June 30, 2016
Esther Chow is the Artist in Residence (AIR) at Yew Chung International School of Shanghai’s (YCIS) Regency Park and Century Park campuses in Pudong. Originally from Hong Kong, Chow’s role at YCIS includes creating art projects for the students that are linked with and integrated into the curriculum, as well as beautifying the campus to create a stimulating and inspiring environment for learning.
How did your interest in art start and how has it grown over the years?
I’ve always had an interest in art and being creative – as a child I loved to draw and color and my parents sent me to lessons so I could learn traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting, as well as Western art forms. I am very interested in organic forms and nature as it relates to art, and I suppose that’s how my passion really took off. My first Bachelor’s degree was in music business management, but I also worked in an artist’s studio in Hong Kong. It was there that I realized that being an artist was what I really wanted to do in life, so I applied to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I specialized in drawing and painting, and I then began my career as an artist.
How did you come to work as a YCIS Artist in Residence (AIR)?
I originally started working at YCIS Hong Kong in an administrative position on the AIR team several years ago, and in the spring of 2014 I traveled to YCIS Shanghai as a visiting artist and I was soon thereafter invited to join the school as the AIR for the campuses in Pudong. How many people can say they have their dream job? I certainly feel very fortunate to work as an Artist in Residence.
What is your role in the school community as an AIR?
The role is very varied. Mainly, it involves overseeing the creation of large-scale on-campus collaboration projects, usually directly tied to the students’ curriculum, which also helps to create a more personalized space for learning. Creating things together also helps foster a sense of community in the school, which I’m very proud of. I also hold open studios where I share techniques with the students, and they see me working in the school and like to talk with me about the work I’m doing, which I really enjoy.
Could you share some of your favorite projects you have worked on with students?
There have been so many, but if I had to choose, I’d say the Kindergarten 4 project that we recently completed at our Regency Park Campus. We made a mural and temporary art installation exhibition on the wall of their outdoor play area. It’s a nature scene with plants and flowers, and the children made beautiful butterfly paintings that were temporarily installed on the wall. To create these works of art, together we studied real butterfly specimens, looking at their colors and examining the variety of shapes. From these observations, the children created amazing and unique works of art.
My other favorite project is on the walls of the cafeteria, which I created with our Year 2 students. For this project, we painted four large panels with a variety of fruits and vegetables. This was so much fun, and I was really impressed by how the children made these everyday foods come to life! It makes the dining hall look very bright, too, and the students who helped paint the panels get to see their work every day when they go to lunch.
How does working with children motivate and inspire you personally as an artist?
I’m always amazed at how well children can paint. Even very young ones -- they seem to have a confidence for it that I think we lose as we get older. A child sees what they are going to paint, and whether it’s an object or something from their imagination, they don’t overthink it -- they just create art. I love seeing how happy and full of energy the children are, too, and they ask really interesting questions, which I quite enjoy answering.
Where do you find your greatest inspiration for artwork in Shanghai?
I like to paint nature so the Botanical Gardens were quite a discovery for me! There are so many amazing types of flowers, and you can lie down on the grass even though you’re amidst one of the world’s busiest cities. In addition, there are many shows and galleries in Shanghai -- not just the well-known ones, but pop-up art spaces and small exhibitions. There is a thriving artistic community with artists from all over the world, which makes it an exciting place to be.
Do you have any recommendations or tips for parents with a child who is interested in art to help develop their interest in this area?
It’s important to build children’s confidence and give them materials to create, especially at home. Let them enjoy working independently, but if they are particularly interested in a particular type of art, consider classes so they can hone their techniques. And remember that output requires input! Anything you can do to help provide inspiration for your aspiring young artist, whether it’s visiting museums and galleries or even researching artists whose styles they like – will help fuel their inspiration and creativity!