Princess Theresa Iyase-Odozi is an artist with a difference. Since her sojourn in art, her creative works have gone beyond conventional art. With a heart of gold, she reaches to the world by empowering disadvantaged groups through the Green House, the Art Empowered Centre she established in 2009. Undoubtedly, her efforts have been worthwhile, even as she chose the outskirt of the city, Olambe, Ogun State as the hub of her empowerment projects.
ENCOMIUM Weekly’s JOSHUA SHOBIYE chatted with her at the GREEN HOUSE in Olambe (Ogun State), the house that accommodates her museum, art gallery, training centre and library…
Can you take us through your experience in six years?
It’s been an exciting and fulfilling journey. It all started with the establishment of Greenhouse Art Gallery which metamorphosed into Greenhouse Art Empowerment Centre. It is a long story but I will make it short by giving you the highlights as follows. We have four-sections today namely: Art Educational Museum – (Ancient & Contemporary); GreenHouse Art Gallery – (Private & Public); Training Section/ Workshops/ Seminars & Conferences and Green House Book-Club / Library
In six years, we have been involved in solo and group art exhibitions. We have also organized empowerment conferences and workshops, with art teachers, women, and other disadvantaged groups in society as target beneficiaries. The outcomes so far have been highly successful and personally fulfilling.
Why did you choose art as a means of empowerment?
I am an artist and an Art Educator and my life revolves essentially around art. I teach Art at various levels and ways. I impart and transfer the knowledge of Art on every willing person that is determined to learn or hone their skills. The love for the Arts has for long become my utmost passion and major pre-occupation. It may be asserted that Art is the only language I speak. Art has helped me and I know it has also helped and will continue to help so many others. Indeed, imparting skills in arts and crafts to women, children and other disadvantaged groups in society enhances their chances of paid and self-employment, thereby improving their lots and empowering them.
Has there been a time you experienced a setback and how did you overcome it?
Set back! One could talk about challenges but certainly not setbacks! There have been occasional challenges in terms of lack of good and reliable manpower, good –roads, and regular and stable electricity. Most of the roads in the neighbourhood are in a very bad state, and power supply is epileptic, compelling us to spend huge sums of money on vehicle repairs and maintenance, generators, diesel and petrol, and more. Most Nigerian workers are undependable. The moment they feel empowered, they are gone. We have thrived in spite of these daunting challenges and look forward to better times.
Has the effort been worthwhile? In other words, when you look back, what gives you courage to move on?
Looking back over the years, all I can say is a big “Thank You, Oh Lord” for the opportunity to touch so many lives positively and tangibly through our empowerment programmes. It gives us much joy, whenever an old participant calls us to give positive feedback and shows appreciation for being helped to succeed by using a particular skill they had acquired through our empowerment series. There is so much joy in giving, because givers never lack!
We have been able to touch lives and help humanity through our various programmes. There are various stakeholders and beneficiaries who largely depend on our empowerment centre as a source of support. The centre has grown in visibility around Olambe, its immediate environ and into the global world. On our Facebook page (greenhouseartempowermentcentre), we receive acknowledgements from friends in the USA, UK, Europe and other African countries and of course from Nigeria.
How do you judge the competence and capability of your other facilitators?
For every programme we organize, we bring in experts and professionals. For example, for the 2013/2014 Art Teachers’ Conference/Seminar, we invited several academics: Dr. Kunle Filani, former Provost of Federal College of Education, Abeokuta; Dr. Ademola Azeez, HOD- Federal College of Education, Akoka, Lagos; Dr. Mabel O. Awogbade – Vice Dean of School of Visual and Performing Arts, Kwara State University, Malete, Ilorin; renowned artist, Mr. Sam Ovraiti, Mr. Ato Arinze, among others. Also, for our crafts/handwork, we deploy competent professionals who can make a positive impact or difference.
Why did you choose to establish the centre here in Olambe, Ogun State (a rural setting like this)? And how have you balanced the reach to other beneficiaries in others part of the city?
Our mission has been and remains: Living with and for the people. Many people believe you must be in town or in government to make an impact on your fellow human beings; that is not our view! Not all of us can or should be in government or in the city or town. If you genuinely want to touch the lives of the less privileged ones, you must be with them to feel their pulse and understand them and their needs.
You may wish to know that all those who wish to benefit from, or add value to our services, find their way here. Indeed, we have had visiting schools to our tourist centre from Ikeja, Ojodu Berger, Akute and Mowe.
We have different approaches for assessing the impact, depending on the targeted audience. During workshops, our participants are mostly adults for skill acquisitions. We have organized many regular workshops and have mastered the art of meeting the expectations of our participants; we start the session by mentoring and counselling them, experience sharing and looking at the benefits of what is in view. We also print in bulk our brochures or pamphlets that normally serve as guides to our various programmes. We give each participant a pamphlet as one of their portfolio materials. We educate them and give generous opportunities to those who still have difficulty in achieving their potentials. Above all, we create opportunities for feedbacks from participants both at the end of each programme and after the programme and of course we have our in-house post-programme evaluation to determine the outcome and learning points for the future.
In view of your plans and projection, how many people does the centre empower annually? And on a broader view, what’s the average number of people the centre had empowered so far?
In total, we have empowered a few thousands since the inception of this centre. Our main objective is to promote Nigerian art and artists and to empower the youths, women and other disadvantaged groups in society by providing them with skill in arts and crafts for self-and paid –employment. We have between 10 and 15 programmes annually.
How do you support and sustain the centre?
From our family resources. We also invest heavily on our staff to sustain our programmes. We believe over time we would through what we have been able to achieve on our own attract some goodwill and funding support from Nigerians for the GreenHouse dream and endeavours. That prospect would enlarge and deepen our programmes for the benefit of many more.
What other things does the centre do?
Basically, we serve our host community, as a “Tourist Centre” where people and families visit for relaxation and in the process, learn about Nigerian Art History at a glance through our Art Educational Museum of both the Ancient and Contemporary section. We have our private and public art gallery. We also have other offerings such as a book-club and library; the training, conference and seminar section, as well as IYASE-ODOZI Foundation.
Not yet. Most NGOs or empowerment groups are still struggling to become viable and sustain their programmes. However, we envisage such collaboration in future which would be mutually beneficial and serve the cause of societal empowerment positively. We also plan to integrate the entrepreneurial aspect of empowerment into our programmes, with the possibility of providing financial support for our products and old students and monitoring their growth.
What does it take to stand out or to be independent? In other words, what does it take for anyone to succeed?
Hardwork, diligence, honesty, determination, sincerity, professionalism, genuineness, loving thy neighbour as thy self, and to uphold the truth. If you lack any of these qualities, sorry you cannot help humanity or touch lives.
What is the next thing that we should expect from the centre?
This month we have the Children Easter Arts and Crafts Classes and before the end of the year, we plan to host some of Nigerian foremost artists in a group exhibition tagged Nigerian Artists And Nigerian Politics in September 2015. We have already our 2015 Yearly Plan with various activities for children, youth and women.