St+art India Foundation
Founded in 2014 by Arjun Bahl, Hanif Kureshi, Giulia Ambrogi, Akshat Nauriyal and Thanish Thomas, St+art India Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that creates art projects in urban public spaces with the aim of making art accessible to a wider audience beyond conventional museum and gallery spaces, allowing viewers a chance to reimagine public spaces. Their projects include murals, street art and experimental public art installations in residential spaces, including slums, urban villages and bus and metro stations.
St+art brings together artists with common interests in public art on projects involving themes ranging from climate change and queer rights to Indian mythology and the everyday lives of common people. The organisation aims to build a direct connection with local communities through outreach and partnerships. When a site is chosen, St+art reaches out to the owners or residents of particular buildings to seek their permission for the work. It also reaches out to consulates and embassies of countries including Germany, Switzerland, Poland and Singapore to seek financial support and opportunities to collaborate with international artists. More broadly, it is dedicated to changing the negative connotations associated with street art and graffiti. Unlike most such works – which are considered vandalism and removed by authorities – St+art’s murals on government buildings have a more permanent standing and represent a first-of-its-kind engagement with the authorities.
St+art’s first project was a set of wall murals at Shahpur Jat, an urban village in Delhi. The same year, the organisation collaborated with German graffiti and street artist Hendrik Beikirch and Anpu Varkey to make a mural of MK Gandhi at the Delhi Police Headquarters; at 48 metres, it is India’s tallest mural. St+art also commissioned a mural of Dadasaheb Phalke on the MTNL Building in Bandra, Mumbai, the same year, which measures nearly 36 metres in height and 46 metres in width. In 2015, they turned Delhi’s Lodhi Colony — a government housing estate built in the late-1940s — into India’s first public art district, followed closely by more art districts at MS Maqta in Hyderabad, the clusters of Mahim East and Dharavi in Mumbai and Panjim in Goa.
Other experimental murals by St+art India include their Art Stations project, which aims to turn bus and metro stations into sites of public art, placing daily commuters as the audience. Besides murals and graffiti, the organisation has installed typographical sculptures created by Rocky (Hitesh Malaviya) and Hanif Kureshi across various metropolitan cities. These feature the word “love” in the regional script (such as Devanagari), alongside the name of the city in which the installation is situated, written in English.
The organisation has actively participated in art events such as the Serendipity Arts Festival. It also organises the St+art Festival, which features several site-specific art installations, such as a crochet installation by New York-based Polish artist Olek on the walls of a rain basera (government-supported night shelters for the homeless) as part of the St+art Delhi festival in 2015 that aimed to highlight the plight of the city’s homeless population. In the Mumbai edition of the St+art Festival 2017, the organisation converted the 142-year-old space of Sassoon Dock into an Urban Contemporary Art exhibition, featuring site-specific installations and murals by thirty Indian and international artists, and conducting screenings, talks and curated tours in one of the abandoned warehouses. The festival attracted around forty thousand visitors from among the local fisherfolk communities.
St+art’s work has been funded and supported by a variety of institutions, including public government bodies such as the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Central Public Works Department, as well as private corporations such as Asian Paints, which also supplies the paints for St+art’s work.
At the time of writing, they have a footprint in twenty Indian cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai, and have covered 375 walls in collaboration with over 326 artists. They have also organised twenty-one festivals and six exhibitions on public art across India.
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