UNCAGED: The Art of Ability

Hello friends and followers,

After nearly a year of working with Nong Mai and Wichai at Baan Piranan, in the last few weeks we have been planning a large-scale exhibition of the amazing work that they have generated, and, on Saturday, November 14th, all of our planning paid off with UNCAGED: The Art of Ability. UNCAGED was a full, cross-medium retrospective featuring paintings, pastels, umbrellas, lanterns, even some cardboard sculptures! Having gained international recognition (being featured in an Australian newspaper and exhibiting a show at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, USA) it was time that the artists gained a bit of local prestige! With the generous help of our sponsors, friends, donators, staff and fellow volunteers, Saturday night we held the remarkably successful opening reception for UNCAGED: The Art of Ability right here in Chiang Mai.

As you, kind blog-followers, must know, Mai and Wichai’s stories are not easy to hear. To put it far too simply, the boys have lived a life of neglect and abuse. Childhood was once a word that was unable to find its way into their harrowing pasts. Yet, in the last year, Mai and Wichai have been given not only care and love, but also the power of creation.

To most of us, our first act of creation is not remembered. Our first experience holding a crayon, covering a paintbrush in a sticky mess of paint, or sitting in front of an easel is, in the span of our lives, an insignificant event – a simple and universal experience of childhood. Yet, when Cultural Canvas Thailand visited Baan Piranan for the first time, just eleven short months ago, our volunteers watched as these children – teenagers, really – touched paint to paper for the first time in their lives.

UNCAGED was a success beyond words. Financially, UNCAGED raised more than 45,000 baht in painting sales and donations for the continued support of Baan Piranan and the Canvas Art Program and also led to the sponsorship of over 10 wheelchairs for Freedom Wheelchairs valued at over 100,000 baht. However, perhaps more substantial than any amount of money, was the power that UNCAGED gave Mai and Wichai. Two voiceless boys, once subjugated to treatment worse than most anyone would award to animals, were given a voice too loud to ignore. While all of us at Cultural Canvas were cloaked in compliments at the exhibition, the real praise should be awarded to Mai and Wichai, whom, at fourteen years old, are just starting to understand childhood.

For more photos of UNCAGED and to read more about Mai, Wichai, and the exhibition, visit www.uncaged.yolasite.com.

While UNCAGED was a great success, there is still so much more that needs to be done…

To make a donation to Baan Piranan, visit http://www.baan-piranan.org.

To help Cultural Canvas Thailand’s Canvas Art Program continue to bring voices to minority populations in Northern Thailand through the arts, visit http://www.culturalcanvas.com.

Love from Chiang Mai,


Freedom House Mural, the second edition

It seems like only yesterday the team were slaving in the sun over the first Mural for Freedom House yet with Stephanie and Amp having put together a striking design (for a thankfully smaller wall) on the 20th November we set out, arms full of pre mixed paint and a whole host of other activities. As was expected we had more than enough eager participants spanning a large age group, but we were ready for them with four stations in total and a rotation system to ensure everyone had their share of the pride and glory of the evening that was to be the mural. We also coloured in Mandalas, played Exquisite Birdy (a take on the game exquisite body game where a piece of paper is folded into three; one person draws the head and the next without seeing the head the body and the next without seeing either the head or body the legs) which provided some very interesting outcomes; strange creatures that crossed species with extravagant colour schemes and in some cases sections of their bodies completely upside down, one was even doing a rather cheeky dance! Chalk was around for the children (and volunteers) to draw on the other walls, everything from fish to themselves and amusing English slogans. Despite a few problems with the mixing of the paint (our purple ended up being rather brown!) and a return journey planned for just a few touch ups (one child in his excitement discarded the lines completely) the mural was a success, the children had a great time and seemed proud of their achievement and it certainly made the already very eventful walls of Freedom House just that little bit more striking. A late night with a mercifully small amount of cleaning up to do but all in all a great success…Though I think everyone is hoping they don’t get an idea for another quite so soon this time!

Hope Home Goes Into the Wilderness...

November 19th saw the follow up the incredibly successful under the sea workshops as we drove over to Hope Home with a box full of all kinds of Jungle related bits and bobs. The intention was of course not only to teach the kids a bit more about the wild life not so far away with the aid of a great variety of leaves, rocks, cuddly toys, instruments (including those creepy little frogs the Hill Tribe women are always trying to sell), video clips, songs (the classic Jungle Boogie starring in our ‘jungle playlist’) and games but mostly to have a good laugh exploring, this certainly happened! The kids were all outside, eager for our arrival, Paradon waving with a toothy grin as we walked up the drive. Objects were hardly out of the box before they were being taken away, rattled and swung, hugged and thrown…the reception was simply delightful, all the children seemed to having a great time, and ourselves-the official facilitators-just as much (a cuddly lion previously won at the Loy Krathong celebrations proving to be a firm favourite). The children all of varying abilities were enthralled by the noises, the textures, the colours and movements and hopefully they learned a little too! Cards with both the English and Thai names accompanied everything and although the original structure of the lesson plan was discarded relatively quickly with children and volunteers moving all over the place it was certainly successful. The session ended peacefully as we watched excerpts from the ‘Jungle Book’, Pat having already fallen asleep before the children rushed off to their lunch and we left for ours, content from the mornings work yet strangely not feeling so optimistic about the unavoidable paperwork that follows!


