As part of AMI Arts festival 2022, a virtual talk session ‘Role of Creators in Society’ was organised by KCC in collaboration with Kala Chaupal. The session was moderated by Rahul Kumar, who’s an artist, curator and a journalist.
The esteemed panel included personalities like Dr. Manu Gupta (Co-Founder, SEEDS), Priya Krishnamoorthy (Founder and CEO, 200 Million Artisans), Richa Agarwal (Art Patron and Chairperson, Kolkata Centre for Creativity) and Leenika Jacob (Managing Trustee, Kala Chaupal).
Leenika Beri Jacob from Kala Chaupal dove deep into how technology has the maximum carbon footprint on the cultural sector and the effects of climate change. She mentioned the Wall Mural project in Hisar, and how an educational approach was taken in working with school children. She voiced her opinions regarding how we can regenerate our cultural approach in small, rural places like Dharmaj in Gujarat for instance, and aim towards building a creative economy. COVID-19 became a pivotal point for young artists as they were supported in many ways. Instagram accounts were opened for creators to showcase their creative work during the dark hours of the pandemic. She touched upon the “Living a Dark Night” project, the Bulandshahr legacy festival, and the role of art in the economy. She went into detail regarding the heritage walk routes organised by her and how #humansofbulandshahr had gone into action, the art installations and converting a jail into a heritage site, thus creating spaces for performers.
Manu Gupta, co-founder of SEEDS with a doctorate in community-based disaster management, emphasised on community resilience and response towards natural calamities. He represents an organisation working in humanitarian response for three decades now, and has reached out to 6 million people during 40 such emergencies, including the creative communities when Raghurajpur was hit by the cyclone Fani. He also worked towards recovery programs associated with creative communities, psycho-social healing and analysing ways for the betterment of children traumatised by disasters.
Artisan villages depending on tourism had suffered the most during COVID-19. Ms. Jacob had reached out to help the communities that found themselves in this predicament. The vulnerability caused by the situation taught them the need to be resilient. She stressed upon how we, as a community from the humanitarian and private sector, can work together to build rings of resilience around the community of artists by helping them via digital marketing, and spreading awareness regarding the literacy of digital architecture. She also touched upon the huge cultural loss that comes with the loss of biodiversity, because of the worsening landscape.
For Priya Krishnamoorthy the question, “Why do we not value creativity?”, started in 2010. Creative people were not a part of the conversations on social impact and economy. The artist community lived in the bubble of their creative circles. 200 Million Artisans started an information platform to host fundraisers and many people reached out as volunteers to help these artisans. A government survey showed the number of artisans for the first time in 2012 and revealed that they comprised a significant part of the economy. The question which arose was — who is an artisan and who isn’t?
Richa Agarwal began her session by stating that KCC is 3 years old, living purely on passion — a passion that she believes in. She explored the topic of art as a way of life, how art has no boundaries, but is a unifier. She discussed how it was during the pandemic that we resorted to our hobbies to go through the dreary uncertainty of each day, getting in touch with ourselves. She touched upon the significance of being culturally driven, sustainable, and ways of generating one’s own funds. She raised an important concern regarding how one often buys local crafts more out of pity and does not look deep into the art.
An important concern was raised by Dr. Gupta related to the rapid decline of the bamboo artisans in Bihar due to certain clashes originating in the new age. Dr. Gupta offered us a way of ensuring that they prevailed – organising a collective group of these artisans, getting them some kind of recognition, and handholding them until they are exposed to a larger ecosystem.
We are living in times where there’s no choice, but to work in partnerships. Empathy for both investors and policymakers is needed. It is pertinent for us to understand how technology can help us in our cultural identity.
In the concluding minutes of the panel discussion, a concern was addressed by Ms. Agarwal regarding how the arts is not considered an attractive career option, and hence there’s no proper art education – which is why people don’t go out and engage with art. It is a vicious cycle resembling a domino effect.
Most importantly, the relevance of who we are today must be firmly established – for without it, we lose everything.