subodh & sharada kerkar

Dr. Subodh Kerkar & Sharada Kerkar


In conversation with Goa Tycoon, Dr Subodh Kerkar, founding director of the Museum of Goa (MOG), Pilerne, and Sharada Kerkar, Operational Head of Museum of Goa and co-founder of Children Arts Studio (CAS), Pilerne, shared their collective dream to make art accessible to everyone in India, irrespective of their upbringing or background. Their initiatives, the Museum of Goa and the Children’s Arts Studio, offer platforms for artists to showcase their works and for art lovers to expose themselves to contemporary art forms.

Excerpts from an interview with Dr. Subodh Kerkar, founding director of the Museum of Goa, Pilerne

  • Tell us a bit about yourself and your early life in Goa. 

My father was an artist and had also done his master’s in literature. He tried making a living with his art in Mumbai but did not succeed. Rather disappointed, he came back to Goa. He then became a school teacher in Margao, but painted during his free time. In those days, the salaries of teachers were really low. Finances were tight, so he painted to subsidise his income more than for the passion of it. Of course, he liked painting, but the driving force was subsidising the income. That’s how we, as kids, got interested in art but never thought we would take it up as a profession. We loved it because my father also loved it.

  • What inspired you to transition from being a doctor to becoming a sculptor/artist?

I was a good student, I stood 7th in the Board and my father was poor and always sick due to depression. Back then, we thought it was a heart problem and there used to be doctors coming in all the time. So the medical profession did attract me – but then I was interested in everything. I was interested in becoming an engineer, author, and even the Prime Minister of India. My father had instilled a lot of dreams in me and I wanted to become everybody except a mafia don, soldier, priest or shopkeeper. I could not become a musician because I was not good at it. But apart from these five occupations, there was hardly anything that I didn’t want to become. 

  • Tell us a bit about the Museum of Goa. (When it was founded, a brief overview of the various artefacts on display at the museum, a brief about the various events held at the museum, etc.) What motivated you to establish this museum?

The Museum of Goa was founded in 2015. The Museum is a kind of statement about my commitment to social causes. I was a doctor and when I gave up medicine due to an accident from which I quickly recovered and started with art, it took me ten years to understand what art truly is.  

Many people feel that they are artists because they can draw something realistic, but that does not make an artist. Art is not a skill. Yes, skill is required, but apart from that, other things are required, too. 

It took me almost 10 years to understand it because of the switch in careers, and art requires proper study and a lot of exposure. To become an artist, one needs to train their eyes to identify finer details in their works and the works of others the same way a singer trains their ears to capture the finer nuances of certain notes. 

After starting to develop an understanding of art, I realised that in a country of 1.4 billion people, not more than two lakh people connect with contemporary art and they have no idea what it is. I am not talking about farmers and labourers, but I’m talking about the CEOs of companies, architects, designers, doctors, and engineers. I can’t blame them because they were never exposed to art. 

So the idea that I’m going to create work that will be only seen by hardly two lakh people scared me. Of course, you don’t create art for two lakh people, you create art for yourself, but you still need an audience. A singer does not perform in a barren desert, but to a crowd; hence, the same theory applies to visual art. 

I realised that there is a cultural barrier in the country — that contemporary art is only for the privileged. So I decided that I must create a museum of contemporary art where I can democratise art. So in a nutshell, I wanted to become the ‘Tukaram’ of contemporary art.

  • What challenges did you face during the establishment of MOG and how did you overcome them?

I got some money after selling a house. I was 55 years old at the time. My friends advised me to take the money and live happily ever after. However, creating the Museum was a dream of mine and so I did. I didn’t think about the business, it was an act of passion. It was like falling in love. There were challenges, but at the same time, there weren’t many. I am a positive person, I wanted to do it and I did it. There were financial difficulties but not much. 

  • Could you share some of your proudest achievements as a sculptor and the founder of MOG?

