Monkey Business Outlook

IMG_0145The main obstacle for developing Monkey’s Tale / Out-of-the-Box programs is simply this: uncertain funding beyond the end 2015. Just prior to leaving Batticaloa. I drafted the proposal below and submitted it to two  donors.  Discussions with these and other possible partners are now in progress.

I must confess that it was short-sighted of me to focus so narrowly on finishing the four sets of the curriculum toys with no onward plans for underwriting costs of implementation in the field. When I arrived in Batti and realized what was happening the truth hit me like a roundhouse punch.

It is exceedingly difficult to  raise funds for these kinds of projects  – imaginative, innovative, artistic, therapeutic – at this time, but since I’m convinced that we have developed a unique artistic process over years on the Garden Path, one with tangible pedagogical and healing components that have value also as products, I have committed myself anew to finding the necessary funds and moving forward with implementation programs in Sri Lanka in the next year. I am motivated not only by the quality of the vision and the integrity of the people who have animated it over the years, but also by the knowledge that these tools hold promise for people, young and old, caught up in social upheaval far beyond Sri Lanka’s shore.

Draft Proposal for Implementation of Out-of-the-Box Curriculum

 1. Past

The Monkey’s Tale Centre for Contemplative Art and Narration is the education wing of the Butterfly Peace Garden of Batticaloa. As well as serving as an art studio in which Butterfly Garden animators can explore the contemplative aspects of Garden Path practice, it is a social laboratory dedicated to opening deeper levels of communication and dialogue among youth using the arts to nurture community healing and reconciliation on a continuous basis.  Over the years since opening in 2006 Monkey’s Tale artists have designed and delivered programs in healing arts / creative process / enterprise development for different sectors of the local community, including:

  • children affected by conflict trauma
  • ex-combatants and young offenders;
  • special needs teachers in Amparai and Batticaloa districts;
  • Montessori nursery school teachers in Batticaloa;
  • unemployed youth from Batticaloa district.

Since 2010 the Monkey’s Tale Centre has introduced concepts of creative process into the community through an ongoing series of visual art training programs designed for local primary and preschool teachers, health care workers, and social workers.

Further afield Monkey’s Tale has mentored artists in Colombo at the Step-by-Step Studio over the last five years in implementing programs in Mystery Painting for homeless children (Sri Vajira Children’s Development Center), survivors of domestic violence (Nisala Diya Sevena in Negombo) and disabled veterans (Minhinthu Seth Medura).

1.2  Present

Monkey's Tale CentreDue to funding cutbacks at Butterfly Peace Garden, Monkey’s Tale was temporarily closed in May 2015. In July its re-opening was made possible through the generosity of friends in Canada and abroad who provided a Garden Path Grant of CDN $10,000 for continued development of its innovative toy-based Out-of-the-Box Curriculum as well as for a series of 10 focus group sessions with students from Eastern University Fine Arts Department and Swami Vipulananada Institute of Aesthetic Studies. By year-end the focus groups will be finished, as will four sets of the boxed curriculum, each set consisting of 10 handmade teaching ‘toys’. You can read about developments to date in previous updates on this website.

1.3 Future

At this point it is projected that funds from the Garden Path grant will be exhausted by December 2015. A new infusion of funds estimated at approximately US $25,000 (SLR 3,375,000/=) is required in order to maintain momentum, taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by now having in hand: (i) 4 virtually complete sets of toys and (ii) a potential cohort of community animators selected from among workshop participants at Eastern University and the Swami Vipulananda Institute.

2. Renewed Vision for Monkey’s Tale Centre

MavadivembuWith these new funds in place The Monkey’s Tale Centre (MTC) will renew its commitment to healing and reconciliation in the post-conflict era in Sri Lanka through capacity building using its newly minted Out-of-the-Box Curriculum in art programs designed for both young people (18-30 years ) and for their teachers and elders. Through a multi-platform menu of programs of varying duration and depth the Monkey’s Tale Centre will nurture creative collaboration across barriers of religion, race, culture and class helping to create a more hopeful future for the post-war generation, one where diversity is universally acknowledged and respected.

2.1  New Mission

Monkey’s Tale Centre will provide a home base for a creative cooperative dedicated to the idea of re-visioning society through art education, collaborative art projects and enterprise development. Its programs provide educational tools and open pedagogical space expressly for the purpose of seeding an inclusive, creative and compassionate vision of post-conflict society among contemporary Sri Lankan youth, their elders and their teachers.

2.3  New Objectives

 Short Term (November 2015 – April 2016)

  • To design and develop and educational programs based on the Garden Path Out-of-the-Box Curriculum for both urban and rural populations in the Batticaloa District using Monkey’s Tale Centre as an organizational hub, design studio, classroom and center of practice.

Long Term (April 2016 – March 2018)

  • To implement new education programs both in-house at the Monkey’s Tale Centre for local organizations and – for more remote rural areas – outreach teams schooled in Out-of-the-Box Curriculum teaching practice.
  • To establish the Garden Path Foundation in Canada.

 2.2  Anticipated Results

  • Throughout the next year, the evolution of educational programming at the Monkey’s Tale Centre in Batticaloa based in the Out-of-the-Box Curriculum;
  • Innovative new programs at MTC including courses in skills development in visual arts, environmental art, story creation, music and drama;
  • Programs designed to include a menu of course options suitable for local youth, teachers, healthcare workers, clergy and social workers interested in practice-centered understanding of art and creative process;
  • Programs especially designed for alienated and unemployed youth, including substance abusers and inmates on correction facilities;
  • Programs based at MTC with outreach into rural villages in Batticaloa/ Amparai districts;
  • Secure long-term funding for the Butterfly Peace Garden as a model articulating the process-oriented process of the Garden Path;
  • Development of satellite program using the Out-of-the-Box Curriculum in Trincomalee for a mixed group of Tamil, Singhalese and Muslim youth;
  • Enterprise development with former Butterfly Garden “butterflies” fabricating the Out-of-the-Box Curriculum at the new Butterfly Garden site at Kothukulam;
  • Publication of stories and illustrations evolving from the various workshops.

2.2  Conclusion

The Out-of-the-Box Curriculum is a starter seed kit which helps teachers and community workers to inspire children to recognize their originality in order to engage meaningfully with the process of reconciliation and renewal within their communities. It is gift of the children who inspired the creation of the Butterfly Peace Garden of Batticaloa during years of conflict and catastrophe. The process-oriented aesthetic of the Out-of-the-Box Curriculum helps young people re-dream their world by nurturing a hopeful, creative and compassionate vision of society within the present-day climate of aimlessness, uncertainty and violence.

The Butterfly Peace Garden, through its teaching facilities at the Monkey’s Tale Centre of Contemplative Art, now extends its mission of integral ecology, community wellbeing, and human development to a wider population worldwide through the Out-of-the-Box Curriculum. The ten toys of this curriculum embody the syllabus of participatory wisdom that emerged from the formative years of the Butterfly Peace Garden. They embody a playful and profound way of sharing this wisdom with the world.

Paul Hogan
Batticaloa, Sri Lanka / Chiang Mai, Thailand
October 2015


Written by Paul Hogan