Flex Academies President Joshua Chernikoff interviewed Future Picassos founder Kathy Chattoraj. Chattoraj talked to us about how Flex has helped take her business to another level. She also talked passionately about how art impacts students and parents. She is dedicated to her business and to sharing art with kids.
Flex Academies: Talk to us about what the partnership with Flex has brought to your business.
Kathy Chattoraj: The partnership with Flex has brought so many different advantages for Future Picassos because I’m able to go out and teach my classes without worrying about going out there and hooking up to new schools. It gives me more time to focus on my work rather than selling my business constantly. It’s really nice. Everything is super-organized and for a vendor that is important. I am on the other end, organizing and running my classes and Flex does everything for me and makes it super easy.
Flex: What was your life like before Flex?
KC: Flex has definitely grown my business tremendously. It’s put me out there in so many more schools. Before Flex, I focused on getting more schools but not at the level I am now, so I have to say it was harder. It was harder to imagine my business being as big as it is now without Flex. I’m in a totally different place than I was 12 months ago. I quit all my other jobs. All I do is run Future Picassos, and it’s fantastic. I couldn’t be happier.
Flex: Fantastic! Well, let’s talk about Future Picassos. The feedback that we are getting is that the children are loving it. So talk about your approach: What is so successful in your approach with these kids?
KC: Future Picassos is something that I created four years ago with a need to bring more art to public schools and private schools — just more art into children’s lives. I’m a painter. I’ve been painting for 35 years. I love to paint and I never really made the connection between myself and teaching. In developing Future Picassos, I opened up so many different doorways both professionally and personally. All I can say is that it’s magic. Art touches on so many different levels with children, parents. Kids who walk into my class don’t even have to be artists. They are excited as they sit down. They are excited to paint. Parents say things like ‘oh my God you painted that!’ These little things make your day. In Future Picassos we learn about an artist or an illustrator and then we paint a painting based on that.
Sometimes during the holidays we might do work that is more decorative, but on the whole we are always learning about the artist. It becomes kind of academic without the academic edge. In Future Picassos we learn about an artist or an illustrator and then we paint a painting based on that. I have an art background where I was taught very formally. It wasn’t necessarily fun. As a teacher, I decided I would inspire my students. I want to teach them how to make something so when they learn to paint or as they practice, they walk away saying ‘I can make that, I totally made that.’ So when students walk into class, we talk about the painting, we set up to paint, we paint the painting. They walk out of class with a finished piece of art. It’s amazing. We never paint the same thing twice.
Flex: You kind of hit on this, but I want to go a little bit deeper. It’s clear from your background that these kids are making some amazing artwork. What else are they learning that they might not realize that they are learning but you are instilling in them?
KC: They are learning lots of different things. They are learning self-esteem, they are learning how to think creatively and also how to solve problems. They are learning how to work with other children because there is a big setup and cleanup involved in the class. They are learning how to be balanced risk-takers. They are learning how to be open-minded. It’s amazing. It involves so many different levels of thinking and working. You know as far as art goes, they are learning color theory. They are learning how to mix colors, how to put paint on a canvas. They are learning how to follow directions. I mean these kids aren’t looking at a computer screen.
They are learning hand-eye coordination and it’s very subtle, but it’s all about practicing. They are learning how to create something and then they are learning how to go back and make it better. That’s huge because most kids will do something and then they will say ‘I’m finished, Miss Kathy, I’m done’ and I’ll say ‘No, no, no, go back and you can make that better.’ They are afraid but they take the risk and they do it, and it’s amazing. I have kids that have taken my class for a solid two or three years. It’s amazing what they can do.
Flex: Other than the kids coming back, which is super important, how do you know that they are having a good time and they are having fun with you?
KC: When they leave the class and they walk out to meet their parents and they give their parents the finished painting and the look in the child’s eyes is pure joy and a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. It’s like this exchange that makes me cry. I know that the kids had a good time. Last week I had a new student in my class and I wasn’t sure if she had a good time. Someone said, ‘Hey, Kylie did you like the class?’ and she said, ‘It was the best time ever.’ I thought oh, ok. You never know — sometimes kids are quiet and you don’t know, but it’s that moment where they give something to somebody else and you think ‘Ok, I got this.’ That’s why I teach. I teach for those little nuances that say ‘I had a good time’ or ‘I love this.’ Or I might have a kid in my class that comes in and tells me what they are going to do with their artwork. ‘Miss Kathy I have this art gallery in my basement or in my living room and I’m going to sell them. Do you want to buy one of my paintings?’ That’s how I know they are having a good time.
Flex: Well, your candid and inspirational answer is the exact reason why you are a vendor for us and a partner, so please keep up the great work.
KC: Thank you.
To watch this interview, please visit our Video On Demand site.