Our Art, Our Voice

Written by
Chawky Frenn, Curator
Published on
November 21, 2017

Our Art, Our Voice is a semester-long course conducted with students from the Master of Art History and Art Appreciation, Art Education and the Painting Programs at Jamia Millia Islamia. Working collaboratively and individually ,students created a body of work that visually explore concepts inspired from personal, social, and cultural issues of our times. They conceived art as a platform to foster opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue.

With an emphasis on contemporary practice and critical theory, I mentored students across various disciplines in art history, art appreciation, art education, painting, drawing, sculpture and graphic arts to create series of drawings on a theme of their choice. The class environment became a visual laboratory on art-making, multimedia experimentation, and contemporary practices. With hands-on approach, the creation of artwork was bolstered by lectures, weekly critiques and interdisciplinary discourse. This engagement equipped the students with applied experiences, critical thinking skills, and artistic tools necessary for successful careers in the arts and art education.

Meaningful work stemming from inner expressive needs help the students advance their vision and artistic identity. Through a rigorous analysis of the formal, expressive, abstract, and conceptual elements, they learned how to creatively develop their voice and initiate conversations on personal and global issues. By selecting and investigating themes they care about, the students became more aware of their role and responsibility as artists engaged in a greater social and cultural discussion about art’s impact on society and its significant contributions.

Our Art, Our Voice, a curated exhibit at M F Husain Gallery at Jamia Millia Islamia, presents paintings I have created in India alongside work by my colleague Dr. Kazmi and selected students’ work. The work engages the community in a discussion about issues addressing domestic relations and community life, love and aging, conflicts between cultures and tensions between religious identities. Art humanizes as it raises awareness. Its resonance will be amplified by interactions with community and public. Meaningful artistic practice can serve as a catalyst for change in the broader social, cultural and political contexts.

As a Fulbright Scholar, committed artist, and engaged teacher, I am privileged to have had the opportunity to work with students who shared my Fulbright objectives in “the creation and education of art as a bridge between cultures, religions, and societies and to work with students, artists, and teachers to create a body of work culminating in an exhibit.” I am honored to work with Dr. Nuzhat Kazmi, Dean of Faculty of Fine Arts and Head of the Department of Art History and Art Appreciation and help students experience the arts not only from the theoretical views of art historians but also from the perspective of practicing artists.

The Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award has allowed me to advance international education by using my art practice and teaching as means for cultural understanding, social engagement, and a humanistic bridge between people from different backgrounds and cultures. I am thankful to the United States - India Educational Foundation (USIEF) and to Jamia Millia Islamia for this uniquely transformative experience.

Chawky Frenn, Associate Professor

George Mason University