Not many of us have heard of Gunehar, a small village in Kangra District that lies two hours from Dharamshala — and that’s precisely why learning of the ShopArt ArtShop project is like stumbling upon a secret treasure; one that transforms hidden spaces into the spontaneous, strange, and inspirational.
The ShopArt ArtShop, started in 2013 by by German-Indian businessman Frank Schlichtmann, who lives in Gunehar, aims to turn the village into an artistic space, away from galleries and art hubs of cities. For the past three years, emerging and international artists have stayed at shops in the village, converting them into art studios. Over the course of three weeks, they work on beautification projects, restoring traditional buildings and creative interactive activities, using local material and collaborating with the villagers in creating their work.
The past years have seen a great ensemble of artists and art projects. Rema Kumar’s ‘Gunehar Fashion Show’ showcased traditional Gaddi and Bara Bhangali dresses that were modelled by the girls and women of the village. The ‘One Rupee Cinema’ set up by K. M. Lo from Singapore features films starring the locals- there is even one of the village children fighting off an alien chicken. And Sheena Deviah and Bianca Ballantyne used materials discarded or abandoned by local residents to transform abandoned courtyards and shops to make those spaces alive again.
ShopArt Art Shop exemplifies the dynamic energy and creativity that is borne from bridging urban and rural India; it gives the villagers a window into a world that is dynamic and vibrant (so many women artists stay and work here,” says Vichitra Thakur, the deputy pradhan of Gunehar Thakur. “This will influence our girls to be independent”) and gives the world a door to a destination of unexpected surprises.
Written by Pavi Sagar
Featured image source: ArtShop ShopArt