​The future at the tip of the pencil

Art Workshop given by FCA designers opens up a world of possibilities for youngsters at the Instituto Árvore da Vida (Tree of Life).

October 21, 2020 - Drawing is one of the first resources that children use to represent and understand the world. As they grow, the lines on the paper acquire complexity, boosting their cognitive and expressive development. What many of us forget is that the importance of drawing is not restricted to the education of the little ones. Those who continue to exercise this skill in adulthood use it in varied fields ranging from plastic arts to graphic and product design.

Understanding the transformational force that design is capable of motivating, professionals from the FCA Design Center in Latin America started, in 2019, a partnership with the Tree of Life Institute (IAV), to offer the youngsters of the project an Art Workshop. Valéria Carvalho Santos, designer of colors and finishes at FCA and one of the creators of the workshop, reveals that developing a work with IAV was an old dream of the team. “I am part of the FCA Latam Sustainability Committee, representing the Design Center. In conversations about possible projects, designer Renan Oliveira suggested creating a course to share drawing knowledge with young people. Until then, our closest relationship was with the artisans of Cooperárvore ", she says. In this cooperative, accessories and bags are produced with the leftover materials from the production of automobiles.

The pilot course took place in June 2019 with a pre-selected group of IAV students. “During our Human Development workshop, which brings together all 176 students of the institute, we invited those with a knack for drawing and, without mentioning the workshop, asked them to bring us a project. Together with the FCA designers, we selected the most promising works and set up two groups, in the morning and afternoon shifts ", details Maiara Wenceslau, IAV project manager. In the first year, the classes had approximately 10 students each, aged between 13 and 15 years.

Time to Teach

In order to share their knowledge, FCA designers had to exercise their skills as teachers, something unprecedented for most of them. "We were ten designers involved in the preparation of the classes for the 2019 edition. Our goal was to present the students with an overview of drawing skills", recalls Leonardo Campi, one of the designer-teachers. During the monthly meetings held during the second semester of last year, students learned about the different types of pencils, posture and gestures suitable for creating good lines for geometric shapes as well as light and shadow exercises. Classes were approximately four hours long per shift.

Children have drawing exercises in the IAV classroomAt monthly meetings, FCA designers taught several drawing techniques.

"We wanted to pass on this content in a light way, which would fulfill the objective of teaching and keep the students' interest alive", says Alexandre Raad, designer of the Design Center team. Alexandre does not hide the excitement of imagining that one of these youngsters in the workshop might become his professional colleague in the future. "I would be extremely happy, because I know that, in some way, I will have collaborated for their training. Our mission in the workshop is to keep their interest on fire".

Pencils, Paper and Dreams

In early December, the students in the workshop had a closing ceremony, attended by Peter Fassbender, director of the Design Center. In addition to visiting the factory, the students contemplated their own framed drawings which were displayed in the Design Center showroom. Finally, they received from the director himself their certificates for completing the workshop. "Seeing the enthusiasm of the boys and girls and the pride in being able to make a drawing was an incredible experience. The simple act of using a pencil can be a direction towards a new future. We hope that one day one of them will find the way to our Design Center”, says Peter.

The student Evellyn Karoline de Azevedo, 13, does not hide the excitement on the day she received her certificate. "I have no words to describe it. It was exciting. I really want to become a designer and create automobiles. I didn't even believe it when I saw the car I had drawn exposed in the showroom gallery", she says with enthusiasm, and adds: "Wait for me. One day I'll be here!"

Two people observe a painting on display at the FCA Design Center showroomAt the factory, during the visit that marked the end of the course, the students were surprised to see their drawings displayed in the Design Center showroom.

Pencil and paper have always been part of 16-year-old Kauã Ítalo Martins’ life. Within the straight and curved lines he traces on paper, the most varied shapes come to life. But he confesses: his passion is to create characters and adventure stories. Inspired by anime, as Japanese animations are called, Kauã has already created several stories. "I have a character called Gail, who is part human and part alien. In the past, I have also created many stories of a warrior named Malos," he says.

Despite not hiding his excitement while talking about his creations, Kauã recognizes that shyness prevented him from showing his work to other people. “I was always afraid that they wouldn't like it.” By participating in the Workshop, he gained more confidence to show his talent, thanks to the encouragement of the teachers. “The stories that Kauã creates are sensational. The other day, he sent us a new one he had created. It’s so cool to participate in the process of honing this talent. We want to see the professional future of these kids and keep in touch to help them with whatever is needed. They have an impressive dedication”, says Valéria.

Designer Valéria de Carvalho guides children during workshopDesigners involved in the creation of the workshop want to follow the evolution of young people after the workshop ends.

2020 and the Pandemic Challenge

When everything was being prepared to start the second year of the workshop, the dilemma of the Covid-19 pandemic was upon the world. The designers involved in preparing the classes had to come together to think of ways to adapt the content for remote classes. "The students who were interested were distributed in two WhatsApp groups. We started to produce videos with varied themes and techniques", says Valéria. "We were not sure if there would be any engagement of the part of the students due to the physical distance, so we chose a theme which is almost unanimous among the young: Japanese drawings. And the result was beyond our expectations!”, recalls Renan.

Paradoxically, the impossibility of having face-to-face meetings increased the contact between teachers and students through digital tools. Exchanges of ideas and the sharing of new content happened every two weeks. The number of young participants also increased, going beyond IAV students and contemplating those interested who live in the communities surrounding the institute. "In addition to the two classes composed by our students, we created an external class, with a more comprehensive age range from 12 to 18-year-olds. This year, the workshop has a total of 30 participants", explains Maiara.

Two chat prints from WhatsApp with conversations and illustrationsWith the Covid-19 pandemic, classes migrated to WhatsApp. Despite the social isolation, the tool intensified exchanges between teachers and students.

New themes were incorporated into the 2020 edition of the workshop, including lettering, tips for coloring drawings, how to draw a car in perspective, drawings clouds from geometric shapes, among others. The virtual classes started in June and, after a short break, resumed in mid-August. The fortnightly content sharing continues until the end of the year. The team of designer-teachers is already thinking of an event to mark the end of this cycle.

Despite the difficulties imposed by the pandemic, teachers and IAV want to continue the project. “I believe that the greatest legacy of this experience is to discover possibilities of working with an activity that they already enjoy. In addition, the positive impact on the behavior and self-esteem of these youngsters is noticeable ", concludes Maiara.

Words: Roberto Ângelo

Pictures: Marketing*

*Images taken in June 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

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