Meet the woman teaching kids to appreciate art’s rich history

By Abigail Cutler
January 16 2020, 12.25

Have you ever taken your child to an art gallery only for them to be bored and restless?

Children’s education company Vincent and Frida has the solution to that.

Founder Alla Maniataki, 36, is running art history courses to help 7 to 12-year-olds to appreciate art on a level that most adults couldn’t understand.

She said: “I brought my passion into my corporate environment because I’m so motivated to make it work, and it enables me to go into business without having the pressure of income. I’m very grateful to be in this position to do this.”

Mrs Maniataki, originally from Riga, Latvia, is a Process and Compliance specialist, but studied for a second degree in History of Art at Birkbeck University in 2008.

A mother of two herself, Mrs Maniataki will be teaching her students how art has developed over history over three blocks of a term each, from Ancient Greece and Egypt to the Renaissance to Abstract Expressionism.

The first term, starting this month, encompasses the early period pre-Renaissance.

Starting with Ancient Egypt, the children will then go on a journey through Rome, Greece, Byzantium and China before looking at the Middle Ages and the Gothic period.

She said: “The early period just gives them so much opportunity to actually do those hands-on experiences, like preparing a mosaic or repeating a stained glass motif, or creating their own mummy so they’re decorating it and understanding why so much care went into it.”

Children will take hour-long classes every Saturday morning at The Observatory Photography Gallery, near Russell Square.

There are also regular individual taster sessions scheduled through to late March.

They do not come cheap however, with one term costing £300, two costing £550 and three terms clocking up £820 for 27 sessions.

The tasters come in at £40 a time, and both the tasters and the weekly courses are strictly limited to 10 children only.

Mrs Maniataki stands by this though and justifies her decision to charge these sorts of figures.

She cited wanting to run classes in small groups, renting a central London location and a need to travel to destinations such as Malaga and Moscow to keep her knowledge up to date as the main reasons why she charges these prices.

Mrs Maniataki has collaborated with educator and museum curator Sophia Sadovskaya who wrote the course, and as far as she is aware there are no other courses like it – though she is keen to meet others doing similar things.

She quipped: “The best thing that happened to Coca-Cola was Pepsi.”

She said: “While the amount is high, I understand, it’s a quality of teaching that will be given to the children.

“It’s a properly written course, written by a curator who also is very up-to-date with all the learning and things like that.

“So, I guess that’s how I justify it. It’s not just somebody who got a degree and just started teaching, there’s actually a fair amount of background research going into it.”

Her plans don’t intend to stop here either, as she is looking to employ another teacher and franchise Vincent and Frida.

She said: “There are lots of fantastic educators and they make all the difference. I want to hire the one which will make all the difference.

“Once I’ve done that my plans are actually quite ambitious really. I want to franchise this, UK-wide and internationally, so by hiring a tutor I would be able to focus on finding another location.”

Devising the name of the school, a reference to Vincent Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo, was a labour of love for Mrs Maniataki.

She said: “I felt it was quite it was extremely important to bring a feminine purpose, and one of the things I will do for the 8th of March [International Women’s Day] will be about women in art. But at the same time it’s about everybody, so I want to include females and males.

“Second, they’re both from different continents and that was important to me as well because I always want to say to children it’s not just about Western art, it’s about heritage.

“I wanted to have a name which includes, but at the same time is recognisable and clear. It took probably six months to come up with a name which I was happy with.”

Mrs Maniataki ultimately aims to teach children about the cultural significance of art throughout history and link it to modern times.

She hopes these classes will allow parents and children to go to galleries and museums and enjoy the art together.

A peaceful family day out – isn’t that every parent’s dream?

Featured image: Alla Maniataki in front of her daughter’s favourite painting at the National Gallery, ‘Surprised!’ by Henri Rousseau. Photo by Abigail Cutler.

Related Articles