When I left my comfortable life in NYC to move to India, my motivation was a vision for facilitating the arts for insight, empowerment and connection, to develop bridges between cultures. This one-day community art event was the realization of that dream on the largest scale since the journey began about four years ago.
Over 200 individuals participated on September 6th by experiencing an "Art Break"; sitting down to openly express themselves with tempera paints, oil pastels, markers, pencils, recycled paper and more. Each table next to the Dreamer's Café in the Visitor's Center in Auroville was a moving sculpture throughout the day; as children, adolescents and adults from many different cultures sat down together to make art for free. Friends from our local (yet international) community of Auroville visited, including student groups from New Creation Montessori (including 41 students under six years old!), Deepanam, The Learning Community, Life Education Centre, a visiting group from Jain University in Bangalore, the US-college semester group Living Routes, and the German year-long Weltwaert's volunteers. Workers from nearby shops and offices visited, even if on a tea break, eager to put a brush to paper and collect an Art-In-Your-Pocket gift (a small hand-assembled art kit). Supportive well-wishers passed by to give a hug and marvel at the hanging art, and countless timid visitors were encouraged to sit down and join in the color-filled activities.
I have overwhelming gratitude for the US-based organization, Art is Moving, which sponsored and generously made this event possible in 19 sites around the world on the same day! “As an artist I believe it is my job to create a world where art is accessible to anyone and everyone. Art is not for the few and the privileged. It is for those who have something to say,” according to Lauren Odell Usher Sharpton, co-founder of Art is Moving (along with Lisa Rasmussen).
During a 2009 survey of 80+ locations in India and Nepal (for potential applications of art therapy), I met children who had never used colored paints before, in a remote Nepali village called Sirubadi. With a small set of poster colors, banana leaf slices as palettes and a few brushes, we covered the interior walls of a mud hut structure with families of animals, shapes and scenes. I humbly learned the importance of providing basic resources in order for creative expression to be possible. $500 USD of art supplies were generously sent from the US specifically for the Art Break Day event, which were greatly appreciated by all!
Auroville was a fitting location for this event as the guiding Dream for our community includes this harmonious message: “Artistic beauty in all forms, painting, sculpture, music, literature, will be available equally to all, the opportunity to share in the joys they bring being limited solely by each one's capacities and not by social or financial position."
As a common ground, transcending languages and barriers between cultures around the world, the arts offer a space for connection, interaction and meaningful exchange. The most uplifting aspect of the event was witnessing smiling faces of so many different ages, races and background sitting down to create in simple togetherness; in some visible form of human unity (the intention behind Auroville).
I hope to celebrate many more similar gatherings in the future and already looking forward to next year! With many thanks to Nicole, Marc and friends at the Visitor’s Centre; Kasha of Pondy ART and Miriam of Auroville Radio for helping to spread the word; and an amazing team of volunteers: Edo (all photos copyright: Edoardo Grassi Photography, all rights reserved), Zeevic, Masoom, Shishir, Marie-Claire, B, Xavier, Payal, Iyyappan, Loli, Ganda and Leela (face painter). And again, gratitude to Lauren & Lisa of Art is Moving for making the first Art Break Day in India possible!
With love, light and color,
Sankalpa: Art Journeys
Sankalpa: Art Journeys