A traditional building in the heart of Trashiyangtse houses a group of youth aged six to 18 dressed in casuals, silently working with paint and paper.
The room walls are decorated with many colorful works of art that the youth have made. Visual Artistic Studio of Trashiyangtse (VAST-Yangtse) has come a long way since it was established in 2012.
Currently, it acts as a recreational center for 55 members including five destitute students under kidu and a boy with special needs from Tshaling village. The studio also engages youth in artistic exploration and other socially useful and productive work.
The non-profit art club, an off-shoot of Voluntary Artists Studio Thimphu was founded by two art enthusiasts, Jigme Dorji and Chojay Tshering, both school teachers at the dzongkhag.
While working in a community primary school, Jigme Dorji had noticed that students displayed a keen interest in drawing and playing with colors. This fuelled his determination to create a space where youth could engage themselves in artistic pursuits. However, his dream was concretized only when he met his friend and now co-founder of the art studio, Chojey Tshering.
Within a short period of time, the club has inspired more than 100 students to learn basic drawing and sketching.
Jigme Dorji said that he is not a professional artist but he has a passion for the arts. “I take every opportunity to attend workshops and trainings related to art in order to enhance my artistic skills.”
He even canceled his transfer to another dzongkhag as there would be no one to take care of VAST-Yangtse if he left.
Karma Dendup, a class XII student, said he is proud to be a member of VAST-Yangtse as he can showcase his talent in art and also contribute to community service.
“As a member of VAST-Yangtse, I involve myself in art and social service. It keeps me engaged productively,” he said.
Meanwhile, the biggest challenge VAST-Yangtse faces currently is paying its rental, which keeps shooting up indiscriminately especially now that Kholongchhu hydropower project is on the cards.
However, there are some people who appreciate the founders’ efforts and support the studio by providing art materials and monthly rent.
Jigme Dorji also mentioned that he barely gets financial support to conduct local art exhibitions and showcase art works in Thimphu.
“Right now international art exhibitions are a dream,” he said.
VAST-Yangtse also organizes art excursions around the villages and renders community services to help people and bring about positive changes in the society.
VAST-Yangtse’s members have already won many national and international prizes, certificates and two students received scholarship to study in India.
With art being his consuming passion, Jigme Dorji, at first had difficulty managing family and the studio. But now, his family understands his vision and supports him in his endeavors to promote art.
Initially, VAST-Yangtse was known as Chorten Kora art club.
Classes are held every weekend.
Jigme Wangchen from T/yangtse