CULTIVATING DEMAND FOR VISUAL ART
Over the last few decades the face of Sri Lankan art, and its vast array of voices have been present in many different environments and at many different scales. A variety of platforms ranging from international to local spectrums have played their part in maintaining an exciting dynamic in the somewhat difficult undertaking of art. One consistent platform has been the reputed open air visual art phenomenon Kala Pola, an undisputed festival of art that occupies the streets of Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, also known as Nelum Pokuna Mawatha, annually over the last two and a half decades. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the game-shakers responsible are John Keells Foundation and The George Keyt Foundation, organisations making empowered and sustainable livelihoods possible in a variety of social initiatives across the island. ARTRA reflects with veteran members Nadija Tambiah and Carmeline Jayasuriya of John Keells Foundation about the impact the work conducted in shaping the future and aspirations across the cultural and socio-economic spheres.
It is a generally experienced consensus that the profession of an artist was a forbidding path to follow, as opportunities to exhibit were few and expensive, confined, with collectors being limited to a select few within their own demographic, along with the slim likelihood of meeting one.
In this context, the work done by The George Keyt Foundation, founded by Cedric De Silva and Sita De Silva is worthy of mention. Founded in 1988 by a group of admirers and friends of the renowned modernist painter, George Keyt, The George Keyt Foundation has pursued a relentless drive to provide new opportunities for artists. The cornerstone of their many initiatives was Kala Pola which has recieved the dedicated support of the John Keells Group for the last 24 years. The first Kala Pola was held in 1993 with 35 artists taking part, and has since expansively grown to assist over 350 participant artists with over 28,500 visitors in 2018, the most popular visual art phenomenon in the country. In celebrating the life of George Keyt, and upholding the spirit of his chosen profession of an artist, the Foundation utilizes his legacy to pave the way for those that have followed emergent.
One of the enduring legacies of the Kala Pola initiative is that the street upon which it takes place is home to an year-round amateur art market. To be an amateur is to love and have an object of affection; The George Keyt Foundation also organises formal annual exhibitions such as ‘Nawa Kalakaruwo’, ‘Young Contemporaries’, and ‘Sri Lankan Art’, hosting vibrant and contrasting mixtures of artists that travel across the country to display, engage and educate themselves in the dynamics of art. Through the years, The George Keyt Foundation has organised art camps, other multi artist exhibitions as well as single artist exhibitions, and published many books on art. Keyt himself placed faith in the Founders and married duo Cedric De Silva and Sita De Silva, and together with John Keells Foundation, they have initiated much change in the livelihoods of Sri Lankan artists over the years.
Click below to read the full article.