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Have you ever heard of an Art Festival, where art is exhibited in village shops? Curious enough?
Well, let me take you to a beautiful village called Gunehr, situated in the foothill of Dhauladhar range, Himachal Pradesh. The scenic landscapes, beautiful valleys with step farming, scattered houses and simple pahadi people have made it a perfect gateway destination from your city life! This tiny place is not just a traveller’s paradise, but has more to offer.
Gunehr is predominately a village of Gaddis and Bara Bhangalis, who are mainly from shepherd community. Known as nomadic tribe, these people are the wanderers in true sense.
They travel to high altitudes with the herd for almost half a year. They have houses dotted mostly in Kangra valley. It is said that Gunehr was once a prominent economic hub on the trans-Himalaya caravan route. But in present scenario, the economy of the village is not that promising.
It was around 8 years back, when Frank Schlichtmann came to Gunehr and decided to settle down here. His love for Himachal Pradesh and fond memories of his childhood brought him to this remote mountain village which is off the tourist map. While having a conversation with Frank, I got to know about his prestigious 4tables Project. The project started with a small art gallery and café, which now includes a lot of interactive social activities.
While strolling around this pretty village, interestingly a lot of empty cemented shops came to my notice. Later, I got to know that villagers keep building these shops hoping to have a better source of income. But in reality, they still remain as empty shops. While his love for the village and an urge to do something in the empty shops made him curate and initiate the unique Art project called ShopArt ArtShop. His idea was to convert these empty shops into art shops.
What is ShopArt ArtShop?
ShopArt ArtShop is a unique art festival where artists from different parts of the world come to Gunehr, live with the locals, be part of their lifestyle and create conceptual artwork which is exhibited in the empty shops in the village. In the whole process, Artists are exposed to a new world of varied cultures, lifestyle and languages. This is an inclusive approach, where villagers are equally part of the whole process of creating and presenting the artwork.
The beauty of the whole festival is about infusing local elements (available in the surrounding) to create a masterpiece and presenting the artwork outside the elite galleries and exclusive Art Exhibitions.
It celebrates art with a distinctive twist. Another most striking feature is the accessibility of the artists throughout the creative process, which is transparent. It not only gives a new meaning to contemporary art but also paves the way for an innovative approach to present the art to the world.
The first ShopArt ArtShop conceptual Arts event was held in 2013, where 13 promising international artists took part. The event was a huge success. During the event, the whole village turned into an art gallery. Almost 6000 people visited the village during the festival, which simply shows the kind of acceptance of conceptual arts outside the stereotype format.
Upcoming Festival: ShopArt ArtShop2 (May 14 -June 14, 2016)
After the grand success of 2013, this year ShopArt ArtShop2 will be starting from May 14, 2016. In this month long festival, the artists from India and abroad will be participating in paid residency.They will be allotted empty shops and desolate spaces as their workplace where they will be involved in the process of creating artwork to give a new context to the conceptual art.
Frank states, ” We are doing a number of shops this year that are very interesting and which combine traditional elements of our village with modern ways of expressing, so that artists who are urban artists generally, come to this village and use things from the village whether tunes, fashion, materials and convert them into something modern. That is a way of opening up the village to the world through alternative means.”
It is amazing to see how a man turns a village into an art gallery by his exceptionally creative and unique project. ShopArt ArtShop is undoubtedly one of its kind, where urban meets locals and art meets culture. And it creates magic when the masterpiece is exhibited to the world.
Do come and join the MELA as villagers fondly call it.
For details , Kindly visit http://www.shopartshop.com/
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