Artist residency programmes in India have opened up new space for creativity

Artist residency programmes in India have opened up new space for creativity

By BHUMIKA POPLI | | 1 October, 2016
Artist residency programmes, creativity, Navjot Randhawa, Bandhu Prasad, Kochi Biennale Foundation, Walk of Life I&II
The Mirage at Andretta, Himachal Pradesh.
It’s common these days for artists to enrol themselves in short-term residency programmes, aiming to re-channelise their creative energies and boost their motivation levels. Bhumika Popli writes about how contemporary artists can benefit from attending these.
Everyone grows together here,” says Sumir Tagra, describing his experience of having attended an art residency programme at Khoj International Artists Association in New Delhi last year. “My partner Jiten Thukral and I together developed a board game titled Walk of Life I&II there. Being at the residency was a fantastic experience. It was like going back to school where one participant pushes another to create and grow.”

Tagra thinks art residencies are a great way of developing one’s creative vision. He says, “The process of sharing ideas is quite enriching for artists. It is a great way of expanding the bounds of your creativity. And during a residency programme, artists get to interact with other artists a lot.  Everyone learns from each other.”

Providing artists a space of their own with the prospects of creating something new, an art residency can be a great boost to creativity. Besides, it is an opportunity to meet like-minded souls from around the world. In some residencies, the artists’ day-to-day needs — like equipment, accommodation and food — are taken care of by the organisers themselves while few residencies ask for a certain amount of fee for all these things.

The Khoj Studios, New Delhi.

A Himalayan homestay, called The Mirage at Andretta village, regularly organises workshops in the lap of nature. Its manager Navjot Randhawa tells about the residency: “We organised a week-long residency in May this year which focused on theatre. We invited acclaimed theatre personality Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry from Chandigarh to lead it. For people attending this workshop, it was important for them to be adaptive to the place as technology like mobile phones sometimes don’t work here. There is a certain amount of fee to attend our residencies. However, we give a fee waiver to those who do not have enough funds to join us.”

Randhawa talks about the goings-on at a recent workshop. She says, “The workshop focused on both indoor and outdoor activities. There were lots of group activities. The activities ranged from improvisations to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of participants. This further led to developing the overall personality of the participants while training them at theatre. Both theatre and non-theatre people were part of this residency. It was a good mix of people from 18 -35 year age group.”

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Bandhu Prasad, Program Manager, Kochi Biennale Foundation, talks about the format of residencies they offer. “We provide the artists with research assistance, studio space, provide them with materials and our partner organisations supports them financially. We get artists through partner organisations and through open call on social media websites. The residencies were started in 2013 by us and we have supported around 30 artists till now.”

One of the many purposes of an art residency is to give a creatively charged atmosphere to budding artists and  help motivate them further.

“The process of sharing ideas is quite enriching for artists. It is a great way of expanding the bounds of your creativity. And during a residency programme, artists get to interact with other artists a lot.”

An art centre dedicated in developing contemporary art practice, Khoj International Artists Association also offers a number of art residencies. Sitara Chowfla, curator, Khoj, sheds light on the selection process of residencies offered by Khoj. She says, “We look at the artists who are developing new and different kind of works; often who are experimenting with new mediums and ways. We focus on thematic works, for example we decide on a topic and ask artists to send applications based on the set of ideas, which can be explored further. We put this call on our website and examine the proposals sent to us. Ultimately when we are building a residency we try to build a group of artists who we think would work together and gain learning from each other.”

Residencies can also be a great way of networking where exchange of experiences and ideas take place.

Residents playing the board game developed by Thukral and Tagra at Khoj.

“During the 4-6 weeks residencies offered by Khoj, we give the space to artists to interact and to have a dialogue. Here the people share skills with each other. They talk about their interests and inspirations. We introduce the residents to various sites in Delhi, galleries, museums and the like. We also set meetings with other artists present in the city for the residents,” says Chowfla.

She adds: “The main idea of our workshop is to encourage the artists to experiment and have a dialogue with each other rather than creating finished work.”

In other words, a residency programme can provide an artist with a creative space he or she often longs for, helping them to reflect on their life and creative abilities. By being part of such programmes, artists chart out a process of rediscovering their inner potential, their hidden talents.

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