Ayda Ghaffari is a talented artist with a passion for teaching. Having taught in our field trips and summer camp programmes, Ayda joins us on Saturdays this year to facilitate our Art Exploration and Art Fundamentals classes. We speak to her about her artistic background, her teaching philosophies, and how parents can encourage creativity in their children!
Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you get into visual arts? 
I have always made art. It hasn’t always been good art, but that was never the point. The point was to create. My mum’s friend from her university years is a renowned miniaturist in Iran Soosan Ghaeemmagham, and we spent a lot time in her beautiful home painting alongside her while she worked on her masterpieces. I decided to take Production Performance at Ryerson University, focusing on set, prop and costume design. I wanted to find an outlet where I could bring in various mediums into my craft, and the theatre gave me that platform. After graduating, I started to work in children’s theatre and from then on I found myself in children’s art studios, conducting classes for ages three to twelve. I realized that this is what I’m good at, this is what I’m meant to do.
How would you describe your teaching methods and philosophies? 
I look at myself as the coadjutor in the classroom. I’m not here to dictate step by step how to paint, how to draw or how to craft. I am here to provide the tools, techniques and base ideas, as well as assist the students in finding their own journey to the finish line. Children are creative geniuses – sometimes they just need the space and the opportunity to showcase their brilliance.
How can parents encourage creativity in their children?
The parents/guardians are the first contact for children. Children strive to please them, to share with and to learn from them. Whenever possible, parents should expand on the curiosity of their children, ask them open ended questions and encourage them to explore. I have had students in my class who were uncomfortable making a mess, getting their hands dirty and going outside the lines. This is usually stemmed from a home environment where they are not give  the opportunity to learn by getting dirty.
What is the importance of visual arts education? 
Visual arts is a form of self expression. It is a tool at our disposal to share our thoughts and feelings without using words. It is a tool to explore and learn and discover ourselves in the process.
There always seems to be a line that people draw around visual arts for themselves. Many people say, “I can’t draw or paint. I’m terrible at art. I could never learn to do it.” What would you say to encourage those people?
The negative sentiments that are associated with visual arts trace back to the experiences that people have had in art class at school. The teacher either nipped their creativity in the bud, tried to mold a certain way to perfect the craft, or simply never did art. I was told by my visual arts teacher in high school that I should reconsider my future path. I obviously didn’t listen to her. People are too hard on themselves when it comes to picking up a brush and putting a dot down on the paper, I would say to them “don’t worry about perfection, focus on the connection between your body and the strokes that the brush is creating.”
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