Art connects people and makes them better, according to the family of artist Tham Duc Tu.
For many years, the family has run an art workshop that attracts an increasing number of young and old art lovers.
At weekends, the artist’s house, located in a quiet alley off Truong Dinh street in Ha Noi, opens its doors for people to learn painting, dancing and music.
The four-story building has a different class on each floor.The first is dedicated to art classes for children aged from four to 14. The second is for music and dancing while the third is for adult art classes.
Tu’s eldest daughter,Tham Cam Phuong, is in charge of children’s art classes while Tu teaches painting to adults.
His wife Minh Ngoc, former head of the vocal music department at Ha Noi’s Children Palace, teaches music with younger teachers who are friends of the family.
Children are taught how to paint, to draw, and to create art by kneading coloured dough into animals and fruit.
“Art is to help people discover themselves, be more tolerant and willing to help each other”, said Phuong, a young artist who has made her name in several trips across Viet Nam to teach children.
“Here I teach children by playing with them. When I play with them, we can understand each other better and then, we learn many things from each other”.
Phuong said she could understand children through their paintings and drawings, and that this helped their parents understand them better.
“Parents are sometimes too busy and do not have much free time to play. The art classes have helped connect the generations”, she said.
“I think that art should not be only admired but should be practical in the real life. Art should be able to teach people.”
The workshop began by chance in a smaller house 20 years ago when Phuong was a child. Her father was trying to teach her how to paint, but she was very naughty.
To make her learn seriously, her father encouraged her to invite some friends to study.
The family home was then in Hang Dao Street, but it was too small to hold many people. So her father rented a room at Friendship Palace in Ha Noi so that they could learn.
“The group developed into a class of students, office workers and retired people. We went there to study art, to find ways to release stress, find the balance in life and find out if we had any ability,” said Phuong.
“Some people first went to the workshop when they were 25, but they said it changed their life forever. Some of them even quit their jobs to began studying fine art.
Tu is well known in Viet Nam for his paintings. He is also recognised for helping blind children at Nguyen Dinh Chieu high school learn to paint.
One of the founders of the Ha Noi’s Children Palace, he taught paintings to children there for 40 years.
Tu recalls a visit by Elisabeth Person, a Swedish ceramic artist, who was gradually losing her eyesight. When she realised she would eventually go blind, she began seeking ways to help children who were legally blind, but had some vision.
“When she came to Viet Nam, she sought me out. She found I had experience in teaching painting to children and asked me to help her find a way to bring fine art to blind children,” Tu said.
The paintings of blind children in the class were exhibited in major hotels in Viet Nam. In 2005, thanks to the help of Elisabeth Person, a group of blind children went to Sweden to exhibit their paintings. The Swedish queen even attended.
At the end of this year, Tu plans to organise an exhibition of paintings by his students he has preserved for up to 40 years.