One of the biggest achievements was when 10 farmers from Sindudurg came to visit the Museum. I spoke to them and asked them why they had travelled so far to visit the Museum. They said that from their village, there was a farmer who had visited and he liked it so much that he went back and told the others to pay a visit. 

  • What advice would you give to young artists and enthusiasts who aspire to pursue a career in the arts, especially in the context of Goa?

This advice to everybody is that one has to be honest and sincere to oneself. Gandhi has a very interesting quote on how to be happy. If you start thinking something, you say something different and you do something completely different, then you can never be happy because you might be able to fool the whole world, but when you go back home and put your head on the pillow, you know what kind of person you are. Hence, you can never be happy if there is no synchrony between your thoughts, your words and your actions. 

If you are creating art, be sincere about it. Many times you create art that is decorative and selling and it’s fine. I also did that and even do that sometimes now and that is fine. You have to be clear because you are doing a decoration since you need money, but your true pursuit is to create something that you completely believe in. 

  • Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers/viewers, especially those who have a keen interest in art, culture and museums?

More private players should be involved in the promotion of art. There should be more art education in schools. Right now, art education consists of sketching after you finish studying maths, physics, chemistry and biology. Then the teacher will draw a mango and ask the students to draw the same. Art education is very important because we have to realise that human civilisation is born in the womb of art and without art, there is no civilisation. The history of human civilisation is essentially the history of art. I am not saying this only about paintings and sculptures, but all the arts. Without art, we are but animals. This has to be realised and art has a huge role in making us happy. It is not just about creating art but also enjoying art, because when you connect with art, you become more plural and tolerant. Empathy is the foundation of art. To put it in Hindi-language poet Ashok Vajpeyi’s words, “When you are alone and you’re shedding a tear, you are unhappy and you look at the stars and you know maybe there is a star up there who is also shedding a tear for you.” These kinds of thoughts come to you; this is art and poetry and that’s what makes our life happy and bearable. 

Excerpts from an interview with Sharada Kerkar,  Operational Head of Museum of Goa and co-founder of Children Arts Studio, Pilerne

  • Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in the field of art.

My educational background comprises a Master’s degree in Public Policy with a focus on building social enterprises. 

As for my professional background, I have been working for eight years in the education sector, with a focus on skill development and women’s empowerment. I spent a lot of time working with government schools in Rajasthan, where I utilised art as a tool for learning.

I integrated theatre, music and dance to facilitate better outcomes in learning methods for subjects like mathematics, science, Hindi, geography, etc. I also used art as a tool to communicate social issues to the local communities in the village, among the teachers, panchayat and others. That’s when I realised that art has a very important role in communicating ideas, facilitating learning and bringing about dialogue. It was only later on that I delved into art for the sake of art, where it can be utilised to express ideas.

I don’t have a professional artistic background; however, art has been a critical part of my upbringing and have always been encouraged to appreciate and create art. I have travelled to many places across the world, including the rural areas where I have both observed and worked with craftsmen and have also been to distinguished museums in the country where I have seen contemporary art. 

Art has become a core part of who I am and that’s slowly helped me shape the Children’s Art Studio (CAS) and slowly move to a space where children could thrive in a space where art is celebrated and they get to use art to express themselves.  

  • What inspired you to establish the Children’s Art Studio at the Museum of Goa?

Children have always visited the Museum of Goa through schools, but I think it was in 2018 that we held our first children’s art exhibition. We worked with artists like Chaitali Morajkar and others in Goa to bring in 90 children to create different works under various themes. It was massively successful, as thousands of children from various schools visited, and were inspired to create art themselves and we subsequently conducted several workshops. This made us realise that the space at the Museum of Goa needs to accommodate and be accessible to children, be children-friendly and engage children to comfortably work with the arts. 

The idea gradually developed and finally, in 2023, CAS came into being with a defined vision and mission to become a space that is open to children for uninhibited experimentation and exploration of the arts. 

  • What is the mission and vision of the studio?

