Art has survived perilous times: Serendipity Arts Festival director

by Team ACF
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The fourth edition of Serendipity Arts Festival has braved the economic slowdown the country is reeling under. As Smriti Rajgarhia, Director, Serendipity Arts Foundation & Festival, lucidly points out, “Arts have always survived perilous times or emerged from it”. As the 4.0 version, one of the biggest so far, unfolds in in the Goan capital from December 15, Smriti took a pause to reflect on the glorious journey and mistakes made.

Excerpts:

This year’s festival is bigger than the previous editions. While expanding the dimensions of the festival, how do you ensure that the quality of the projects remains intact?

The pursuit of a public art intervention model has been constant and unbending for the festival since its inception. As a festival, we have been able to create a niche for ourselves and our visitors come here expecting arts of diverse nature and a certain quality, which is paramount for us and our curators too. The artists and the projects every year goes through constant evaluation and is backed by strong research. The objective is to showcase not only the known names in the arts but also strong independent art forms and artists from across the subcontinent and the world over.

The year 2019 has witnessed the worst economic slowdown in India. However, the spirit of the SAF has continued to remain upbeat. How did you manage to sail through smoothly?

Arts, if you look at history, had either always survived perilous times or emerged from it. Arts in practice has an innate ability to acclimatise itself to the situations around it, which makes the arts an inseparable part of our legacy and being. However, 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.

Envisioning a multi-disciplinary festival of such a grand scale isn’t easy, especially when expectations of people are high. How do you deal with such kind of pressure or expectations?

Keep breathing and never lose sight of the vision and mission of the Foundation.

Additionally, it is the faith of the team and the sense of purpose that drives us, the culture we are trying to inculcate within us and propagate further through the arts is what keeps us on track and helps us to deal with the expectations.

What strategy do you employ while choosing the curators? In this edition, some of the curators are the same, whereas, in visual arts and contemporary dance section, we are seeing new faces. Can you elaborate on this aspect?

The curators for each year are approached keeping in mind different world views and the need to represent the various idioms present in the arts but cohesively. For us this group is not eclectic, but rather a group that came together to form a common voice towards a common goal, to bring the arts back to the public realm. The interesting thing is that even though each of these eminent curators come from different background, each year, there has been an underlying theme, the current world view which emerges as the programming solidifies. And this is really what ties the festival together.

How would you describe the journey of the festival in the last three years? What have been the invaluable lessons and learnings?

It’s one of those situations when an idea grows bigger than what was conceived and many more people start contributing to its growth. We have made mistakes and learned from those, every step of the way, creating and organizing this festival, for the last three years. The journey has been nothing less than magical.

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