Budding artists paint leopard in Al Ain
AL AIN // A rare Arabian male leopard provided the perfect subject for more than 80 budding young artists and conservationists yesterday morning at the Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort.
The Grade 2 pupils from Raha International School in Abu Dhabi were on hand for the launch of Art Tent, a week of art workshops for youngsters from four to 15 hosted by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (Admaf).
They spent the morning touring the park, stopping to study the leopard, an endangered species, and then trying to depict him through drawings, paintings, sculptures or even sock puppets.
"It was fun today," said Grace Seamons, an eight-year-old from the US. "I learned that leopards have spots. We saw the leopard in the morning and then we came back here and I made one out of clay."
Al Razan al Barwanie, seven, from Oman said: "It was fun and I learnt a lot. We should have more field trips."
The artist-led workshops were designed to help children develop their skills by being surrounded by nature. Hoda Kanoo, the founder of Admaf, said the initiative was to make art accessible to all children, giving them a chance to "simultaneously explore their artistic talents and engage with their environment in a way that both educates and empowers them".
Now in its second year, the Art Tent event has drawn participation from five schools in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain. Mornings are reserved for schools, while afternoons are kept for individuals and families.
Each day is themed on a different creature - from today, the pupils will study a giraffe, white lion, peacock, oryx and crocodile - with the week's events wrapping up on Saturday. Last year the week of activities attracted about 1,000 people.
Thorayya Mears, 30, from the UK, was one of eight artists leading the themed workshops from the Jam Jar Gallery in Dubai. She said the setting was inspiring for the children.
"The children are so excited about being in the zoo, it is really lovely for them," she said. "Plus it is stimulates their senses because they can hear the sounds, see the animals and do it all out in the sunshine. It's wonderful for their creative development."
Stephanie Neville, 37, a South African who lives in Sharjah and is earning a Visual Arts degree, said the exercises were engaging.
"I lead the clay modelling classes and it was interesting for them to interpret the body shape of the animal in 3D," she said. "Seeing the animal helped with that."
Aideen Butler, the Grade 2 co-ordinator from Raha, said the activities fitted in well with the students' course of study on endangered species.
"Being in the zoo brought everything to life," she said. "On the bus on the way home they were talking about protecting the leopard, which was great. I think they took a lot from it and I would definitely take them again."