"Lockdown" has been the most familiar word to the world during the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, which has brought many challenges and difficulties in human life all over the world including Bangladesh. Artists and art activities are most have been based in Dhaka, the capital in this country, due to the availability of educational institutions, mentors and urban audiences. However, when the country went into "General Holiday" mode, aka the 'Lockdown' phase for weeks since the end of March in an attempt to control the deadly havoc known as the coronavirus, the entire art sphere in the country got impacted through noticing a shift as many artists moved back into their family and ancestral homes outside the capital city, leaving their precious studios and workshops behind.
As history portrays that the art and artistry have always been alive and never stopped during the major crisis, it needed to move forward during this pandemic as well. So continuing the search for new normalcy during these trying times, a team remain focused on trying to march ahead and experiment with new means, regardless of how unsavoury the overall situation is and could have been.
The above-mentioned team is the Brihatta Art Foundation, which launched the 'Home Art Project 2020' - with a goal to support artists to continue their practice in the comfort of their own residences during this pandemic. The three-month work grant for a virtual residency not only provides artists with an opportunity to refine their way of working with available resources but also introduces adaptable distant learning methods as a means of exchanging ideas through mentorship - according to the initiators of the project.
Facilitated through an open call for applicants from all over Bangladesh, the Home Art Project Jury made a final selection of 15 Grantees, based on their project proposals and ideas, in line with the current situation. The selected artists are Abdullah Al Bashir, Aminul Islam Ashik, Ashim Halder Sagor, Dinar Sultana Putul, Jayatu Chakma, Md. Anisul Haque, Md. Imtiaj Islam Rasel, Mojahid Musa, Niaz Uddin Ahmmed, Rakib Anwar, Sagar Sarkar, Shimul Datta, Shimul Saha, Soma Surovi Jannat and Sumon Wahed.
A 3-members board of Jury representing a wide landscape of art practice and art education in Bangladesh with a combined experience of more than 35 years, selected the grantees in this project. The renowned Jury members are - Artist and Sculptor Alak Roy who is the founder of 'Chattogram Sculpture Center' and a retired Professor of Institute of Fine Arts, University of Chittagong; Artist and Professor Nisar Hossain, current Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at University of Dhaka and Artist Tayeba Begum Lipi, an internationally acclaimed new-wave contemporary artist who is a co-founder and trustee of Britto Arts Trust.
During the open call, the project received an astonishing total of 123 applications from all over Bangladesh. A unique identification code was generated for each applicant and submitted anonymously to Jury for the interview sessions. After the extensive reviews, 20 artists were selected for interviews, based on the strength and relevance of their proposals, taking the current scenario into consideration. After Primary selection of those 20 applicants, the first virtual interview session was held on July 26 via ZOOM meeting, and the 15 selected grantees were announced the following day across all Brihatta social media platforms.
Brihatta Art Foundation invited three distinguished mentors representing three generations of artists In Bangladesh, with the goal to assist and collaborate with Grantees in a collective virtual space. The collaborating mentors are - Professor Dhali Al Mamoon from the Institute of Fine Arts, University of Chittagong; Visual Artist Mahbubur Rahman, co-founder and trustee of Britto Arts Trust and renowned Artist Bishwajit Goswami, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka.
In the session titled 'impART: The Story Continues from Us to You', the grantees of the Home Art Project 2020 talk about their fascinating stories of creativity and worldly travels. It also puts a spotlight on the virtual mentorship program, where artists pass on knowledge and stories from their own artistic careers to the audience. This session features 3 artist presentations per day, over a span of 5 days. Another virtual session, titled 'ART-PRACTICE-RESEARCH', focuses on the art and the artist's journey around the world. This virtual session takes place once a month, over a span of 3 months of 'Brihatta Home Art Project 2020'. In Part-1, two of the distinguished guests - Artist Tayeba Begum Lipi and Architect Salauddin Ahmed, presented their art practices during the ongoing pandemic time, as well as their personal research projects. The aim of this session is to create a meaningful platform to build and maintain strong relationships between the local and international artists, and art communities.
Artist and Professor Bishwajit Goswami, one of the mentors in the project, addressed the initiative to Dhaka Courier as a "blessing in disguise". Describing the project, he said, "As the situation called for new-normalcy in every sector - artists also had to make their own ways to continue the creative journey from wherever they have been residing during this pandemic. This 'Home Art Project 2020' by Brihatta Art Foundation not only made sure necessary assistance and knowledge to the grantees, but it also has opened up new opportunities and thrived the artists to explore new creativities. For example, some of the artists have been making their own pieces of equipment which they were lacking outside of their regular workstations. Also, the virtual reality is providing us certain advantages such as instant virtual meetings, where the artists can join and share-exchange insightful insights from anywhere in the world, anytime - transcending the barriers."
"Obligations and difficulties opened up new opportunities for us, the artists - and we are challenging this unprecedented times through this exclusive and interesting initiative. When the situation gets normal, the Brihatta art foundation will arrange a curatorial exhibition in a renowned gallery in Dhaka featuring the works of 15 artists from the home art project, during the first quarter of 2021. It will create connectivity between the artists and the audiences, who will get to know and understand how the artists have been continuing their creative journey during the pandemic", Bishwajit Goswami informed DC.
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