India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) funds and supports artistic practices and initiatives with an aim of preserve and transmit cultural knowledge
Indrani Baruah, an architect and visual artist, has been teaching cultural studies for the last few years. With a keen interest in arts and culture, she developed a project titled ‘Cultural Re-imaginations-I’, where she worked with bamboo artisans to sculpt a public installation on the Periferry site on the banks of the Brahmaputra.
A grant from India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) helped her for research towards the construction of a raft-like structure in collaboration with bamboo artisans and boatwrights in Guwahati and the curation of a journey on the Brahmaputra, during which the raft will function as a mobile, habitable receptacle to gather and share stories, songs, and local knowledge about food and ecology.
Indrani’s story is one of the many that IFA has helped narrate, in the field of arts and culture.
Set up as a Public Charitable Trust in 1993, IFA is an independent, national, not-for-profit, grantmaking organisation that supports practice, research, and education in the arts in India. The foundation appointed Anmol Vellani as its first Executive Director in 1995, when it started making grants.
The foundation began with an aim to address the gaps in the support available for the arts, and presents itself as accessible to artists, scholars, researchers, and arts institutions.
“IFA set itself the mission of enriching the practice, knowledge, public access to, and experience of the arts in India, by providing strategic support for innovative projects and capacity building across all the arts,” says an IFA staff person.
IFA’s first challenge was to include outreach among the arts and culture community and build a relationship of trust and mutual respect. IFA needed to build its key programmes by first understanding the gaps in arts philanthropy and then the needs and aspirations of the field.
Over the past 22 years, Bengaluru-based IFA has ensured support for diverse artists, musicians, dancers, performers, theatre, practitioners, photographers, writers, researchers, educators, curators, filmmakers, and more. The outcomes of these projects as books, films, performances, exhibitions, and archival materials have been circulated in the public domain through showcases, presentations, seminars, screenings, lecture demonstrations, and festivals, helping widen access for a diverse public encouraging broader participation in the arts.
The foundation is also the managing partner with Junoon Theatre for SMART (Strategic Management in the Arts of Theatre), a capacity building programme for theatre practitioners in India conceived by the India Theatre Forum. IFA’s engagement in Bengaluru is strengthened by its Project 560, which enables artists and scholars to explore the city in multiple ways.
IFA seeks out proposals from artists and scholars by publicising its programmes throughout the country in multiple languages through artist networks, universities, research institutions and media notices, the IFA website, social media, and public outreach.
“A very significant part of IFA’s work is to help applicants develop proposals. IFA encourages applicants to write in with their project ideas which then through a conversation with the staffs is developed into proposals. This makes IFA a unique funding body,” says an IFA staff person.
In order to seek applicants, IFA has started several initiatives to make the organisation accessible to artists and audiences alike. The most notable of these have been IFA Open Houses, IFA Grant Showcases, and the media outreach both online and in print.
IFA Open Houses are set up as events with local partners across various small and big cities and towns in India, where IFA staffs talk about the various programmes and projects to local communities of artists and scholars. This is done to diverse proposals across languages, regions, disciplines, and thematics.
In the past two years, the foundation has covered Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Pondicherry, Bengaluru, Shillong, Chennai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Agartala Pune, Baroda, Madurai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, among others.
IFA has received grants from national and international foundations and trusts, including the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Tata Trusts, Bajaj Foundation, Godrej Foundation, Lohia Foundation, Infosys Foundation, and many other bodies.
A large number of individual donor patrons also support IFA’s work and advocate for the foundation as ambassadors. IFA also engages with Corporate Houses for CSR support and has partnered with Citi India, Titan Company Limited, Voltas Limited, Technicolor, and Tata Steel to name a few.
IFA received the NGO Award 2009, instituted by The Rockefeller Foundation and Resource Alliance, UK, for its commitment to the arts transparency, good governance, and financial management. In 2009 and 2016, IFA’s Executive Director and Head of Resource Mobilisation received the best Fundraiser awards.
The foundation has supported over 490 arts and culture projects, disbursing over Rs 21 crore in 22 states across India in the past 22 years.
IFA is currently led by its Executive Director Arundhati Ghosh, who joined the foundation as its first fundraiser in 2001 after serving for almost a decade in the corporate sector. She is an internationally recognised professional in the arts and organised philanthropy.