Harmonising Popular Tastes With Artistic Ideals
PROGRESSIVE POLICY ADOPTED IN BOMBAY
BY MOHAN D. NADKARNI
The Times of India, January 26, 1959
Each form of art represents a medium of communication and has been from time immemorial, an integral part of the religious, social and cultural life of man. India’s devotion to her arts and her efforts to develop and enrich them, go back to the prehistoric times.
The extent of neglect the country’s arts suffered under foreign rule was quite appalling; and popular patronage, too, languished away because of economic and social backwardness of society.
With freedom has come a sense of national consciousness and much artistic and creative activity is now in evidence all over the country. With the disappearance of the princely order and private patronage, the professional artists have come out of their self-imposed isolation to seek their living through public patronage. Thanks to the unremitting labours of pioneers like Rabindranath, Menaka, Rukmini Devi, Vishnu Digambar and Bhatkhande, to name only a few, the revival of the traditional arts through the medium of mass education has received fresh impetus in the new set up of things. The missionary movement initiated by these and other great savants has helped, in no small measure, to educate the public taste for art and bring forth appreciative connoisseurs. The State has taken the lead in this respect and the creation of academies of art and letters and institution of National Awards and cultural scholarships symbolize the Government’s patronage to art.
The initiation of any movement needs a congenial environment. Already, Bombay State has a rich heritage of ancient monuments that represent various stages of the development of art and architecture of the land. The caves and structural masterpieces of Ellora, Ajanta, Karla, Ahmedabad and Dabhoi are some of the instances in point. Bombay has, inevitably, served as a meeting ground of ideas and cultures, and come to be known for its patronage of art.
With the codification of different forms of contemporary art there have come into existence several institutions, big and small, to impart scholastic and professional education in fine arts which, in some of the institutions, has now reached university standards. These institutions have brought within their food fold a considerably large number of students desirous of undergoing training in the theory and practice of various arts. Besides Bombay city, quite a large number of public and private art institutions are spread over in big cities and towns throughout the State and doing useful work.
The importance of art education in the larger scheme of general education can hardly be over emphasised. It is a powerful medium of satisfying the innermost urges of the mind and helps in the cultivation of the aesthetic sense in every child. Indeed, art for a child is an effective instrument to express his ideas and emotion in his own way.
The State Government can well claim to have done pioneering work in the direction. Art is a compulsory subject right from the primary stage and up to the ninth standard of the secondary stage. The three premier art institutions in Bombay, namely, the Sir J.J.School of Art, the J.J.College of Architecture and the Sir J.J.Institute of Commercial Art, impart advance training in drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, commercial art and craft and conduct courses for teachers training as well. These bodies enjoy the reputation as pioneer art institutions in the country. Architecture enjoys predominance among aii other visual arts in the State. The Department of Architecture is recognized by the Royal Institute of British Architects and it is the only recognized faculty not only in India but in the whole of Asia.
The work of these institutions is now being supplemented by some younger institutions which show good promise of development. Among these mention must be made of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the M.S. University of Baroda, the School of Art of the C.N. Vidvavihar of Ahmedabad, the Institute of Modern Art, Poona and the School of Art, Nagpur.
The second Five-year Plan has provided an amount of Rs. 2,75,000 for the expansion of art education and development of the Department of Drawing and Painting. The scheme in this regard envisages opening of an Art Centre, which is designed to be an educational and cultural institution in the field of music, dance and drama. It is also proposed to start training classes leading to the diplomas in Drawing Masters and Art Masters courses. The facilities to train sons of hereditary craftsmen will be so expanded as to cover ceramics, laquer work and stained glass designs. Under the scheme, it is also intended to replace the Greek and Roman antiques in the school of Art by suitable specimens of Indian antiques. As there is a dearth of trained personnel to work as curators and restorers at the various museums and art galleries, the scheme intends to provide such training facilities at the Sir J.J. School of Art.
Directorate Of Art
Under a scheme costing Rs.60,900, it is proposed to establish a full-fledged Directorate of Art to co-ordinate and control various activities pertaining to different arts in the state.
Similarly, a Department of Music, Dance and Drama will also be established at a cost of Rs.1,04,000 at the Sir J.J. School of Art for the promotion of practical training and research in these arts.
As the existing facilities for training in architecture, particularly in the branches of town planning and draughtsmanship, are not adequate, it is proposed to introduce 2-year courses in town planning and draughtsmanship in the Department of Architecture at a cost of Rs.31,000. An amount of Rs.95,000 has been provided for a library room and other facilities at the Sir J.J. school of Art, while Rs. 11,000 have been earmarked for the establishment of an Advisory Board for Education in Music and Fine Arts in Vidarbha.
Lately, the State Government has given special attention to the encouragement of artistic and cultural activity among the people and has sanctioned several schemes for the purpose. The scheme include organization of State festivals of music, drama, tamasha and bhavai, and awards of prize to best actors, best painters and others in various fields of art and culture. Grants are also given to dramatic and other institutions, Grants-in-aid are also paid towards construction of open air theatres by civic bodies.
Lump-sum remuneration is paid to outstanding artists, dramatists, and writers in the State who are in indigent circumstances. Prizes are also awarded to best written dramas, for both adults and children. Inter-collegiate and inter-school competitions are organized and moving shields and medals for best individual performances are given. Camps are held to train tutors in dramatic art.
The various State festivals are now being held annually in the various regions of the State to afford an opportunity to the people of those areas and local institutions to play their part in the promotion of cultural activity throughout Bombay State. The general public has already shown tremendous enthusiasm for these festivals and welcomed the new type of patronage to the various arts from the State.
The State festivals have enabled the common man to enjoy the performance of some of our best exponents of arts at a nominal cost. The festivals have done more than merely bring the traditional arts within the reach of the largest possible audiences.
The keen interest evinced by the people in these annual events is not merely symbolic of the mass awakening to the higher values of life. It is also indicative of the new patronage which the public too, could offer in the context of changed conditions. The State festivals may well have initiated a conscious aesthetic movement, in the sense that they represent a bold endeavour on the part of the State to harmonies popular taste with artistic and cultural ideas.