Students create tiles as part of 2,500-square-foot kolam, a traditional Indian art form, to welcome President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to the White House
During Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, artwork created by Towson University Child Care Center students and families will be part of a collaborative project on display near the U.S. Capitol.
From Maryland-based artist Shanthi Chandrasekar, “Inauguration Kolam 2021” brings together work by hundreds of artists, school children and community groups to welcome new leadership into the White House and honor Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Indian heritage.
An Indian art form made up of geometric patterns, kolams are used as a sign of welcome. Made of dots and lines, the designs are traditionally hand-drawn with rice flour on the ground outside homes to provide a sense of joy and calm to all who enter.
With a small team of volunteers, Chandrasekar will assemble hundreds of kolam tiles together in a quilt-like pattern near the U.S. Capitol ahead of the presidential inauguration. The finished installation will cover approximately 2,500 square feet.
TU Child Care Center students and families contributed 32 tiles to the project.
“Our families were sent home over winter break with background information, templates and instructions,” says Child Care Center Director Nicole Vasanth, who worked with Assistant Director Emma Auffarth to make the project a reality. “Students and families were encouraged to be as creative as possible when decorating their circle shapes.”
The kolam activity built on Child Care students’ prior celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights in November. While learning about Diwali, students drew rangolis, a type of kolam created during Diwali and other holidays, with chalk on the playground sidewalk.
“We’re always trying to highlight the diversity in our community, and what our students and their families can bring to the table culturally,” says Vasanth, who celebrates Diwali with her own family. Other students have shared their own cultural and religious traditions, including one family’s recent celebration of Three Kings’ Day.
The project offered the chance to engage students and their entire families during a time when they aren’t able to come into the center in person due to COVID-19 safety restrictions. “It’s a perfect opportunity to tie their work into something authentic,” says Vasanth, whose own children, ages 5 and 8, participated in the project. “We were already learning about Diwali, it ties into what’s happening in the world right now, and it brings us all together.”
Working on the project at home provided families an opportunity to talk about current events with their children.
“We loved the project,” says Christina Yeager Pelatti, an associate professor of speech-language pathology at TU whose children attend the Child Care Center. “This provided an excellent opportunity for us to talk about the inauguration and democratic process in general. The kids had a lot of questions, and it was amazing to see them ‘get it’ based on the discussion.”
This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland and Diverse and Inclusive Campus.