Sangkom Thongmee

Ashoka Fellow
Thailand,
Fellow Since 1989
Princess Sirindhorn Arts Center

Citation

This profile was prepared when Sangkom Thongmee was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1989.
The New Idea
Sangkom has developed new methods for teaching young rural Thai students how to conceive and then create powerful and artistic paintings and drawings. He has specifically designed his approach for rural children, an overwhelming population in Loei and, in fact, in the country. Such children have been brought up in an environment that does not stimulate creativity and that commonly leaves youngsters uncertain and reluctant when faced with the unfamiliar.
Sangkom believes that an education in art will give his students skills that will be useful to them in many other areas. They will develop better concentration, intellectual discipline, creativity, and self-assurance, which will help them mature and develop the ability to express their ideas and capabilities more confidently.
Sangkom has developed an approach that allows most rural children to reach a realm where they can feel free and exercise their imaginations. Sangkom encourages his students to respect and take this atmosphere seriously. There is a gallery that displays children's art, the work of current students and many current and former national and international prizewinners Sangkom helped nurture. The children examine the art and learn to appreciate and criticize it. Teachers are available to discuss the art or a student's own work. Sangkom's approach helps each youngster as his or her work progresses from stage to stage. He teaches them the principles of art as well as various styles and techniques (such as color and shading). He builds in incentives by putting their works on display or entering them in contests. For young people not even in school, he has special programs that apply art to potentially valuable economic uses such as furniture design, a type of work especially welcome to families and community.
The results are extraordinary. Over the last decade, Sangkom's students have won over two thousand international art competitions. He uses the proceeds to build up a scholarship fund that helps his students continue in school and go on to university. This performance also gives Sangkom's approach great credibility.
He is using that credibility both to spread what he has learned about using art to bring out children's various capacities and also to change the country's attitude towards the importance of art in the schools. He is also capitalizing on his success to build a national league of like-minded art teachers.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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