A corner of the bridge, a dilapidated wall next to that hipster café, railway and metro stations, deserted government buildings—these unremarkable bits of city architectures are being turned into jaw-dropping works of art at a rapid pace. Cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kochi, Bengaluru, Goa, Coimbatore and Hyderabad are hosting events and festivals where both Indian and international artists are picking up the easel and painting public places in bright hues. What could have been labelled as an act of vandalism in the past has turned into colourful cultural landmarks. Art as an accessible form of expression is found in different forms on the streets every day, contributing to a pan-India city beautification narrative. The pioneers of this ‘public art renaissance’ are individual street artists, nonprofits and art groups who have been working with government bodies and corporates to alter the face of our insipid urban spaces.
In 2014, an organisation called St+art India Foundation put together what was dubbed as the first street art festival of India in Delhi. Its members—Hanif Kureshi, Akshat Nauriyal, Arjun Bahl, Thanish Thomas and Giulia Ambrogi—have now gone ahead to host several such festivals to make art accessible to the public and aid emerging artists. “St+art was born out of a collective exhaustion from gallery spaces in general and the realisation of the immense potential in making art public,” says Nauriyal, adding, “We all got in touch around the time of the ‘Extension Khirkee’ street art festival and our first project came about in Shahpur Jat.” From festivals in cities such as Kolkata, Chandigarh and Coimbatore to creating designated art districts in Mahim (Mumbai), Maqtha (Hyderabad) and Lodhi Colony (Delhi), the St+art team has been pivotal in reimagining public spaces.
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