Ars Gratia Artis


Yesterday while biding my time before a board meeting I decided to stop by one of my favorite gallery-tiques (<–coined just now for gallery/boutiques) called hi (shortform for “human imagination”). Every First Friday, creative director and founder of hi, Rhandy Tambio displays handpicked artwork on his linen white walls. This month’s showcase features bold portraits sketched-n-etched by the students from Kawananakoa Middle School. The inspiration was simply to answer: Who is your role model?

Two things impressed me:

1) I was impressed by Rhandy Tambio’s chutzpah to provide the wall space for these incredible sketches. By giving a public forum to these students, Tambio reinforces the fact that innate creative talent can translate beyond notebook doodles and scrawls under the freeway. My own baby cousin is a burgeoning graphic artist with a taste for street art, but his school has done little to nurture and hone his skills into what could become a viable career in graphic design. However budget cuts to arts education probably means that his teachers have no idea what he can create.

2) After a brief chitchat with a hi employee, I learned that Rhandy’s brother Ojay is the “teach” who led his students to a new level of imaginative learning. What we have here is a perfect example of what education should really be: creative, engaging, and expressive. This hearkens back to the early 1930s Japanese pedagogy of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, an educator who developed theories on soka, or the creation of value, the happiness of the individual, the prosperity of society at large, and their interrelationships in practice. How apropos that the Tambio brothers used their human imagination to create an impactful experience for the students at Kawananakoa Middle School.

From Abe Lincoln to Skrillex, each portrait gives a glimpse into the life of the role model and, more importantly, the student. As I gazed upon each sketch, I found myself imagining what that student-artist might be like and why he or she chose the role model before me. Then came the reflexive: Who is my role model?

Ah, the power of ars gratia artis.