Since 2016, through the Painting Play, we enable participants, kids and adults, to freely express and to recreate themselves in a safe place free from pressure, competition or judgement – which ultimately leads to creativity and a free flow of expression and ideas.
My name is Laura Munteanu – I took the practitioner training course in 2015 and became a “Servant” – name used by Arno Stern for the practitioner to outline his role is not that of a teacher, but that of an ‘aide’ more than anything.
Up until very recently, I had spent my entire career in the corporate world and yet I have always felt that I could do something completely different to my professional and educational formation. I knew I wanted to create something which would have a positive impact on children and their education and I also wanted to help grownups reconnect with the child inside them – with their innate creativity and excitement, their curiosity about life and themselves.
Whilst still in my corporate job, I took up painting classes and within a couple of years this ‘hobby’ started taking a larger and larger part of my life. After years of research into painting and education – two subjects which interest me, I discovered the six-decade old work of Arno Stern – which somehow sat at the intersection between the two, in a very unique way.
Arno Stern set up a painting room and within it the so-called ‘painting play’ – very wisely named, since it is a game, with well-defined rules – just like any other game. Yet in this game, no one asserts oneself.
It is an activity through which both children and adults can grow based on their own needs and desires.
Although it implies painting, it has no link to, nor does it evolve into art. At the beginning it can be difficult to grasp what this game really is about. The human mind tends to label everything and to reject the new and unknown. It is neither therapy, nor art.
We can get bored very easily nowadays, we leave out the element of fun from our day to day routine. And we are constantly distracted by mass media, social media and marketing. All these small but cumulative distractions make us more sterile, taking us further away from our true potential, and finally away from our place of self-confidence – but also from our trust in others and very importantly (for all aspects of our lives) away from our raw curiosity about the world, about people and cultures.
“An aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak; when you’re present in the current moment; when you’re resonating with the excitement of this thing that you’re experiencing; when you are fully alive.” – Sir Ken Robinson
Though seemingly easy, taking part in the Painting Play asks for a lot from one. Attention and precision. Letting go. Being in the present moment. Being spontaneous. Defining what your needs are. In the end, those who practice the Play over years will be masters of these ‘skills’. This is what I liked most about Stern’s philosophy. We are all born with a creative disposition but somehow we mechanically grow out of it with time.
It was a privilege for me to be able to learn the principles of the Painting Play from Arno Stern himself back in 2015. I have now been running this unique activity for the Basel community for a few years, within a space that respects the original set up as envisioned by Stern. This setup, called Closlieu, or the space in itself is so important in ‘encouraging’ our spontaneity to manifest itself.
My wish is that by helping children and grown-ups express their most spontaneous selves, this Painting Play and this unique space I am offering in Basel will help cultivate participants’ uniqueness, creative power, curiosity and enthusiasm. – Laura