Young painters explore at 3i Art Center
Michelangelo, Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso all displayed a passion and talent for art before the age of 10 – a testament to how important the formative years are for young artists. “It’s so important for kids to have a good foundation in art and imagination – it will help them their entire life,” says Ivy Yang, founder of 3i Art Center.
The art center, which has branches in Chaoyang and Haidian, offers classes designed to foster inspiration, innovation and imagination – the three i’s behind the name – in young kids, and lessons often appeal to kids’ love of unusual, fun materials.
In one class, students were introduced to modeling clay that they would use to make dinosaurs. Shrieks filled the studio as the girls handled the cold, wet clay. The boys, living up to gender stereotypes, enjoyed playing with the gooey material.
Earlier that day, the children were hard at work on another project, crinkling foil and drawing animals from picture books. As they painted their animals on canvases, the kids experimented with brushstrokes, opting for bright colors and giggling among themselves. Sometimes kids stepped back to admire their work, paintbrushes in hand and aprons askew. Meanwhile, instructors roamed from child to child, handing out praise while guiding each student in technique and color choice.
Classes at 3i are usually restricted to six children in order to give each child the most attention, with two teachers and an assistant present at every class. Yang advises calling ahead to make an appointment, rather than just showing up for classes. The center offers classes in painting, clay, pottery, drawing and Chinese brush painting and calligraphy for kids ages 4-7, 8-12, and adults.Several schools have shuttle buses going to the Lido location, although most students sign up for weekend classes.
Parents might be surprised to discover what even very young children are capable of creating, says Yang. Differences between boys and girls are also quite prominent, with boys preferring darker colors and messy projects and girls often preoccupied with detail and tidiness.
3i students come from an array of local and international backgrounds, but the courses are taught in Chinese. Still, language barriers aren’t a problem, say the instructors. “Regardless of nationality, most students can keep up. In art classes, it’s only supposed to be about 30 percent speaking and the rest of the time should be spent showing and creating,” says Beke Berner, a German expat who helps run the art program.
With such a high student-to-teacher ratio, the intimate studio can take on a serious atmosphere; on this day, the kids, some as young as 7, furrow their young brows as they concentrate on their projects.
Yang and Cici Cheng, a classmate from Jilin University in Shandong province, established 3i Art Center (formerly Ivy Art Studio) in 2005 after teaching art at international schools Beanstalk and Kinstar, respectively. A year later, while the pair were helping plan an art-themed birthday party, they connected with Berner.
“We wanted to create a good environment for kids who spend a lot of time on art,” says Yang. “By taking art classes outside of school, kids can do their own projects, spend more time, and use different materials.’’
Not to mention that art brings positive changes in kids. “We had one student whose character changed so much. His mother said he seems so much happier after coming here and learning something,” says Yang.
Adds Cheng, “Art lays an important foundation for their whole life, as it is a right-brained activity.”
Berner’s son Moritz Tan is also a student at 3i and calls his art class the highlight of the week. “He has two older sisters and I wanted him to meet other boys. They also tell me he’s quite talented, which I never knew,” Berner says.
3i Art Center
1) 2/F, Block A, Hairun International, Jiangtai Lu (near the intersection for Fangyuan Xilu), Chaoyang District (134 3983 3280)
2) 1/F, Bldg 3, Shidai Zhiguang Xiaoqu, 45 Xizhimen Beidajie, Haidian District
For class types and schedules, visit www.3iart.com.cn or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org