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‘Art competes for funding with other urgent needs’ | The Indian Express

‘Art competes for funding with other urgent needs’ | The Indian Express

‘Art competes for funding with other urgent needs’

Deepika Sorabjee, Head of arts and culture at Tata Trusts, on the way forward for the sector

Written by Pooja Pillai | Published: March 1, 2018 12:07 am
‘Art competes for funding with other urgent needs’
Deepika Sorabjee.

Art and culture conservation and education in the country has long suffered from neglect and lack of institutional support. This gap was sought to be addressed at the recent edition of Kalapana in Mumbai, a symposium organised by Tata Trusts to bring together stakeholders in the sector. With the theme this year being ‘Art Education and Conservation’, Talk spoke to Deepika Sorabjee, Head — Arts and Culture, Tata Trusts, about the how gaps in conservation and education can be tackled. Excerpts:
Are you happy with the reception of the recent exhibition, ‘India and the World’, which had been supported by you?
We’re looking at it in many ways as a pathbreaking exhibition, not only in terms of funding, but the institutions we worked with and also in the curation. How do you position India and look at it in a manner that goes beyond nationhood, an India-specific view of the world. The curator has brought out new objects like the agate bull from Haryana, which have become iconic through this exhibition and have come into the canon and brought out new knowledge. And for us, the whole thrust was education, so the education team here (CSMVS) did a lot of homework, teacher workshops and reached out to 400 schools. One and a half lakh people walked in. It’s a model that India hasn’t seen before.
At the opening of the exhibition, CSMVS director Sabyasachi Mukherjee spoke about how it’s not easy to get private bodies to fund arts and culture projects.
It’s a challenge, because you are competing for funding with so many other urgent needs. You’re competing with health and education. Poverty levels are so low, how do you convince somebody and say that this is needed, when you know that there’s so much else. So arts come very low in priority. An exhibition like this is a way of showing other funders that this is how you can do this.
What are the kind of projects that corporates and private bodies like to support?
Anything metro, anything festival gets a lot of cache for CSR. It’s like a branding for them. It’s sometimes difficult to convince companies that CSR does not just apply to area around your factory. You should be getting out of your own backyard.
How do you choose the projects you want to support?
The projects are chosen (based on) gaps in the sector. For example, in conservation, the core of the problem is that we don’t have enough conservators. So we have something called the Conservation Initiative, and we’re starting the art conservation initiative in April, for which we are setting up the framework. It will be a five-year programme and we hope that by the end of five years, there will be a skeleton of some structure for training in art conservation. Subsequently we will include built heritage and film conservation.
In the arts and culture space, is conservation not seen as glamorous?
There’s no body of conservators. We have thousands of objects and monuments — that is our heritage. You have to preserve them. Humayun’s Tomb (for the restoration of which Tata Trusts joined hands with the Aga Khan Foundation and Archeological Society of India) is definitely glamorous now. So that’s also a game-changer. Since we first gave funding, the income from ticket sales now covers everything.
What can you tell me about your film conservation initiative?
We started a three-year programme with the Film Heritage Foundation, which is headed by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur. They staunchly believe that celluloid is the way to go forward, and they’ve been doing workshops for three years. There was one in Chennai last year, and the next one is at the State Archive in West Bengal. But because we are the trust, we always take an overview of the whole sector. So while Film Heritage Foundation staunchly believes celluloid is the way to go, we also listen to other voices.
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