Many traditional arts and artisans' skills in Laos have either disappeared completely or are on the verge of disappearing as older artists pass away. The few skills that have survived, especially those related to silk production and weaving, and wood carving, are driven by commercial interests. These losses are acute in Luang Prabang which traditionally had been a center for creative arts.
Recognizing that this loss represents a serious challenge to the future of Lao culture, the Buddhist Sangha has initiated plans to construct a Vocational School of Arts at the Buddhist Academy. Just a few of the disciplines that are intended for inclusion in the curriculum are: bronze casting; high glaze ceramic production; stencil cutting and application; production and preservation of palm-leaf manuscripts; production of traditional musical instruments; the creation of natural based dyes and paints; mural painting and gold leaf application.
The vision of the Arts School is sustained by the knowledge that many of the young novice students at the Buddhist Secondary school will, upon graduation, leave the monastic order and seek employment in civilian life. Thus the Arts School offers two significant promises; that of reviving the artistic skills themselves, and that of providing gainful employment (and the related poverty reduction) to many of the graduates.
In December of 2015 a one-month workshop was held at the Academy in order to gauge the potential interest of the students in the Arts, and the availability of teachers and qualified instructors. The workshop was a resounding success and gives the Sangha, and the Buddhist Heritage Project, impetus to continue with the Arts School.
The Vocational School of Arts is in the preliminary planning stage. Architectural plans have been prepared; scale models are in production, and the planning for fund-raising initiatives is well advanced.
The photos below give a glimpse of the vision encompassing the Buddhist Vocational School of the Arts.