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Posted at: May 26, 2018, 12:11 AM; last updated: May 26, 2018, 12:11 AM (IST)

Writing on the wall

Artists no longer look at art galleries to exhibit their work. Restaurants and cafes in the city are their new hunting ground

Gurnaaz Kaur

When an artist thinks of an exhibit space, the typical option would be a traditional fine art gallery or theatre, but something atypical is becoming a trend it the city. Of late, we’ve been hearing a lot about artists choosing alternative spaces to display their art — the favourites being cafes and restaurants! 

Fateh Bajwa, the owner of Hedgehog Cafe, Sector 7, shares, “It’s quite simple. Once artists know a place is open to giving them a platform, they approach you. Right from its inception, I was clear that my cafe would help budding artists. My motive is to help these newbies, who can’t afford the rents of art galleries but need an exposure. So far, we’ve had three painters and a photographer, who have used the walls and even managed to sell some of their works.” For Fateh, it is important that the artwork complements the vibe of his cafe. 

Creative space

There are more such places that support this thought. “Artists need space to showcase their works and we need to decorate the walls of our cafe, so we welcome anyone who wants to do it. We even help various NGOs by setting up a flea market for them. In the last three years, other than local NGOs, we’ve had participants from Manali and Fatehgarh Sahib. We charge nothing. This helps artists gain recognition and even city residents get educated about various art forms,” says Girimer Singh Mann, one of the owners of Casa Bela Vista cafe in Sector 10. Giri shares that artists even conduct workshops at the cafe. 

Even Scola in Sector 7 is known to hold workshops at its cafe. Calligraphy, etiquette classes are some of sessions that are a hit at this place. “We are open to letting artists use our cafe. In January, an artist from Manali put up his paintings for three months. Different poetry clubs have also held their slams here,” share Deepwant Bahwa, owner, Scola. 

Worthy display

Whistling Duck is another eating joint that helps artists. This restaurant has a display wall where people can put up their stuff for selling. It has a section where there is doodle art by Darshan Singh Grewal; then there are postcards and magazines also for sale. 

Upstairs club in Hotel Bella Vista, Sector-5, Panchkula, has also switched to this mode of promoting art. It also staged a play. There is a theatre workshop going on here too. For a club to indulge in such activities is quite a surprise! Monita, who curates these activities, says, “We feel there is a void in the current social set up. Parties and clubbing have seen a surge but inclination towards art is decreasing. The owner of this place is a very creative person. He came up with the idea to bring some change and make this place more community-centric. We held storytelling, painting and poetry workshops. We also hosted an art show in which artists from across the country participated.”

Also joining the bandwagon is Art & Ko in Sector 34. This newly opened outlet is a blend of an art gallery and coffee shop. “We are working towards building a vibrant community of artists and art lovers. We want to showcase how people have dedicated their lives to the craft. There are many artists in and around the city, but there is a need for participation from the society at large,” says the owner, Rishabh Syal. 

Artists’ take

While the cafe-owners seem to be quite helpful and open to the idea of promoting all forms of art, what do the artists think about this setting? 

“For any artist, it is important to reach out to people and eating joints are a perfect place for that. Not everyone comes to art galleries, but they do visit restaurants and cafes, so it works well for us,” says photographer Surkhab Shaukin.

Theatre artiste Sukhmani Kohli of CEVA Drama Repertory Co thinks it is a good initiative. “We’ve performed at cafes and other public places in Bengaluru. In Delhi too, it’s a common thing now. Chandigarh is opening up to such options and it is a positive change. This gives artists access to different kinds of audience. Plus, finding spaces has become a struggle for artists; the rents of theatres and art galleries are going through the roof. These places help us sustain.”

A win-win situation for both the parties for sure!


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