Art, photo classes draw students out of their shells

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Art, photo classes draw students out of their shells

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About 150 pieces of students’ works and photographs are on display at the Dosan Ahn Changho Memorial Hall in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. The exhibit is scheduled to run through Nov. 13. By Kim Seong-ryong

Min-ju, 11, used to be a reserved, shy child, spending most of her time by herself rather than hanging out with friends. But her character began changing as she attended an art program offered by the 21st Century Education and Culture Forum organization.

Ahn Moon-hye, a 52-year-old art teacher at the class, said that Min-ju becomes more bright and positive. At one class, she made a paper boat and put it on the drawing paper, where she drew multiple waves. “I want to get through hardships in the same way as this boat navigating through the wave,” she said with a smile.

Ahn taught at five regional centers, including Hongseong and Yesan in South Chungcheong and Yongin in Gyeonggi, to help young people like Min-ju integrate more into school and society. One art session usually lasts one or two hours, and enrolled students come mostly from disadvantaged family backgrounds.

Along with art classes, the organization also offers photography lectures.

One instructor said that children whose parents belong to different ethnic groups often feel alienated and withdraw from school activities.

Su-yeon, a 9-year-old girl whose mother comes from Vietnam, was once bullied by her classmates because of her distinctive, exotic look.

But after she took a photography class in the Hongseong center, Su-yeon began approaching her classmates first and became more active.

“At first, Su-yeon would not come forward and remained silent throughout the class,” said an instructor.

“But, as she enjoys taking photos, I found she becomes bright and tries to help others. And now she is the leader of my class,” the instructor said.

The organization decided to display 150 pieces of the students’ works and photos at Dosan Ahn Changho Memorial Hall in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. The exhibit is scheduled to run through Nov. 13. The teachers emphasize that the works on display are more than just pictures or drawings - they’re also a medium that helped once-troubled young people open up their minds.

The charitable group plans to develop more diverse programs to help marginalized students adapt better to school life.

Seo Sang-mok, chief director of the group, believes the engaging programs can make a difference.

“I think character education should be done through experience-oriented programs rather than lecture-based ones that require rote memorization,” said Seo, who formerly served as the minister of health and welfare.

“We’d like to offer more programs in the future, focusing on art class.”

BY YOON SEOK-MAN [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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