“Art—which I think is at its core any act of creative expression—can take on so many different forms,” says ClassiKids Visual Arts Division and Teach the Teachers co-founder Arianna Borromeo. “I believe that anyone can benefit from these outlets to express their emotions and ideas”
A youth-led non-profit organization, ClassiKids aims to provide indigent children with an arts education that is often absent from most public school curriculums, while also using these mediums to help students build their self-esteem, cope with trauma, or relax and enjoy creative expression.
Initially, ClassiKids only taught ballet and visual art to children under the helm of founder Mandy Qua. Now, it has grown to include a new program called ‘Teach the Teachers’ which allows public school teachers to learn basic Photoshop skills that they can use to create teaching materials as well as share their knowledge to their students.
“When my sister started teaching ballet in 2016, I would watch her and see the impact she made on the children,” says Martina Qua, co-founder of the Visual Arts Division and Teach the Teachers. “Yet, I also noticed that within the community, there was a need for other forms of classical art as well, and that’s how the visual arts division started.”
Borromeo adds, “I saw it as this perfect opportunity to share my passion for art, as well as the skills I had been fortunate to learn from school, with others.”
Here, we caught up with the inspiring duo to talk about their shared passion for art and their mission to provide an arts education that benefits others on both a personal and social level.
Why is art important to you?
Arianna (A): Visual art in particular has always been an essential part of my life, and it’s kind of naturally seeped into both my academic pursuits and personal lifestyle, where it has become a medium to channel my thoughts or release everyday stress. Moreover, because art—which I think is at its core any act of creative expression—can take on so many different forms, I believe that anyone can benefit from these outlets to express their emotions and ideas.
Martina (M): Art — both visual art and dance — are extremely important to me as they give me a way to temporarily escape reality and clear my mind. It acts as a type of meditation for me to reflect on myself. I think that this is true for art of any form, and anyone can use it as a way to relax if they need a break.
Describe what a typical class is like.
A: We usually begin our art classes by introducing the students with a brief presentation about an artist and an associated movement, and then we explore stylistic techniques and features through one or two art projects. As the students work, we move around the classroom to engage more personally with them, helping them with technique, answering any questions, or simply just chatting with them.
M: We first begin our Photoshop classes with teaching the basics of creating documents, including learning the proper colour modes and document resolution. Each time a new skill or tool is taught, we project what we are doing on our laptops so that they can clearly see it step-by-step, and then they all have time to try the skill on their own. To test their knowledge of the different tools and make sure they understand how they are all connected, we then have them recreate posters we have made. Our final project consists of them creating their own poster using all of the new techniques they have learned throughout the course.
‘Through this project it evolved into a deeper appreciation for the creative process, and its social and therapeutic impacts’
— Arianna Borromeo
The program seeks to help underprivileged kids, especially in terms of their creativity, but has it also helped you in any way?
A: Yes, I think we’ve both really grown since our first class. It’s kind of shifted my whole perspective on art; my perception of it before revolved around its technicality, and the ability of art to capture something beyond its physical form, but through this project it evolved into a deeper appreciation for the creative process, and its social and therapeutic impacts.
On top of that, I think it deepened my appreciation for teachers as well, especially those working for larger, public schools, as we experienced the extent of personal engagement needed to impact and support each student, and all of the work and planning that happens outside of the classroom.
M: When I first started to teach, I thought I would just be teaching art history and conducting a few art activities. But after experiencing a few cycles, I have come to realize that art has the power to connect people of completely different backgrounds, something I knew but never fully understood until then. I’ve also learned a lot from the children we taught, because their focus and the effort they put into their artwork inspires me to keep on trying to improve.
What do you hope to achieve with both ClassiKids as a whole and your class alone?
A: Because our aim is to provide an arts education that also benefits those involved on a personal and social level, I hope that we can continue to sustain our long-term connections with the communities, to truly make a meaningful impact. That said, sustainability within the project is something we strive for, and I hope that our team can maintain our personal relationships with the students, even as the organisation expands.
M: For ClassiKids as a whole, I hope that the organization can continue to evolve based on the needs of the community. It would be great if even more forms of classical art are included, such as music or even theater! But no matter what the art form, our main goal is to make a long-term impact on the children by giving them a way to express themselves or cope with trauma.
As for the Teach the Teachers division, I hope that our lessons provide teachers with valuable skills that they can not only use in their everyday jobs, but that they can also pass onto their students.
‘My vision for ClassiKids is that we will continue to create memorable experiences for our students and eventually build a strong community of people who are passionate about art, using it as a way to feel empowered’ — Martina Qua
What improvements would you hope to make?
A: In the same vein, I hope that in the future we can continue to expand our initiatives to reach more people and continue to adapt our workshops to the modern world, while still maintaining the personal connections we’ve built with our students and communities.
M: I hope to be able to expand ClassiKids, especially the Teach the Teachers division, even if it strays from classical art. This is because after completing our Photoshop cycle at the school, I asked the public school teachers for their suggestions on what they would like to learn next, and found out that there was a need for basic software skills such as using Microsoft Excel and Powerpoint.
What was your most memorable experience?
A: An experience that still resonates with me was our visit to the shelter “Grace to be Born.” Seeing all of the women and girls—some the same age as or even younger than myself—who had experienced such trauma opened my eyes regarding my own basic privileges, such as growing up in a safe social environment, which is quite easily overlooked.
M: My most memorable experience would be the first time I went to Bagong Tanyag Elementary School to teach Photoshop. It was raining extremely hard, and the way to the school involved being pushed on a trolley cart and then walking a few blocks to the entrance. After getting quite wet, I made it inside the building and had a newfound understanding of how difficult it is for some people just to get to their school safely, something I had always taken for granted.
What is your vision for ClassiKids?
A: I hope that we can help more people recognise the importance of the arts in our lives, as we continue to grow and adapt our initiatives to the changing needs of the communities and students.
M: My vision for ClassiKids is that we will continue to create memorable experiences for our students and eventually build a strong community of people who are passionate about art and using it as a way to feel empowered.