Following the ‘Pyde Pyper’ of Art

Iris C F Gomes

Art is not often an encouraged subject in most Goan or Indian schools, and sometimes exceptional talent is buried under academic and professional pursuits. The Pyde Pyper Academy in Goa is helping open up individuals from different walks of life to their own uniqueness and discover a wealth of artistic ability that is skilfully shaped to open artistic career opportunities to them.

The Academy, which was established in 2010, has proficiently played the part of the legendary Pied Piper of Hamlin that it is named after by calling students to ‘find their own tune and follow it to their dreams’ as Deé Ayn Fernandes, who is a full-time teacher and assistant at the Academy, says. Some students have discovered their hitherto unknown gift for art here while others pursuing it as a hobby have taken it to a higher level of a career by itself. The Pyde Pyper Academy has optimally trained students, guided them in the option of taking up art in a professional capacity. This has resulted in individuals from careers as varied as linguistics, geology, engineering, etc going on to gain admission to art and design institutes in the USA, UK, Canada, Singapore and India.

Art Director of the Pyde Pyper Academy Mr Wilson D’souza has over 30 years of experience in the sphere, during which he has cultivated the talent of numerous designers, artists, writers and architects. With a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Mumbai University, Mr D’souza is adept at bringing out the best in his art students, encouraging a style that makes a personal statement. ‘Each student is trained as an individual with differing talents and not in a rigid curriculum format. Mr D’souza regularly organises exhibitions as well as solo shows,’ says Deé Ayn .

Deé Ayn Fernandes herself was one of Mr D’souza’s students who, following her bachelor’s in Sociology from St Xavier’s Autonomous, Mumbai, had sought training at the Academy to enable her to finish her master’s degree in Design. The work carried on by Mr D’souza inspired Deé Ayn to stay on. Deé Ayn has a background in English Literature, aside from her Sociology degree, which sees her heading the Creative Writing course of the Pyde Pyper Art Academy. She is instrumental in facilitating the application processes to international colleges and assisting students with creative ideas and themes to shape their portfolios.

Mrs Sarita Nag, who also has a degree in Sociology, recently became part of the Pyde Pyper Academy in April 2018 and has taken over the administration. She is being trained to assist in the teaching and mentoring of students.

The syllabus is specially designed, beginning from the fundamentals to an advanced art course. Students can be enrolled from the age group of 3 years and onwards. Motor skills such as holding the pencil, reducing pressure while drawing and writing and so on are taught to younger students. The art courses are an advantage to students who have it as a subject in school.

However, with courses in creative writing and architecture besides art and design, the main focus is training students for careers in visual arts in India and abroad. Students are primed for entrance exams and aided in developing portfolios that will enable admission to prestigious art institutes and provide wide job opportunities. Those seeking to pursue a formal art degree are able to receive training at the Academy as well. Deé Ayn says, ‘We also conduct short-term courses for individuals looking to master a topic while having time constraints.’

At the moment, the Academy has over 1000 students enrolled, and each month sees about 200 students coming in for regular classes. Approximately 30 students move on to other artistic careers every year. Deé Ayn says, ‘We believe that learning art is a long term process, and due to supportive parents, we have had students coming to Pyde Pyper since its inception.’

Elaborating on how the teachers at the Academy empower students to believe in their innate capabilities to create, Deé Ayn cites the example of Shruti Bandaru, a scientist at NIO Centre, Dona Paula, who loved animation movies and possessed an imagination that could conjure up tales out of thin air. Having never considered art as a career option and unaware of her ability to become a concept designer, Shruti’s life was diverted by the Pyde Pyper Academy in a completely new direction. Now Shruti is part of the Concept Design course at Feng Zhu Design School, Singapore. She has also gained admission to the Entertainment Design course at the Art Centre Pasadena, California.

Roshan Ganu, who has a Master of Arts in French, was a teacher with a love for art. Deé Ayn says, ‘At Pyde Pyper she discovered she could illustrate her work and under our guidance prepared a portfolio to pursue a career in illustration.  She has gained admission into the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, USA for Illustration with a 90% scholarship. Pyde Pyper also helped Roshan create a folk art style of her own.’

Now in its 8th year, the Academy’s achievements have bolstered plans for a step forward, as Deé Ayn says, ‘Our syllabus and results have made us seriously consider taking Pyde Pyper to the next level. We’re considering giving certified diplomas and in the near future setting up Pyde Pyper as fully functioning art and design college. The project and planning is still in its nascent stages of development but involves formally certifying the work we’re currently doing with the students.’

The importance that art holds in this world is clearly explained by Deé Ayn, ‘The world is made up of art and any field, be it economics, sociology, psychology, literature or even urban planning, has art playing a key element in its functioning. Art is no longer just confined to drawing and painting for expression and aesthetic purposes but has utility functions of product designing, automobile designs, entertainment design, concept design, which involves ideas and concepts and not only skill based training. Therefore art has become an integral part of daily life and its need is ever increasing.’ Thus institutes such as the Pyde Pyper Academy have a vital role to play.

Along with regular courses, Mr D’souza and Deé Ayn are at present collaborating on projects that involve illustrated poem diaries, short stories and comics. Deé Ayn says, ‘One diary is currently under the process of publication.’ The collaborative work like that undertaken by the teachers is also encouraged among the students.