WISS Today Article

When we say that extraordinary things happen at WISS, it is because they do. We have recently had an unforgettable visit from Kool Koor, a pioneer from the graffiti art movement who stayed with us for a whole week!

This week was a one of a kind experience filled with inspiration and art. When we talk about artists, we often imagine what their life is like, their studio/workshop, where they get their inspiration from, and much more. This week we had the opportunity to live it first hand with an artist.

The Western International School of Shanghai became his studio, our walls, our students, our community were an inspiration for him to create two wonderful pieces of art that we will cherish.

Arts is an essential part of our balanced curriculum at WISS. That’s why this visit was so special for our students and for the whole #WISScommunity.

Kool Koor at WISS
Kool Koor at WISS


A Week Full of Art

Throughout the week, Kool Koor worked on his art in a reserved space – sometimes with slow music in the background, having a coffee while painting from time to time, but always smiling at everybody who passed by to watch him work.

A week with Kool Koor at WISS

Secondary students worked on the concepts that Kool Koor introduced to them, focusing on how to show movement on the canvas. Students followed his advice and worked under the supervision of our teachers, but also stayed true to their inspiration and got amazing results.

Kool Koor with WISS secondary students
Kool Koor with WISS Secondary students

For Primary students, getting to know Kool Koor and visiting his temporary studio in the Secondary building, was a beautiful surprise. Kool Koor showed them how to mix colors to get the desired tonality and how to achieve balance between colors in order to create a harmonious canvas.
They were all speechless, watching how he works and what a big canvas he was painting!

Kool Koor with WISS Primary students

An Art Talk 

We were joined by other schools from Shanghai to enjoy a talk with Kool Koor that closed out our week with Kool Koor. During this talk, he explained to us what graffiti art is, how this street art first appeared, what makes it different. He also talked about his beginnings as an artist and his career.

Almost two hours of conversation that seemed like 5 minutes, as Kool Koor captured our attention from the beginning to the end. The attendees also had the opportunity to satisfy their curiosity by asking him about his life, his art, and his thoughts.

A Talk with Kool Koor at WISS
A talk with Kool Koor at WISS

A Conversation With Kool Koor

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Kool Koor, my given name is Charles Hargrove. I’m from South Bronx in NYC. I started writing graffiti in 1976 and that led to me being introduced into the formal art world in 1980, in an exhibition in the Bronx.

From that point forward I participated in all of the major exhibitions of graffiti art in NY because the person who was representing me was also the most engaged person in trying to promote this art in NY. That led to making exhibitions in Europe in 1983/1984 forward and in 1985 I started traveling in Europe, first to Brussels where I now reside.

Did you always know that you wanted to be an artist?

For me…I didn’t even question it because I was already doing it. I knew that I was not going to stop. In terms of professions, I thought that I was going to be an architect. When I was a kid I wanted to be an architect.

What makes graffiti art different?

Historically speaking, the graffiti art movement was the first, at that time, truly American art form, because all of the other art movements were coming from Europe. So this was the first art movement that was born in America.

And I think that the fact that it was created by young people who were not seeking economic fortune, they just wanted to let the world know that they exist, that we’re here, we’ve got something to say. There are things that we are not okay with, and there are things that we love, and we want to express that in the streets so that our peers can see it and that people and society can see it too.

Kool Koor working at WISS
Kool Koor working at WISS

What do you feel when you have a white canvas in front of you?

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning when there is a white canvas, a wall, or a sheet of paper because there are endless possibilities that are waiting to unfold.

Do you try to express yourself in your paintings?

I try not to think about it and I just go.

How would you describe your experience here at WISS?

I think that I gained as much out of it as the students did, because each group is different, depending on the language that the people speak. But it’s always nice when you are working with a group that is motivated for something that they like and they choose to be there because the participation is a lot different.

Kool Koor working with WISS students

I like the fact that the school really encourages the arts and gives the platform and space for the children to express themselves and really help them a lot in their creative process.

So I saw the added value of having someone like me coming here to be able to share my everyday things with them, because I think they all slowly start to understand that we’re all the same, we have the same questions and in many cases the same fears, but it’s with a little bit of time that you understand that there is nothing to fear because you just have to do it.

Did you learn something from our students during this week?

Yes, I learned that you cannot prejudge before it actually happens, you just have to know that it’s always going to be different.

Kool Koor at WISS

It was a great pleasure for all of us to meet Kool Koor. It will definitely be one of the highlights of the WISS 2019/2020 school year.

To find out more about the creative arts program at the Western International School of Shanghai, visit our website.