Tom Leeser, director of the Center for Integrated Media at CalArts, has developed a special connection with a school in Nepal. In fact, he's made the 8,000-mile journey nearly every Spring since 2006 to work on international media literacy with junior high and high school kids at the Shree Mangal Dvip (SMD) Boarding School in Kathmandu.
Leeser made his most recent trip in March, during CalArts' annual spring break. Through grants from Fulbright South Asia and CalArts, Leeser was able to bring his former student and Fulbright scholar Robin Sukhadia (Integrated Media, Music MFA 07) and Neelanjana Banerjee with him, to teach HD video recording, audio sampling and poetry to the Nepali schoolchildren.
Following the same pedagogy that he uses for the Center for Integrated Media, Leeser focuses on the use of media and media language in art. "We did an installation just like we would do in an IM class at CalArts," Leeser said. The projects included writing, sound and video:
"We provided technical instruction without a colonial narrative," Leeser said. "We allow them to develop their own stories and without instructing them 'how' to tell their stories."
Thrangu Rinpoche, a Buddhist monk, founded the SMD Boarding School in 1987 to serve the needs of 600 children from the Himalayas, where there are no schools. Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with almost 25 percent of its population living below the poverty line. The school serves as a beacon of hope, education and better life for children.
Leeser is currently in talks with CalArts' CAP Program to explore the possibility of hosting an exchange student from Nepal, as well as working with other IM graduates to co-teach with him in Nepal next spring.
Below is an audio sample of student work from Leeser's digital media project in Nepal: