a Thursday, a group of special needs children come in for a condensed version of art camp. It adds an extra dimension to the summer programme and opens the doors of creativity to another sector of society.

“We are happy with this collaboration,” says Farjam. “It is a great opportunity for us as well as the children.”

• The Farjam Foundation annual Art Camp runs until August 29

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