Art residencies offer artists an environment conducive to free thinking and experimentation. Punam Goel lists four such creative hubs across India
KHOJ STUDIOS, NEW DELHI
One of the most coveted art residencies in India founded by Pooja Sood, Khoj International Artists’ Association has been at the helm of nurturing and promoting cutting-edge art practice and a multi-disciplinary approach to art production. Various residencies have brought together practitioners from diverse fields such as science, food, design, fashion, sound, music and art under one roof and inside the aestheticallybuilt courtyard of Khoj Studios in New Delhi.
Says Radha Mahendru, programme director, Khoj Studios, “We hope to give artists the space to experiment, reflect, take risks with their work and even fail – the residency is meant to be a safe space. Khoj works hard in providing the artists-in-residents with physical and intellectual infrastructure to enable them to make work that otherwise has no avenues for expression and may not be commercially viable.”
Almost all residencies here are centred around vibrant and astute themes. For example when Khoj first started the art and gaming residency, almost no one was looking at art games in a serious way – the three gaming residencies at Khoj and the subsequent exhibition helped build discourse in that area. Adds Mahendru, “Most of Khoj residencies comprise of Indian and international artists and we hope that through conversations (formal and informal) during the course of the residency, each artist takes away new learning and reflections.”
Ensuring that resident artists incur minimal costs, Khoj pays for the travel and accommodation, along with per diems and expenses towards production. It is equipped with a reading room and library, a project space and a media room which are available to the artists, along with technical equipment like projectors, cameras, sound recording etc.
WHAT ABOUT ART (WAA), MUMBAI
Launched in 2013, this newcomer may be young in the industry, but with a strategic location in the heart of Mumbai’s vibrant neighbourhood Bandra, WAA residency has risen fast on the art map of India. One of the few art residencies in Mumbai, it provides individual studio space, professional networking opportunities and an intellectually stimulating environment for dialogue exchange on visual arts practices for artists and curators. In addition, the residency regularly organises artist talks and open studios. With nine spacious studios, WAA residencies are often supported by the Inlaks Foundation, the Quebec government, the Qatar Museums, Pro Helvetia and Goethe Institute. WAA has also been a part of the Mumbai Gallery Weekend since the past three years, while also providing funded residencies to young graduates every year. Says Eve Lemesle, director, WAA, “Art residencies provide infrastructure and support for art production which artists usually don’t have in their own studios.”
This residency programme helps artists avail a private studio for free, or at an affordable cost.
ARTS4ALL, NEW DELHI
Started by art curator Archana Bahl Sapra and artist Puja Bahri in 2011, Arts4All’s aim is to foster creativity of under-recognised art forms and young artists on an equitable and continual basis. The residency programme started from a small set-up in Sukhdev Vihar and now runs from the Sanskriti Kendra in the capital. Says Sapra, “We introduce artists to the capital’s art scene, mentor their work, and encourage experimentation. We facilitate their growth through critique and guidance, besides organising open days when their work is displayed to make it accessible to a wider audience and help market it for their economic sustainability. We also invite senior artists to give talks, mentor and offer feedback.”
Since Arts4All Residency aims to promote emerging artists, the programme is structured to not only help them to learn from senior artists but also understand how galleries and exhibition centres function. Housed in the idyllic environment of Sanskriti Kendra, resident artists also get to view the stunning art collection at the Kendra’s three museums, while other facilities include a hall, an amphitheatre, artists’ studios, dormitories and workshop spaces.
ART ICHOL, MAIHAR, MADHYA PRADESH
Art Ichol was founded by art enthusiast and gallerist Ambica Beri as a first-of-its kind multidisciplinary arts centre in the small town of Maihar in Madhya Pradesh. In the last five years since its inception, Art Ichol’s rise to fame has been phenomenal, having recently bagged the National Tourism Award for being the most unique and innovative art destination in India. Comprising a bronze casting foundry, an open air sculpture park, stone and wood carving workshops, painters’ studio, clay modelling room and an art café, Art Ichol has hosted more than 60 artists from over 20 counties since 2015.
A significant residency in recent times has been an International Contemporary Ceramics Residency, that led to the construction of a Brick Temple at Art Ichol as a tribute to brick makers of the region. Some prominent artists who have lived and worked at Art Ichol include acclaimed Japanese ceramic artist Satoru Hoshino along with Indian masters such as Satish Gupta and Paresh Maity, among others.
Says Beri, “The works created at Art Ichol are different even for the established artists because they get an opportunity to experiment in different mediums, often not their own. For example, Maity worked here in ceramics as well as industrial waste. Moreover, the space and environment along with studio facilities offer an array of material and ideas for them to create unique works with. Artists experience a sense of liberation from the routine and mundane city environment, which invariably inspires creativity. Almost always, the creations are unplanned and organic.”
Located in the heart of rural India, Art Ichol has successfully brought ‘the creation of art’ out of the confines of the elite space and into the lives of ordinary people. As its parallel vision, it promotes skill development through the arts. Australian textile designer Trish Nathan, on her multiple visits explained to the villagers how the traditional motifs on their huts had inspired her designs. The visiting artists interact with the local community regularly. This sharing and exchange of knowledge is invigorating for both the artist and the community, whether it is through theatre, embroidery, music, poetry, painting, dance, architecture or art installations.