It is a welcome trend that teenagers living in culturally rich and open metropolitan cities like Bengaluru place great importance on something other than academics. High school is tough and college is tougher. Everyone looks forward to the weekend when they can walk abandon their schedules and habits, explore their creativity, and have fun.
Open Sky Slam (OSS) is a community-driven venture that allows adolescents to delve deep into their world of creativity. Once started for art enthusiasts of Bengaluru, today, the initiative has reached Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, Calicut, and the Gold Coast, Australia, where it brings music, poetry, dance and magic to a comprehensive stage. It also conducted a project with our neighbours from Pakistan where young artists from both sides of the border exchanged ideas, hobbies, political views, and thoughts. Many of these young art enthusiasts ended up becoming friends with each other.
It all started about a year ago when two twenty-year-olds Shaun D'Souza and Tim Lo Surdo gathered a group of friends on their rooftop for an impromptu poetry slam. Dancers and singers were called to support them on their new adventure. Soon enough, it morphed into something bigger, something much more. Shaun says,
“I have always believed in the power of people and that sustainable talent can change the world. Open Sky proved to be one such initiative where every artist could leave behind the baggage of being judged, and could come up to perform for the love of art.”
Today, OSS is a melting pot of several opinions and lifestyles, which come together to form a beautiful synergy of open minds. In Bengaluru, where it continues to remain the most popular, it is run by Shruthi Mohan (21), Deepten Sarkar (19), and Aishwarya Iyer (19), although most the work they do is community driven.
Community remains OSS’s biggest strength. The organisation believes in the simple philosophy of providing a stage to every performer who needs it, in a non-judgmental way. Be it a singer, who has played for several crowds, or a poet who is just starting out, OSS provides a platform for everyone and encourages them to get better at what interests them. When asked about sponsorships, Deepten says that OSS is all about art, and while they are open to all forms of collaboration, they are not doing it for money. OSS is not about commercialization of art, and their primary focus is collaboration and empowering the community. Shruthi adds,
“The fact that Open Sky as a concept is accepted by people of different genres is a fuel to our engine. We have had performers from the age of 5 to the age of 55. If a platform is as welcoming as this, who wouldn't wanna be a part of it? Every participant here looks at a chance to grow. He always looks at others, learns and experiments with other forms. I am a classical dancer by training, but the community has encouraged me to try poetry as well.”
The OSS community is known for organising its events in different premises, from cafes to restaurants, from terrace tops to public gardens, from orphanages and rescue homes to government schools. The participants are often invited to work as a community towards one social cause. From helping students gain access to books to sports equipment. The community of young poets and art enthusiasts has helped several government schools build libraries and playgrounds. Shruthi recalls,
“When we thought of an initiative like this, we were very sceptical about the response, but we followed our gut feeling and a project like “Build a Library” was initiated. We expected some 50 books to be donated or purchased for the government school children we wanted to help. To our surprise, 400 odd books poured in! A response like that is overwhelming and it definitely does fuel our engine to do more.”
When asked about competition, Aishwarya jumps into the discussion and says, “We never really compared ourselves with other organisations. We would never want to compete with anyone. We believe art is everyone's and the world is a stage. Open Sky is community-driven and we believe only in collaboration of different art forms.”
OSS has unique plans for the future. They want to spread the idea and let communities do the rest of the magic. Shruti says, “We want to venture into every nook and corner and introduce the idea of Open Sky and encourage more people to come out of their cocoons and celebrate art in every form. We would like to see a world where one need not wait for a college fest or a family gathering to perform, but rather wake up one day to a slam in his neighborhood. That's the world we wish to grow up in.”
Nobody said it better than Pablo Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Well, with communities like Open Sky Slam emerging out of urban pockets like Bengaluru, it looks like some of us will continue to remain artists at heart even when adulthood takes over.