After dance and music, we Get Curious in this series about the finest of fine arts. You’d think this country with a strong history of art forms that vary every 50 km, like language and dialect, would have equally strong institutions to teach these too, right? But do a quick online search on ‘art school’, and at best you’d get the city biggies like Bombay’s Sir JJ School of Art or Bangalore’s Shrishti School of Design. What if you wanted to see where Pattachitra comes from and learn it too? Or meet the Warli tribals and take home a skill instead of a mug?
To experience learning an art form in a place that provides a context to it is an entirely different experience, and fortunately, a lot of these specialised schools also offer short-term courses and workshops. So, BFAs and MFAs aside, here are options for your next curious break…
Guruvayoor for Mural Art
Guruvayoor Devoaswom’s Institute of Mural Painting is one of those brilliant schools you wouldn’t hear of unless you have an inkling of interest in the subject of temple art. It simply doesn’t show up on random lists. The only place not only imparting structured traditional art training – a 5 year diploma here includes 3 years of specialised training in traditional Kerala Mural Art – but also doing dedicated restoration work. The campus blends into the temple complex, a visual feast for even a casual viewer.
Shantiniketan for Modern Indian Art
Kala Bhavana in Shantiniketan was set up by Tagore in 1919 with legendary painter Nandalal Bose as its first principal. It has since had such noted alumni as Ramkinkar Baij and Satyajit Ray, and continues to impart visual arts courses today. Their own art collection is fantastic, especially if you include the artworks housed in Rabindra Bhavan in the same university. And they have short term courses for beginners too!
Dharamsala for Thangka
The Norbulingka Institute is well known, because it appears in most tourist itineraries that ferry people to ‘the house of Dalai Lama’. In fact it is one of those rare institutions that open up with a genuinely welcoming atmosphere to view, appreciate and understand traditional Tibetan arts. They offer single-day workshops (for Rs 2,000) in Thangka painting, or you could stay on-campus and opt for longer options that stretch from 5 days to 8 weeks.
Bhilwara for Phad Painting
You might have seen it – a 30 ft long 5 ft wide canvas painted with intricate scenes in all natural colours, adding up to tell entire epics – that’s what a Phad painting is. It’s a traditional folk art form of Rajasthan, also known as the Mewar style. It’s a 700-year-old form that is practised by a little over a dozen artists in India. This is what makes Chitrashala special. Set up by a Phad artist in 1960 in Bhilwara city, this school still teaches Phad painting to anyone keen enough.
Chennai for Tanjore
In Chennai’s Chettinad Vidyashram, there is a gurukul-style Tanjore painting school that has been teaching this mixed form of art and craft since 1974. Even if you can’t afford the time for a course, a visit to the school building is worthwhile if you care to look at Tanjore paintings outside a roadside restaurant or a museum display.
Image Credit: Click Here