Doctors and engineers can improve the quality of life, but art is what gives it purpose.
âArt makes you a better person. It opens your mind and makes you more empathetic towards the company. You are more open to your culture and your roots. It allows you to express yourself, whether on political or cultural subjects. You can make a statement, protest or admire with the art â, says Shalu juneja, art educator, self-taught potter, co-founder and director of Uno Lona Academy (ULA), in a conversation with YS weekend.
Having taught art for over 11 years after doing his Masters in Fine Arts, specializing in wood and glass design, Shalu teamed up with his son, Harsimran Juneja, to found ULA in 2016.
The Uno Lona Academy
ULA specializes in arts and design education for K-12 students and young adults. It offers basic courses in drawing, painting and clay mediums, and focuses on career building for students who enroll in its courses.
For a very long time, art and artists were largely limited to the physical realm. But with COVID-19 moving people indoors and online, so too are art and arts education. ULA, which until early 2020 was just a physical academy located in Ahmedabad, has started teaching online amid the pandemic.
âA few months after taking online courses, we realized that art and design can be taught online. We saw a gap in the market where art and design education was not a top choice for the K-12 segment. When it comes to developing a career and focusing on K-12 students, there wasn’t much going on in the online space for art and design, âsays Harsimran, who is also co-founder and director of ULA, marketing and research operations.
The institute focuses on developing new skills and knowledge, as well as developing 21st century skill sets that go beyond the art and design space – such as presentation, communication, creativity, writing and public speaking.
âWe also bring some hands-on exposure. We recently collaborated with a brand that entrusted us with the task of designing a collection of hand-painted denim clothing. We put together a team of our students and helped them understand through this project how the design process works and how to create something on a professional level, âhe adds.
While art and design has multiple paths, the institute focuses on seven or eight areas such as textile design, fashion design, interior design or architecture, and gives students insight into these native disciplines.
While online courses, which include pre-recorded sessions as well as one-on-one live sessions, from Rs 750, physical courses go up to Rs 1.5 lakh.
Shalu Juneja and Harsimran Juneja, co-founders and directors, Uno Lona Academy
Assess interests, challenge misconceptions
Art has come a long way from being seen as a non-career choice to a lucrative field in which one can make a living.
âThere has been a huge increase in the number of children opting for art. Back in my day, being from Chennai, I was considered a boring student because I didn’t like math and science, because being a doctor or an engineer were the main career options in the south, âShalu recalls.
This cultural change becomes possible through the opening of a wide range of avenues that involve art and design, and creative skills.
âPreviously, the industry environment was different. We needed more engineers, doctors, etc. to build the Indian economy. Today, design has become important, more and more important in these industries as well, be it graphic design, UI / UX design, product design, etc. Almost every business needs a designer, âsays Harsimran.
However, there is still a long way to go, as many parents still fear that their children will pursue careers in art and design.
Uno Lona Academy
âOne of the main challenges was to challenge the stereotype that artists are people who walk around in their jholas and kurtas, and have long hair and beards. Getting people to think outside of the stereotypes was a bit difficult, âhe says, adding that it’s also important to help students find a balance between art and academics, and allow them to let loose. run to their imagination and creativity.
All of this required a change in behavior. At ULA, the team of 10 people – count the visiting faculties – try to disseminate many of these preconceived ideas.
âSometimes we invite parents to come and attend one of our sessions, or organize regular meetings and ask them about their concerns to clarify them. Recently, we reached out to companies and compiled a list of job opportunities that designers get in their disciplines, with the pay scale these jobs offer. It makes them feel a bit at ease, âhe explains.
The future of ULA
While the pandemic has not yet subsided, ULA is poised to focus on e-learning for the time being and is also exploring art-integrated learning, enabling teachers of other subjects to use art to impart knowledge. The academy is also planning to forge links with schools so that students are exposed to art in their classrooms.
âThere is a huge shortage of art and design educators, due to which many schools are unable to provide education in art and design. In the future, we also plan to partner with schools and teach art and design to their students, âsays Harsimran.
Uno Lona Academy
The institute aims to be a unique place for students to find all information on art and design. But more importantly, the goal is to help students enter their preferred college and make their dreams come true.
âIt’s the most rewarding moment when parents thank their children for helping their children find their way, or when a student comes to say they’ve entered a dream college. It is our biggest and most important achievement to help students achieve their dreams, âconcludes Shalu.