In the Hindustan Park area in Kolkata, which is home to some great cafes and handlooms, one building stands out as an Instagrammer’s delight. Art Rickshaw, covered in art, called out to my soul, which takes great pleasure in art, and I went inside to discover a gem of a place.
Art Rickshaw is an art school and an art gallery to ensure that artists in Kolkata have a place to call their own. And Devanshi Rungta, who runs it, brims with energy, love, and passion for art that is truly infectious.
The 22-year-old entrepreneur gives me a tour of Art Rickshaw, and I quickly understand that the place is more than a gallery and art school; it is a melting pot for art, artists, students, social messaging, education, and a place to showcase your skills.
In a chat with HerStory, Devanshi talk about her entrepreneurial journey, and supporting other aspirational artists and multiple art forms, including the local art of Kolkata.
"A room of their own"
Devanshi comes from a business family, and she used their office space to create Art Rickshaw, with her mother.
Started in 2016, Art Rickshaw is the brainchild of Devanshi’s mother, Shailja, who was driven by her love for art to do something. The mother-daughter duo has no formal training in art.
“We were driven by the desire to build a creative space that people could call their own to follow their passion and pursue art as a therapeutic tool, which it is. We wanted people to use it to escape the daily hustle-bustle of life. A space where they could imbibe art plus have a lot of fun,” Devanshi says.
At the time they started up, they were hardly any such places that provided a holistic space for artists and art lovers in Kolkata. And initially they started with art classes and workshops.
Making art a part of life
The ‘rickshaw’ in the name is a tribute to Calcutta’s legacy and culture. Devanshi also points out that it symbolises a vehicle for moving forward.
In the past two years Devanshi’s efforts have metamorphosed into what she was really trying to create: a community of art lovers that bridges the gap with the masses and its general perception of art.
“We wanted to change the view that art is a painting on a gallery wall. We wanted to show that art is something with which you can interact and engage. It can completely change the way you react to things,” she explains.
To ensure art is more accessible, Devanshi spent all her time arranging art installations, showcasing the art of students and other established and amateur artists from different parts of the world, and making small art souvenirs such as calendars and display art, which capture the culture of Kolkata.
The art installations act as vehicles of message and purpose, hence making art more accessible, inclusive, and impactful. A good example is Art Rickshaw’s tea bag installation. “We created an art installation from tea bags, each bag had a label - slut, bossy, etc, and the audience had to cut the tags that either they had labelled someone with or had been labelled by society. By evening all the labels had been cut off. People responded to art because it reflected their life too,” Devanshi explains.
This led her to also start a street art festival that is her big goal every year with Art Rickshaw. She spends at least five to six months in organising it, where the street on which I had admired the Art Rickshaw building from is transformed for a day into a place to experience art, and art forms.
“In the last street art festival we did, we displayed the works of 60 amateur artists from not just Kolkata but also Mumbai, Chennai, and other cities. We had around 50 stalls with budding entrepreneurs who were doing something creative and wanted a space to display their work, including five local artisans representing the local arts of Kolkata such as kumartuli artist, the chitro artist, along with contemporary art forms. Our aim was to also highlight the traditional art forms as well,” Devanshi says.
Called the Kolkata Arts Lane Festival, Devanshi is now working on how to make it bigger this year.
The business of art
Devanshi has used her keen interest in photography to make a number of short films and photo blogs. She is happy to market Art Rickshaw and look at not just the creative aspects but also work on how to grow the venture. The footfalls and number of students have helped her to grow and offer more classes, including pottery and sculpture etc., truly making it a haven for art lovers and enthusiasts.
The history and culture of Kolkata and how steeped the city is in literature and art has worked in her favour. Till date they have had more than 2000 students, and more than 200 workshops. They have special classes for children too.
At such a young age, Devanshi’s heart is set on Art Rickshaw and she plans to grow and scale this venture. As demand for new classes or different art forms emerge, Devanshi is now looking to bring on board more experts. “Of course, being a full-time entrepreneur has its perks and its downside. The perk is that I can follow my passion and do creative things. I have the freedom of choice of doing things my way and taking forward my vision of making art a tool for education and helping people, which is extremely satisfying.”
And that’s what keeps Devanshi driven. “I think creating something new and different every day that people can look at and be awestruck by is what drives me. I love pushing the boundaries,” the young entrepreneur signs off.