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The strength of arts is that it has an innate ability to adapt and respond to the world around it: Smriti Rajgarhia

In an interview with BW Applause and Everything Experiential, Smriti Rajgarhia, Director, Serendipity Arts Foundation & Serendipity Arts Festival spoke about the impact of the pandemic on arts festivals, changing brand collaborations and more.

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Art festivals largely depend upon the physical experience they offer to their attendees. However, owing to the situation they have adapted to the changes and are reimaging the experiences that they provide. 

Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) is one of the largest multi-disciplinary arts initiatives in the South Asian region and spans the visual, performing and culinary arts, whilst exploring genres with film, live arts, literature and fashion. The festival is committed to keep the conversation around arts going even in these challenging times. 

In an interview with BW Applause and Everything Experiential, Smriti Rajgarhia, Director of the Serendipity Arts Foundation and the Serendipity Arts Festival spoke about the impact of the pandemic on arts festivals, changing brand collaborations and more.

Excerpts:

What are some of the opportunities and challenges of hosting a festival amidst the pandemic?

The unprecedented global pandemic has been a strong blow to several industries across the spectrum, including the live events industry, which was probably one of the worst hit. However, the strength of the arts lies in the fact that it has an innate ability to adapt and respond to the world around it. As we venture further into the ‘new normal,’ we can see, particularly within the arts ecosystem, a willingness to adapt to new mediums and look for innovative means of outreach. At this point, institutions around the world are undergoing a tremendous transformation aided by technology while recognizing the advantages and power of the internet to connect and engage with audiences. Through our online initiative SAF 2020 x You, hosted earlier in the year, we attempted to integrate the internet in our presentation and model of outreach. But it is difficult, and perhaps too soon, to predict what the new world is going to look like. Having said that, I would like to point out that, digital initiatives have always been around; it is only that our attention has shifted to them now and locks immense potential for information dissemination and outreach.

The sector would have to recognize the hidden opportunities stemming from this challenging situation and maintain a balance between the digital and the physical. There has been an emergence of online gallery viewings and showcasing of recorded performances. However, it is without doubt that we all might have to operate a little differently, adhering to the protocols laid out for public safety. Today, the internet plays a more important role in our lives than ever before, and to see it as a space that can host festivals and similar outreach initiatives is exciting and challenging for us.

Owing to the pandemic, how have brand collaborations changed for arts festivals?

As the models of outreach are changing so is the nature of collaboration across the globe. In the pre-pandemic era the brands have been associating with arts festivals through traditional modes of integration largely. But in the current scenario brands have started to review the nature of associations, which have become more digitally driven, with seamless integration across verticals, looking at innovative means of collaboration. The nature of future collaborations will have to evolve now even more, as we move into the new normal. In a post-Covid world, we might have to address new frontiers and respond to shifted requirements. In our case I think our patrons; partners and supporters have been firm believers of this ideology and have lent us their support through thick and thin. They have readily joined us year on year to show that they have faith in our sense of purpose to be catalysts of positive social impact and change through the arts.

According to you, where do Indian festivals stand when compared to their global counterparts?

Festivals in India have made decent progress in the last few years and have covered a broad spectrum in terms of the quality of offerings in the arts, the nature of talent nurtured and the type of global associations they have had, including the Serendipity Arts Festival. We surely have miles to go before we reach the pinnacle, in terms of infrastructure, organizing the sector and harnessing the immense potential locked in the region. 

However, if one looks at the quality of arts production from the country and the South Asian region and the way in which that is being showcased and represented in Indian Arts festivals, it stands no less in comparison to any of our global counterparts. In fact, the festivals in the west are now looking more towards the artistic offerings, both contemporary and traditional, from this part of the globe. This phenomenon is also apparently clear from the increased number of projects travelling to esteemed global arts meets and festivals, in the last few years. Also, an Indian festival has a more complex audience, when compared to most other parts of the world and the festivals have the difficult task of programming and curating segments that would have universal appeal and also manage to engage a large culturally diverse population.

How do these festivals help in supporting new talent?

Each festival is unique in its way of interacting with talent and they follow their own processes through which support is extended. In case of the Serendipity Arts Foundation and Festival, we have a very clear mandate of creating artistic opportunities for emerging artists from South Asia and support new forms of art and art practices, therefore energizing the arts production from the region. But the support that we extend is not limited to emerging talent but also supporting the existing ones and helping them in their journey, as an artist. To extend the needed support the Foundation has several platforms, the foremost being the Serendipity Arts Festival. We also have over the years introduced our grants and residency programs, annually to support the art and the artists of the region.


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