One Small Voice: Chloë Manasseh

Published on 26 October 2017

How can art empower children who learn differently? For the Winstedt School’s first artist-in-residence, CHLOË MANASSEH, it starts with red trees.

Interview by Pamela Ho

Photo: Joshua Manasseh

I joined The Winstedt School in April as their first artist-in-residence. I have some experience working with children who learn differently, but not in an official capacity. From tutoring a few kids within the autism spectrum, I realise they just have a different approach to learning. Many, especially, find it easier to engage through art.

At Winstedt, we also have an art teacher and an art therapist. My role is split between working in my studio, and co-teaching art classes. The students study all the subjects, from language to mathematics and science; but sometimes, they learn through art. For example, with literacy, they may use sand, paint, Play-Doh, or bendy straws to write out the letters.

Art filters into every aspect of the curriculum; we tailor to individual classes and needs. In this school, we definitely emphasise the process of making art over the finished product. Of course, we teach them skills and techniques, but we will never tell a child she can’t paint a tree red.

While the students see me in class, they know me as the artist-in-residence. They like coming to my studio after class, and it’s often the little things that fascinate them. I’ll show them how I construct a canvas: I’ll hammer the wood and stretch the canvas, but their all-time favourite is the staple gun. They want me to do it again and again, even though the sound stresses them out!

I explain my process and how I work towards a certain goal. Once, when I was stretching a canvas, it ripped. There’s nothing you can do about it, so I explained to the students why I had to start over. In this way, it helps them develop a ‘growth mind-set’, which the school advocates.

They ask a lot of questions. Like how much money I make for my paintings. It sounds a lot to them, so some say they want to be painters when they grow up. I think one of the benefits of having an artist-in-residence in a school like Winstedt is that students discover that there are so many options and paths out there for a career in art. Our kids are so creative, and art could be a brilliant and viable route in life.

Art psychotherapy and working with kids with learning differences have become real interests of mine. I don’t think I would have come to that as quickly, had I not worked in this school. At Winstedt, art is encouraged and nurtured. So much so that none of the kids see themselves as different, which is so special.

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London-based artist, Chloë Manasseh, is the first artist-in-residence at The Winstedt School (Singapore), which caters to children who learn differently. She holds a Bachelor in Fine Art Painting (First Class Honours) from the University of Brighton, and an MFA Fine Art Painting from London’s Slade School of Fine Art, where she was awarded the Euan Uglow Memorial Scholarship. Her work has been exhibited in Italy, Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Her upcoming exhibitions include a solo presentation at this month’s The Affordable Art Fair, Singapore.

Expert Tips

Credit: Chloë Manasseh

How to make empowered art?

When you’re making art, remember there’s no right or wrong. So, don’t let fear hold you back. Just keep drawing!

There’s too much emphasis on painting true to life. The best works come from artists who see things differently. Trust yourself.

To nurture creativity, you have to nurture all its aspects. Even if you’re into music or writing, extend your creativity.

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