I’ve been curious about the way the cultural sector is growing, in fact, thriving in India. There are currently at least 100, if not more, private galleries in New Delhi and artists are busy showing their work, making work as well as selling their work. The questions I came here with were ‘how the Indian arts sector was preparing itself for the future in terms of the global economic recession? What kind of leadership is required to prepare the organisations to cope with such economic climate?’ Interestingly, the director of a leading arts organisation commented that India is no longer in a recession, hence the question about ‘the impact of economic recession in the arts’ may not be that relevant for the Indian arts scene. This was echoed by the artist Nidhi Agarwal who is currently showing her work at Nature Morte, a leading contemporary art gallery in New Delhi
. However, the questions around ‘what kind of leadership’ is practiced in this growing economy and the lessons that we can take back to UK continue to preoccupy me.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been exploring the topic of ‘cultural leadership in India’ and various individuals have given differing views which led me to some basic questions, such as ‘how is the notion of 'leadership' perceived in India?’ and ‘how does this manifest itself in the cultural sector?’. Needless to say that I am not anywhere near finding any answers, may be I won’t in the short period that I have been here in New Delhi. What I have understood though is that there is a greater need to assert the notion of ‘arts management’ than to discuss cultural leadership here.
The only way I can sum up about what I had understood about the sector so far is that people just get on with what they want to do and don’t wait for any policy or a strategy to guide them. As much as policies are important, but they can sometimes be a hindrance for an organic and spontaneous growth.
Though unrelated, but equally important: Winter has been formally welcomed with great festivity and prayers. It officially began yesterday and the sun feels different on the skin.
Last weekend I met couple of dancers Anusha and Avanti who are organising the first ever 'Contemporary Dance Festival' -and calling practitioners to take part in a seminar on increased advocacy for contemporary dance to be given same status as the Classical dance. I attended this with Piali Ray, artistic director Sampad who is currently touring her new piece, In the Further Soil in India. Very interesting to hear ideas for shifting the ground where infrastructure support is not well defined or pronounced. We talked about the structure, tried and tested models of dance initiatives in the UK
, networking as a way of
strengthening the sector. Here I was looking at how artists were considering strategic development, but more importantly they wished to create a u
nified noise and be heard by the right people, such as the practitioners, policy makers, senior officials.
I've finished drafting the brief note on 'Cultural Leadership in India' and have begun talking to the people who might be interested in this. Listening to Anusha and Avanti made me realise that what they are doing is indeed about leading and making a difference. We've agreed to meet up in near future as they wished to seek my input into the 'networking seminar'. Well, it all gives us a great platform for sharing each other's ideas and practice.
Three sector lead organisations, Arts Council England, Creative & Cultural Skills and the Museums, Libra ries and Archives Council have formed the Cultural Leadership Delivery Partnership, a unique cross-sector collaboration to support the Programme.