Thai Freedom House - Art for a Clean Environment

On November 10th, Aimee, Christa and I went to Thai Freedom House with a bunch of posters, waste and art supplies to run my Recycling Workshop! First we 'brainstormed' together about "What is Recycling?" and "Why is it important?". The kids weren't very knowledgeable about the theme, but they had a general agreement that a clean environment is important for our health. This is probably a relatively new and different theme for them, because "Recycling" and protecting the environment is only really starting to become a process and an issue to look into in Thailand. To make the theme more visual and more easily understood, we showed them a poster with images about the recycling-logo, clean and dirty environments and the description of how to recycle aluminum. The poster was in Thai and English, so they could learn English keywords as well. In addition to that, we showed them a brief movie from 'Sesame Street' about the recycling process of aluminum. Afterwards, we discussed "What can everyone else do to keep the environment clean?". They wrote their ideas on a sheet of paper (of course, it was scrap paper ;-)) and we added it to a poster to get an overview! The ideas ranged from "Throw your waste in a bin", "Ride a bicycle instead of motorcycle" , "use paper on both sides" and many more! The big variety of ideas showed us that they are quite interested in the theme. But we really got their attention in showing them examples of recycling art. After a short introduction in freestyle recycling art, they gathered the waste and art supplies they needed to realize their creative ideas.

For the next 90 minutes the whole place turned into a lively mess. It seems the kids enjoyed it a lot, to have free decisions in what they create, how they create and which material they use to create. According to this, the results were amazing! Nobody copied the pre-made examples exactly. Nearly everyone created something completely different. They proudly presented each other their results and everywhere you could hear "WOW!!!" and "suay!!!".

As I was planning that workshop, I got confronted with many doubts about the fact that the kids should do freestyle art without rules and guidelines. Because the kids in Thailand always learn to follow rules, to go with the flow and not to have own ideas. But in my opinion that's the important point in doing art: create something new! And I think that workshop showed us, the creativity of Thai kids isn't limited. I am very happy that I had the chance to run this workshop, because the informative and creative aspect is important and it went very well. This workshop is probably one of the last workshops I run here in Chiang Mai, because I will leave next Saturday. I had a wonderful time and many precious experiences with the Canvas Art Program. Thanks to the team for everything!!!

Bye Bye Chiang Mai....Stefanie


Thai Freedom House gets 'Tie-Dyed'.

Last Friday just before Hallowen Eve Stefanie, Emma and I all headed over to Thai freedom house to do my tie dying t-shirt project and also my last project for CCT for now anyway:( Everyone was excited to start tie dying, So we started by explaining the process and the care instructions once the t-shirt was dyed etc. We firstly divided the groups into three with roughly 4-5 people in each. We had three art stations set up, first was the design your own t-shirt design by drawing and colouring in a plain outline image of a t-shirt, secondly the choosing of your t-shirt size and then preparing the t-shirt with rubber bands and pepples for an extra tie-dying effect! When everyone was ready with their t-shirts the various groups headed down under freedom house where the third station was set up to dye your t-shirt. We then started to dip the t-shirts into the dye, nearly everyone wanted two separate colours on their t-shirt so they had to firstly let one side soak in the dye for 30 minutes and then proceed with the next colour the same way!While everyone was waiting for their dye to set they had their snack break, played and sang music and drew some more designs for t-shirts.

When all the tees were dyed they had to be placed into soda ash for 15-20minutes to make sure the dye had set in the fabric. Once this was done all the t-shirts were rinsed and the elastic bands taken off and the works of art appeared before our eyes with lots of colours and plenty of interesting patterns we proceeded to hang up the t-shirts to dry and what a wonderful sight all the tie-dye colours hanging underneath freedom house all along the turquoise coloured wall! This most certainly was a fun workshop and the best bit was watching everyone's face when they saw their finished t-shirt. Although hectic at times and tough when you don't have the helpful Amp to translate, we all had fun and got into the creative process of tie dying and what wonderful results! It may be my last time working with CCT and Thai Freedom House but what a fantastic memory to leave on! Best of luck in the future Kate