Imagine this. You feel like you want to do something unique on your day off. Instead of spending your time at the movies or a bar, you decide to visit an art gallery. But you don’t get into your car to visit one, all you do is step outside and stare across at the facade, in front, and have a look around. Take a stroll down your street, and take in all the stunning and breath-taking murals on the walls. That’s the goal of St+Art India. Well, that’s the hyperbolic version of it, but it goes along the same lines.
A team of five conceptualised and brought St+Art India to life, with a mutual love for art. Akshat Nauriyal is a film-maker and visual artist, who captured early street art in India, and documents upcoming sub-cultures in the country. Hanif Kureshi is an artist who was heavily a part of the street art culture, and primarily works with a lot of brands. Thanish Thomas handles project-related concerns and functioning, due to his experience in logistics and events. Giulia Ambrogi, another artist who has taken part in street art festivals and is well-versed with the art scene and artists, acts as the curator. Arjun Bahl takes care of the overall functioning, working with all the departments, to make sure things are in order. The five of them went from being friends to colleagues, putting in hours and resources, to make St+Art a full-blown reality than just leaving it as a passion project.
The core idea was to not make art for the elite to view in art galleries, but to create something out there, on the streets, for anyone and everyone to admire. “We wanted to distance ourselves from trying to sell or market art. We wanted to focus on pure art,” said Bahl. “We wanted it to be a conversation starter within the locality or city and act as a catalyst to bring up local narratives, and give a sense of belonging to an otherwise empty space. It had to be a gallery that was open to all, with art that sparks emotions and conversations.”
St+Art conducted their first ever project in Shahpur Jat, in Delhi. The response was incredible, and soon, they were flooded with oers. Eventually, brands started approaching them with chequebooks in hand, ready to oer a comfortable amount. But St+Art never strayed away from their ideology. They accepted a few oers, in order to stay financially afloat, but carefully selected whom they work with, and what they would create. They work with Indian and international artists, as well as with local artists in the area they start a project in. “We always try to include everyone in the process. Since it is where they live, we ask the local people about what they would like to see, and if any one of them would like to work with us. It’s not just going and painting something beautiful, but it’s also understanding the community and giving them an opportunity to be included. Or else, it just seems like some kids came, painted and left. That’s not what we want. The idea is the engagement, and building a sense of personal pride for the artwork.”
Countries around the world have adopted the street art culture and nurtured the scene, and India is on the same path as well. Municipal and civic bodies of various states have been cooperative and even excited about the prospect of St+Art transforming a small part of their city. Having the approval of the government is great, but it won’t mean anything unless people are supportive. Fortunately, people have been supportive of St+Art’s projects. And they show their support by doing little things, like giving words of encouragement while passing by, or even oering tea to the team working on a project. The process always starts with a natural sense of curiousity about what’s going on. The curiousity then turns into genuine interest and fascination, which evolves into appreciation and support.
After receiving positive, reassuring nods from local governments and people, St+Art India’s dreams and eorts have only been strengthened. They’re aiming to bring forth a change in the way we perceive, understand, and consume art. They’re not looking to lock horns with modern artists that strive to have their paintings in a gallery, they’re just separating themselves from it. Urban India has art galleries for the elite and the art aficionados, but St+Art India is just taking the same concept and placing them on large, unconfined spaces, with artworks that reflect India’s budding modern street art movement.