The Children’s Art Studio has shaped itself with a larger vision and mission to become a space that is open for experimentation and exploration of the arts for children. It is a free space where you can experiment with different forms of art and techniques and openly express and create whatever you want without any judgement.

  • Can you share any success stories or remarkable transformations you’ve witnessed among children who have participated in the programs conducted at the Children’s Art Studio?

When you look at the children engaged at the Children’s Art Studio, there’s a sense of wonder and happiness. They are always so engaged and give us positive feedback which makes me believe we are doing the right thing. We pride ourselves on improving our young participants’ motor skills. Tearing and sticking paper strips with gum, picking up objects and placing them in a certain manner, moulding with clay and building new objects with it — all these things enhance motor skills. 

At the Children’s Art Studio, we encourage children to make their own decisions. We don’t give them step-by-step instructions as we want them to build a unique identity through their creations. They have to rely on their strengths, knowledge, and skills to create artwork. When they do create it themselves, it instils in them a sense of confidence; they learn to make decisions at every step to create whatever they have to and I think that also builds their decision-making skill set. If you tell 10 children to draw a mermaid, you will end up with 10 different versions of it — and all are acceptable and celebrated. This helps them build confidence in their creations. 

CAS encourages teamwork and collaboration because workshops are always conducted in larger groups and there is a lot of sharing of tables, paints, and working together on certain processes. Another thing that we focus on at CAS is ‘messy is beautiful’. Often, at home and in schools, we are very protective of the furniture that we have around us, but CAS has been designed in a way where we can be extremely careless and messy in our process of creating art.

Some children like to sit on the floor and create, some children like to sit at the table, some children like to use a pallet, some children like to just mix outside on the table and we have created a space that enables that and also allows that. We don’t want to restrict the children when they are out there to create. They are so fascinated that they just mix all the colours and their palette on the table to make new colours so we see that freedom of creation that enables them to think innovatively.

  • What challenges have you faced while running the Children’s Art Studio, and how have you overcome them?

CAS is located within the Museum space which is a benefit in one way but also a challenge. We get several children who come in with their parents to see the Museum and can benefit from the services of CAS but at the same time, we want to reach out to local audiences as well. The long commute to the Museum becomes a little tedious to some across Goa who wish to access the workshops that we offer. We have slowly tried to work on this challenge by creating workshops outside of the Museum area and taking CAS to the people.

As much as we would want to cater to the needs of children with learning or physical disabilities, we’ve not yet been able to do it professionally. While this place is still open to all children, we do not have the staff nor finances to accommodate that yet, so that’s one challenge that we’re yet to bridge.

  • Brief us about the various exhibitions and events that have been conducted to date at Children’s Art Studio. Have you collaborated with other organisations or artists to enhance the studio’s offerings?

CAS has conducted several events over the years. Before it was christened CAS, we held a workshop and exhibition where 90 students from Goa created works on a t-shirt, out of waste and created works based on Pablo Picasso’s work. Around 2,000 children collaborated over 2 months to create a large carpet-like ‘godhadi’ (traditional hand quilting technique in India) where they used textile waste to create their portrait which was then woven into a large ‘godhadi’. That was an installation and collaborative project we did with students.  We’ve conducted several drawing competitions at the Museum where 150 to 200 children participated. We’ve collaborated with different educators and artists in Goa to conduct workshops on gardening, theatre, dance, stop-motion animation,  papier-mâché and clay.

  • Do you reach out to schools and families to encourage their participation in art education programs conducted at the Children’s Art Studio?

Yes, we do reach out to schools where we do guided tours of the museum with students followed by an art activity where they create a small work that they can take back home or collaborative works that they can take into their schools and hang in their classrooms. We get in touch with these schools through WhatsApp groups, parent groups, and teacher groups. We also conduct outreach programs where we get in touch with new parents and guardians. We also have a social media page that takes the word out to many across Goa.

  • What are your plans for the Children’s Art Studio? Any upcoming projects or initiatives you would like to share?

