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'Small learnings about art can create curiosity'

With an aim to revive dying Indian art forms, Art Tree has worked with several folk artists. We spoke to Pragati Agarwal, Founder, Art Tree to understand more about art trends and ways people can be drawn towards folk art.

Pragati Agarwal, Founder, Art Tree

Over the years, there has been a frenzy for reviving dying Indian art forms. However, despite that, why do Indians rarely invest in Indian art?

Indian art is largely decorative. It is not expensive most of the times, especially the folk art. If you are looking at it from the point of view of resaleability, it is rarely sold. People don’t invest into art but in culture.

There is also this sentiment of 'ghar ki murgi daal barabar'. When we go abroad, we see something being sold at Paris’ art museums, we appreciate the artists’ works. However, if an Indian artist puts 18-20 hours in one artwork here in India, we critique him and look for the ‘what’s new’ aspect in his work. This needs to change if we want to see prosperity among Indian artists.

Besides this, there is a post-colonialism mindset that everything coming from the west is spectacular whereas that from India is ordinary. There is a need to change this mindset.

How can we change people’s mindsets and persuade them to appreciate Indian art?

A lot of efforts are being taken by several organisations. Art Tree, for instance, is making an attempt to educate people about folk art and its nuances. Unfortunately, since Indian art is not taught in Indian art schools, children do not have an interest and liking for our traditional art. There is a need to introduce Indian culture to children from a tender age so that they consider art as our heritage. For me, art is like a tree. If the roots are not strong, it will fall off.

During the pandemic, many people invested in learning folk art through books and private courses. Do you think they can create a difference in spreading the knowledge about art?

I feel that anything a person learns never go waste. Learning about different art forms will also slowly create an impact and it will influence more people to take up art. When we also do a show, we want people to see art and learn from them so that we can educate people. Even a small learning about art can create curiosity and interest among masses.

Most artists share message(s) in their artworks. Do you thing that the lack of interest in art among people defeats their purpose of creating art?

Unless an artwork tickles the grey cells, there is not a step forward. Artists want to reach out to people through art. They are extremely passionate about art forms otherwise they can’t produce. They put in an amazing artwork. Most folk art is made with natural or mineral colours. The treatment of the fabric is also a long process that artists do on their own. If they weren’t passionate, I don’t think they get their returns.

How can we create awareness among children towards art?

Schools should organise workshops for children with artists that offer a range of art forms. It is through these workshops that children can understand the nuances of art. Children should get an up, close and personal experience with artists and learn about their nuances as well as brush and stroke works.

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