Program to tour India, discuss art forms

Photo courtesy of Joan Sharma / The Collegian

Students will have a unique opportunity to learn about a country and one of its major art forms during next year’s winter break.

The College of Art and Humanities is offering a tour of India from Dec. 27 to Jan. 12, 2011. Participants will visit various historical sites, interact with local artists and make their own art.

Joan K. Sharma is the associate professor in the art and design department and the co-director of the tour.

She said the main focus of the tour will be Madhubani Art, one of the oldest painting forms in the world.

Madhubani paintings were traditionally done on walls and floors, but after a drought in the 1960s, artists started painting on paper to sell their artwork for supplemental income, Sharma said.

The program will feature a five-day workshop with artists from the Madhubani region, Sharma said. Santosh Das, a prominent Indian artist, will co-direct the art workshop with Sharma. He and other artists will present their work and discuss the techniques they use.

Tour participants will have the opportunity to try their hand at the painting style for the first three days of the workshop. During the remaining two days, students will have the opportunity to visit artists in their homes and watch them work.

Sharma said the workshop and the chance to see artists at work make the tour unlike other trips, where tourists only travel to and learn about important sites in an area.

“It’s a very unique trip,” Sharma said. “This is directly connected to a very old artistic tradition in the region.”

Travelers will also visit some important sites and buildings in India, such as the Taj Mahal and various religious temples, Sharma said.

Joan’s husband, Brijesh Sharma, will give tours at certain locations and teach participants about the important information of each destination.

“I will be giving a preview and the general history in the bus,” Brijesh said.

Participants will also have some free afternoons to explore the area on their own, Sharma said.

Sharma said most meals will be buffet style, with various types of food. Participants will have a range of choices, including Indian, Continental and Asian food.

Sky Sweet, an English teacher at Duncan Polytechnical High School, participated in a previous tour of India that the Sharmas led during the winter break of 2006-2007. She said it was a wonderful experience, and plans to attend the upcoming tour.

“It was absolutely fabulous,” Sweet said. “I loved the trip.”

Sweet said India is an unusual and overwhelming place.

“It’s not like any place you have ever been,” Sweet said. “It is an extraordinary country. The colors and the smells of the food are very dramatic.”

She said the Indian people were hospitable and welcoming.

“They really wanted you to enjoy their country,” Sweet said.

She said the Sharmas were fabulous tour guides, because they were knowledgeable about Indian history and culture.

“I don’t think I ever would have had this experience with other people,” Sweet said. “It was an amazing trip.”

Sweet said she always felt safe and had what she needed.

“They really took care of us,” she said. “They made sure that we had everything we needed.”

Sweet said she highly recommends the tour, and students should jump on the opportunity to travel to India.

“I think everybody needs to go there at least once,” Sweet said.

Sweet suggested that participants be prepared to walk often and for long distances.

“You need a really good pair of walking shoes,” she said. “You do such an incredible amount of walking.”

Judy Lynn also attended the previous tour. She said India was unlike any other place she has traveled to.

“If you want to go to a country and you want something beyond the landscape, the food and the culture, India will give that to you,” she said.

Lynn said the opportunity to stay in the Madhubani area and learn about the art form will make the upcoming trip even better than the previous tour.

“That is going to be a really good added feature to this tour,” she said.

The weather in India can be very nice with most days reaching the mid-70s, Lynn said.

“It was very pleasant, and there was no humidity,” she said.

Students will receive three units for the 109T India Tour class offered in the program. Sharma suggested that students talk to their advisors to figure out what course requirement the units would fulfill. Students will be graded on a 10-page paper that is due about a month after a student returns from the tour.

She said students should not hesitate to sign up for the trip, because this may be the only opportunity to learn about Madhubani Art in its place of origin.

“This particular trip may be a one-time trip,” she said.

Tour participants do not have to be students in the art department to attend, and do not need any artistic ability. The program is meant to expose participants to an art form.

“It’s more about learning about the tradition,” Sharma said.

The trip costs $3,295, which includes round-trip flights, hotels, food, transportation in India, daily rations of bottled water, entrances into museums and more. Sharma said the fee does not include the travel insurance premium, tips for guides and drivers, and any personal expenses.

Sharma said people should sign up and make the advance deposit of $250 by May 15. The final balance and travel insurance premium will be due by Sept. 27.

The tour is open to the public and has room for 30 people to attend.

Anyone interested in learning more about the tour can e-mail Sharma at

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