‘A city without art is soulless’ shared Asad Lalljee at MICA in Ahmedabad

Curator of India’s only opera house, Mr. Asad Lalljee, shares his views on art appreciation landscape of India and the cultural economy with aspiring students at MICA.

Asad Lalljee, curator of the Royal Opera House, Mumbai

MICA was graced by the presence of Asad Lalljee, curator of the Royal Opera House in Mumbai and CEO of Avid Learning – a public programming platform and cultural philanthropy arm of Essar group, on Sunday, August 18 to talk on the potential and viability of art scene in India. Lalljee has been a driving force of Mumbai’s cultural scene and has successfully introduced Opera into its arsenal. His interaction with the students of MICA, Ahmedabad was organized to broaden their perception of art from a commercial standpoint and how to compel people from different walks of life to appreciate it.

“We need to change our mindset and treat art and culture as serious segments to make it sustainable,” said Lalljee, while discussing on the ‘cultural economy’ and how to brand culture. “To me, Art and Culture is not different than any other product. Same principles of marketing are applies, of course with different nuances,” he mentioned.

Lalljee talked about the reception of gentrified opera house and the effect it had on the neighbourhood. “Nearby buildings have been decked up, restaurants have come up in the vicinity and employment has been generated. This is the whole idea of ‘Arts City, Smart City’. A city without art is soulless.”

Asad Lalljee in conversation with MICANs

Lalljee also spoke on using unconventional ways to spread awareness for art programs. He further elaborated by explaining that people need to experience art in a more tactile and visible manner, and innovative methods of engagement have to be created to let this happen. The process of curating art should be such, so as to make people integral to the event or activity. While discussing on his approach he mentioned, “It is a commercial venue but I mix genres as I like the stage to be used for social advocacy. Recently we got a group of visually impaired girls from Dadar who did rope and pole Mallakambh, to add to it, got an Australian performer and Indie vocalist. Prior to that, we had a visually impaired orchestra from London, and had pop-up Braille art, lifestyle magazines in Braille, etc. The idea is to curate events in a unique manner. We tie-up with NGOs, schools and other organizations too.”

Avid Learning is an organization that engages into formats like workshops, panel discussions, gallery walk-through, masterclasses and festival platforms to promote and feature the best of Indian and international writers, artists, thinkers and cultural experts, in the fields of arts, literature, culture and heritage, design and innovation. Emphasizing on the necessity to innovate and being inclusive in marketing campaigns, he discussed Avid Learning’s role in initiating niche art events and how they can also be profitable engagements.

He concluded his talk by sharing his goal, to make art sustainable and institutionalize it for future generations. He said, “Even for seemingly niche enterprises, the boundaries of targeted, innovative marketing can be explored and leveraged to create lasting value – not just in terms of artistic merit but also as a generator of sustained income.”

Image credit : MICA

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