During the past 20 years, thousands of Indonesian children have discovered that thanks to the dedicated work of Puri Hadiprana, studying art can be a foundation for building character as a human being. Chris Hanrahan reports.
In may 1998, like many others in Jakarta, Ir. Puri Hadiprana and her family fled to Singapore to escape the riots that culminated in the fall of President Soeharto and the New Order government. But she stayed in the Lion City for only three days.
“It was a terrifying time here,” the deeply spiritual social entrepreneur and Sunday school teacher recalls over an invigorating cup of Sumatra coffee one morning in April in the dining room of her beautifully decorated home in Menteng, part of which she has turned into an art school. “After darkness fell, you could hear the mobs marching and yelling and screaming outside in the street, and you didn’t know if they might try to break into the house and loot it. That was such a big worry I couldn’t sleep for days on end.
“Eventually, we decided that the best thing to do was to lock up the house, drive to the airport and get on a flight to Singapore. I remember having to sit on the floor in the airport because it was so packed. But almost immediately after landing in Singapore, I regretted my decision. I decided I must go back to Jakarta and face the music. My inspiration was my parents. They refused to run. They stayed put, saw the troubles out and carried on the family business.”
That business is Kemang-based Hadiprana, one of Indonesia’s most distinguished interior design firms, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. It was started by Puri’s father, Ing. Hendra Hadiprana, after he had graduated in Architecture and Interior Design from Groningen in the Netherlands in 1958, Hendra decided to independently found his very own design company, and the result was Grahacipta Hadiprana (the firm’s name became, simply, Hadiprana in 2012). His personal values and commitments that have driven the company forward over the decades, says Puri, are based on his response to adversity, his broad knowledge of architecture and design, his talent, his perfectionism, his innovativeness and his insistence on the firm remaining customer satisfaction-oriented at all times.
The founder’s lifetime passion for art and beauty can be seen in buildings like Hotel InterContinental Bali, Club Olympus at Grand Hyatt Jakarta, Plaza Indonesia, Galeri BNI, Gereja Kemayoran, Masjid At-Taqwa and his beloved The Chedi Club, Tanah Gajah in Bali. The first art gallery under Hadiprana’s portfolio was established in 1961. It featured young artists who went on became famous, such as Jeihan Sukmantoro, Srihadi Soedarsono and Suparto.
In 1997, Galeri Hadiprana “moved to the most artistic area in Jakarta, as an Art Boutique Mall that becomes the house of very selective high-quality art, handicrafts, artifacts and paintings,” says Puri, who very much admires the paintings of Made Gunawan. “Throughout his life, my father has been nothing short of instrumental in all his efforts to help preserve, maintain and nurture Indonesian art and traditions.”
Hendra Hadiprana’s philosophical thinking derives from the ancient culture of the Javanese monarchy in Kraton: “A sacred system to be conveyed into an important design system is called ‘Inside and outside world’, and preserved by the team up until now.”
Now aged 89, Hendra no longer works full-time. But he is to be found each morning at the Hadiprana Art Centre in Jl. Kemang Raya. “He’s there without fail from 10 to 12 o’clock,” says Puri proudly. “He likes to keep an eye on things, talk to clients and attend meetings.”
Hendra is President Commissioner of the family business. Puri’s sister, Dra. Mira Hadiprana, became President Director in 2007. Puri is Commissioner of the firm, Ir. Faried MS Masdoeki is Design Director and Ir. Ami Utami has the role of Operational Director.
Puri has loved art from a young age. But her father, a strict disciplinarian and very hard worker, forbade her from going to art school. “His opinion was that art schools were full of lazy, rebellious students who spent more time enjoying themselves than studying and working, and I’m sure he was right about that,” she laughs.
“He said I should get serious and study architecture, just like he did. So I attended Universitas Tarumanagara for five years to get my degree. After graduation, I joined the family firm and worked for my father. I have never practised as an architect, but I still think my studies were worthwhile. They gave me a good grounding. I have enjoyed my career as an interior designer, and I still take on some projects for Hadiprana clients I know and like to work with.”
Puri’s main interest since 1998 has been Hadiprana Art Centre. “When the riots were over and life began returning to normal, I felt I had to do something for society. I spent some time thinking about how I could help children and families recover from the trauma of those troubled times,” she recalls.
“Art had always been an inspiration and a solace to me, and I wanted to share my passion with others. So I decided to create a place where children could go to learn about art and to express themselves. I conceived Hadiprana Art Centre as a place where there could be a healing process for moms and children after the riots. It was also an extension of my father’s mission in art and culture.”
The mission of the centre is threefold, says Puri: “That through art there is a positive motivation, healing, creativity and brain synergy; that character is the foundation for all knowledge, as through art there is a constructive learning process; and that although not forgetting adults, children are the foundation of our future.” Its mission is “to express and voice out Indonesian artistic culture and lifestyle with good character through our children and through our families”.
Says Puri: “I wanted to surround my life with art, colour and children. They have changed my life and made it more meaningful. For me, children and adults must be able to express the feelings. So many mothers have shared with me how art has improved their lives and helped their children get through hard times.
“I believe in sharing the joy of art for the benefit of children and adults. One way to change our nation is through art and culture. The concept of Hadiprana Art Centre is that of a base camp for character building that is the foundation of all knowledge.”
Hadiprana Art Centre started with two teachers and a handful of students, mostly the children of Puri’s friends and neighbours. Today, it has more than 1,000 students attending classes at a network of branches all over Jakarta. Programmes available range from the simple – Basic Crayon Class – to the sophisticated, such as Acrylic and Oil Painting and Perspective Class for Architecture and Interior Design. Many of the students come from deprived areas such as Pademangan in North Jakarta, where Puri teaches Sunday school. Fees are kept low because Puri’s main purpose is not to make money but to provide a social service.
Looking ahead, Puri is confident that the family business will go into a third generation. She talks proudly of the achievements of her daughter, Sekaraya Hadiprana Surjaudaja. “Raya started collecting paintings when she was 11 years old,” says her mother. “She would save all her pocket money to buy art.
“She discovered SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) and went there and graduated. Now, Raya is preparing to intern for a year at Neri & Hu in Shanghai.” Neri & Hu Design and Research is a highly acclaimed interdisciplinary architecture and design practice. The acclaimed international firm is known for creating captivating total environments, including architecture and master planning, interiors, graphics and product design services. “The founders are a husband and wife team,” says Puri. “They glorify God in their work, which is why Raya chose to intern there.”
Looking ahead, Puri plans to grow Hadiprana Art Centre by working with schools. “It’s becoming too expensive to rent or buy buildings in Jakarta,” she admits. She also wants to do more interior design projects with favourite clients. “I enjoy working with people who have good art collections,” she says. “Many interior designers create rooms and then go looking for artworks to complement what they have dreamed up. But I always ask my clients to show me the artworks they have collected during their lives. I choose pieces that reflect their character and the way they live and build something around that. In short, I start with the art.”