There are several plans for CAS, the first of which is designing and launching an official website for the Studio.

The second would be to conduct regular programs at CAS. We are also planning on creating workshops at CAS for adults to bring out their inner child. 

There are several upcoming programmes that we have in mind. One is to look at long-term workshops. We are also planning on publishing books where children have created characters out of clay during workshops and done an entire character-building exercise. 

The third would be to look at building more partnerships to take CAS outside of Goa. We first plan to take it to other cities in Goa. Right now, we are more focused on the northern region but then take it to Panaji and then slowly to the South and also to other cities in the country.

We recently had a very successful collaboration with Godrej Design Lab where we conducted workshops for children in Bombay and we created these recycle masks using the waste that came from the Godrej factories. The children created a mask to depict the character that would protect the future as it was created using recycled materials. Building such partnerships helps us get in touch with children across the country and also supports us with certain outreach goals. 

The other goal would be to also create a programme specifically for underprivileged children. We realised that the industrial area that we are currently based in has many spaces where the children of migrant communities live and they are granted full access to CAS. However, we don’t have an organised programme specifically for them and often we find them sitting around CAS playing games or doodling. So, we would like to look at designing a programme for them which would be free of charge, so we need to also raise funds for these. 

We are also working on the ‘Pillow Project’, where children will be asked to draw their dreams or nightmares, and even dreams that they have for themselves in the future on a pillow cover. These will be put on pillows which will then be displayed in the Museum. We would like to take this workshop to different parts of Goa and different parts of the country as well.

  • What advice would you give to parents and educators who want to nurture creativity and artistic skills in children?

It would mainly be to stop advising children when they are creating. Often, as parents or grown-ups, we impose a high degree of realism when it comes to art. We should let children express themselves in whatever shapes or colours catch their fancy.

If a child draws a mango with eyes or a horse with six legs and two tails which is multi-coloured, I think we should appreciate it because if the child can imagine something like this maybe it can exist in their worlds. Allowing them to express themselves without judgement and appreciating their efforts is the first thing that we need to do as parents. This is one of the reasons why I often prefer not having parents in the studio while we conduct a workshop because often even if children look for help or advice from their parents it sometimes comes as instructions and therefore we like to keep that away while they create.

  • Based on your experience, what role do you think art plays in fostering a sense of community and cultural understanding?

Many educationists across the world including the father of our nation Mahatma Gandhi believe that art is the foundation of education. Even today, many researchers will tell you that when a child creates art, they are the most free. Art is not just the foundation of education but the very foundation of human civilization. Art connects people, has the power to change lives, inspires and motivates, makes you think and question, increases awareness and most importantly, builds empathy. 

In a country like India, with a population of over 1.4 billion, not many are connected with contemporary art. Only a few lakhs are connected and that is the barrier that we try to bridge at the Museum of Goa. At the Museum of Goa, we try to democratise art and make it accessible. We are one of the largest contemporary art spaces in the country and we receive about 60,000 visitors every year along with 10,000 children. The idea is to democratise art and make it accessible. For children, we look at the museum as a ‘classroom’ or a ‘playground’, where learning through fun and play go hand in hand. We narrate stories of Goa’s history and culture through art. 

  • How does MOG engage with the local community in Pilerne and beyond? Are there any outreach programs or initiatives you’d like to highlight?

In the past, the Museum has created several art installations with the help of the local community. For example, our major project which was titled ‘Carpet of Joy’ involved the panchayat, the local community members, students from various schools, and different hotels in hospitality chains who donated 1,50,000 waste plastic bottles with which the entire installation was created.

Such installations involve a lot of community interaction and support, not just in terms of permissions but also helping in creating the entire installation. We have also gotten in touch with several local organisations, mainly run by the Church, to conduct workshops and outreach programmes and we give them guided tours of the Museum. Recently, we invited the restaurant Florentine’s entire team and gave them a guided tour of the Museum. These seemingly small initiatives helped us build community connections and build our outreach program as a whole.