Every so often, artists such as S.H. Raza, Anjolie Ela Menon and Satish Gujral have registered their protest on the lack of proper art appreciation courses in colleges. Concerns have been articulated - minus any results. In such a scenario, an energetic Rajshree Pathy appears as a ray of hope.
Rajshree, an art collector for over 25 years and a businesswoman from Coimbatore, recently co-sponsored the India Art Summit, Delhi's biggest and so far most impressive art fete. She is to also open an art institute and museum of contemporary art under the Coimbatore College of Contemporary Art (COCCA). She has named the entire venture Contemplate.
Says Rajshree, also a design enthusiast: "These are coming up where my textile mill used to be. The art institute will have post-graduate, under-graduate and short certificate courses. We will have a world-class faculty, including those from abroad, and will focus on all kinds of media separately - visual art, video, audio, digital, new media, et al."Not only that, the courses would also include interesting topics such as 'weaving spirituality in art' and have special focus on craft.
Alive and interactive
The museum will display works of contemporary artists. To begin with, it will have works mounted from her own collection, from Raza to Rameshwar Broota and Souza to Chintan Upadhyay. The museum, asserts Rajshree, "would not be a dead place with two visitors at a time". It would hold interactions with the artists whose works are displayed, discussions, seminars and guidance. The works of contemporary artists from other countries would also be featured regularly. .
Big plans, big stakes and a big venue. What would be the biggest draw in a city that is barely introduced to art, especially in terms of art galleries? Rajshree replies rather contemplatively, "Coimbatore is a university area with over 100,000 students. It is peaceful - a must to think and produce art."
Moreover, the course fees, she promises, will be "very affordable". "My intention is to spread awareness of art to the masses. Today, our students don't even know who Raja Ravi Varma is, forget contemporary artists. On the other hand, abroad, even small children are aware of Picasso. This is because art teaching has not been taken seriously at the primary level. We have IT, engineering and medical colleges, but how many art institutes do we have? There is nothing called art journalism in India. Courses on art as a business, how to curate art shows, art appreciation and its aesthetics; there is so much to explore for an art student."
Discussions on affiliation with foreign faculties are on, and Contemplate is likely to be "fully operational" by 2011. "With a residential programme as an added feature, we also plan to expand to other cities," says a smiling Rajshree.