Ritesh Sharma, Street Art in Delhi


In conversation with Ritesh Sharma, Street Art in Delhi

With a degree in Communications and Public Relations, Ritesh Sharma has been working in the creative industry for almost a decade now. Currently, he is the Creative Campaign Project Manager for St+Art India, a non-profit organisation that associated with most of the murals that we see in Delhi. His association with St+Art comes as a result of him being an efficient planner and manager, who is enthusiastic about connecting with people. Though not an artist himself, Ritesh and his team’s creativity is reflected in the unique ways street art is being promoted by St+Art.

Q. 1.  Most murals In Delhi have been created as a part of street art festivals, some which have been organised by St+Art. These spaces can be understood in the context of providing platform for the artist to showcase their talent, promote street art and to beautify spaces. However, what do these spaces mean for the people residing there, especially long after the festivals have culminated?

These festivals last for about one to two months and during this community workshops are also organised. These workshops provide a new skill set to the public and give them a chance to showcase their talent alongside artists. More than that these festivals are means to boost peoples’ confidence whereby people will be upgrading themselves. (Giving the example of Kannagi Art District in Chennai)…..during these art district projects often local people (those residing there) emerge in important role. Often a few of these become the project co-ordinators for their community, whereby employment is generated. When we re-visit these sites or begin a festival the community gets excited and happy and we are met with open hearts. These efforts lead people to think about their own spaces and develop curious minds. Thus, in a sense, people from different spaces are being recreated.

Q.2 Asian Paints has emerged as one of the biggest sponsor for street artists across India. Are there other such brands or organisations that equally play a role in the funding?

Asian Paints is a vision partner associated with St+Art India. This partnership has been ongoing for about 8 years now and was created on a strong base and legacy. This partnership is based on the artvertising approach than advertising. Basically, through this art is being used a media to vocalise the issues of the cities. These public art projects display that each society has its own set of issues that need to be resolved. Thus, street art acts not just as a skilled aesthetic display but also promotes artists and further creates opportunities for these people. Simultaneously, it provides value to physical spaces and encourages people to raise question. In addition, there are governmental bodies and other NGOs that provide funding for street art.

Q.3. One of the features if mural painting is that the physical space belongs to the public. Thus, one may create another artwork over the existing one. Considering this practice, how far can we call street art a heritage since the core idea behind heritage is to take it from one generation to the other?

Changes would always keep happening and one cannot stop them but the impact of these seemingly small changes can be very big and at the end of the day it is the impact which matters the most. For example, in the Kannagi area, artist Kashmira had painted a dream like scene with a mother and daughter. There was a small girl that lived just near that wall and everyday she used to come and see the painting and often draw it herself. So the happiness, creativity and sentiments developed as a result of such a small effort would continue beyond the mural itself. Art gives you the freedom to talk about and do anything and thereby brings communities together.

Q.4. Navina Jafa, a performing artist herself, argued in an interview that efforts are being made to present the folk and street arts but these are just one-time event. Rather, there is no conversation and effort to institutionalise or even address capacity building exercises to ensure the sustainability of artists and to conserve their skills. How far do you agree this is true for mural street art in India?

In recent times, many people and government bodies have come up with ideas and methods to support and promote street art in India. In this regards, street art has become institutionalized but when we talk about educational institutionalization, street art it missing from the conversation. I personally would want that street art be introduced as an academic discipline as well. This would educate people about the significance of street art since most people associate it with being a means to beautify physical spaces. Thus, with right people and the efforts of government and individuals, street art can be re-introduced to the society more than a means to regenerate places.