Teachers visit India on immersion grant

Pim Otero

Art teachers Cheri Gaulke and Claire Cochran traveled to India during winter break on a faculty fellowship bestowed by Harvard-Westlake’s Cultural Heritage and Arts of India Club and the Gunter-Gross Asia Initiative.

“We got a grant from the school to investigate art,” Gaulke said.

“We were looking at miniature paintings and dance. I was videotaping, and Claire was photographing,” Gaulke said. “Part of what we were looking at was [whether] India [was] a place we could take students in the future on some kind of art-making trip, like a film and visual art-making trip.”

The India Exploration and Immersion Faculty Fellowship covered all expenses incurred by the two traveling faculty members during the trip. This is the first year this fellowship has been given. The grant requires that two faculty members jointly design a program that will enhance their comprehension, awareness and interest in Indian culture.

“I was told some of the things they liked about our proposal were that we were from two different campuses, and that also we’re just of two different generations,” Gaulke said.

“I’m a more senior teacher who has been taking students on trips, and [Cochran] is a young, new teacher who has never done that before.”

Gaulke and Cochran, Gaulke’s daughters Xochi Maberry-Gaulke ’12 and Marka Maberry-Gaulke ’12, her wife Sue Maberry and a guide explored Mumbai, visiting museums and slums. The group then moved on to Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Agra and Delhi.

“India is such a remarkably unique place. Claire and I, as visual artists, were just blown away from the moment we landed because India is such a visual place,” Gaulke said. “Every single woman is in one of these incredible saris. It’s as if someone dialed up the chroma — the pinks are pinker, the oranges are oranger, the reds are redder, the turquoises — and it’s not gaudy, it’s just exquisitely beautiful.”

After winter break, Cochran began to incorporate aspects of the trip into her curriculum. She began a miniature painting project in some of her classes while Gaulke used her experience to plan and execute other video art trips abroad in the future.

“Both of us learned a lot as artists, being on that trip, in terms of how to respond to a situation,” Gaulke said.

“I take students on these digital storytelling adventures, where they make documentaries,” she said. “So I learned a lot that will help me in the facilitating of those trips — just being on the trip and having to respond through video. For Claire, it will definitely impact her curriculum.”