Anjali Jain's Delhi-based NGO is fighting the cause of keeping art alive in India by providing a platform for budding and struggling artists to take their art places, and encourage the young to find an interest in the field as well.
There’s no end to an artists’ struggle in India. While some fight for its existence, others want art to be more affordable, and some want to turn their passion into reality. But in recent years, we have witnessed many artists, both upcoming and established, coming to the fore and voicing their opinions on art being a lost cause, claiming that a country that breathes through its heritage, has done little to protect the interests and the continuity of the culture of visual arts.
The issue begins when a child is denied pursuing art, as it is not seen as a stable career. Anjali Jain went through a similar experience.
“Pursuing art as a career was a big no-no in my family. It had to be a mainstream career option like doctor or engineer. So I began working with Delhi Tourism. But I took an early voluntary retirement service (VRS) to follow my passion – art,” Anjali says.
Anjali set up Kala Drishti in 2011. After she voluntarily retired, Anjali picked up the paintbrush. She felt the need to provide a platform for local artists to showcase their visual art works, as they were struggling to get themselves started despite their immense talent. Together with her daughter Ritika, she founded Kala Drishti. Her daughter today promotes visual arts under the same banner in Singapore.
The organisation is a trust formed to promote upcoming and struggling artists. It has become a safe haven for artists in Delhi to upscale art within and beyond their community, at the same time creating art awareness. Anjali says,
We were recently awarded a project with the Ghaziabad Development Authority. We were involved with the International Airport in the past as well. These kind of projects help boost the morale of artists and as a community, they’re taking their art to millions.
A forum of about 70 to 80 artists, Kala Drishti promises career opportunities for these artists by recognising their works. These artists then go on to showcase their works in exhibitions, symposiums, and they also teach children.
Change needs to begin early
Having struggled to pursue her own passion at an early age, Anjali believes the children in India are not being exposed to the virtues of art to the fullest. She says that the education system is promoting learning, but has done little to show how aesthetics can build a more progressive mind.
Children being denied the opportunities of exploring the world of art are perhaps the biggest mistake we are making as a nation. Anjali further added that children must be encouraged to do something different from what they study on a daily basis. Art can be a wonderful intervention in this sense. Kala Drishti conducts various programmes for students up to class 8, where they are given lessons in pottery, paper grafting and more.
“Art is a therapy that can provide young minds with the opportunity to find solace in something other than their regular academic work."
"Children today must be encouraged in the art space. No one acknowledges that art is therapy and it can enhance the education we are providing for our children. They need to be encouraged to experience the world and life through their own eyes, by feeling it. Instead, we are submitting them to virtual experiences which, although important, leave them devoid of real experiences,” she says.
Taking these classes to children in a village near her own home, Anjali and her team of artists help children understand various issues surrounding Delhi, like environment protection and more through channels of visual art.
Travels inspired her cause
Her travel to various countries over the years has strengthened Anjali’s belief that artists hugely depend on their nation to build a stronger community.
“Yes, travelling to different countries has enabled me to get a bigger picture of what needs to be done to promote our own artists. Visual arts across Europe and various countries in Asia are more evolved, and they’re appreciated."
"We have somewhat taken this form for granted. It’s especially important for a country like India to give its artists the platform. We boast of a rich heritage and amazing talent in this space. If dance and music are doing better, so should painting, sculpting and other art forms. We are definitely advancing but a lot of work has to be done in the area to realise the full potential of our artists,” she says.
While Anjali’s daughter Ritika is promoting art through Kala Drishti in Singapore, in India, their parallel cause runs on the lines of promoting ancient and medieval art and artists, given the importance of ancient art is vanishing by the day.
An inward journey to take art places
The future holds many promises for Kala Drishti as Anjali’s dream is to take art and artists in India to global stages.
“We have started with Singapore, where awareness about visual arts is very advanced. We aim to tie-up with more countries in Asia and Europe to provide an opportunity for our artists to showcase their works on such global platforms too,” Anjali says.
She adds that the journey from starting Kala Drishti to date has been an inward one. The growth within the space and personally has been cherished by her immensely. Anjali says,
I’m in my 60s and I live alone, but somehow through this initiative, I have a family of my own here. The artists I work with have become my community and this is our crusade together to make art more meaningful in India. The journey has been personally satisfying, but the wait to see major advancements in this space is still there.