Alternative art space for transformation through artistic expression

art space - paintings - Priyam Pradhan - Siddhartha Art Gallery
The collective art showcased within the alternative art space emerged as the focal point of our advocacy efforts. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

I experienced postpartum depression, and my family’s reaction was dismissive: They responded: “We’ve had five children and never felt this way.” Surprisingly, a stranger shared her experience with me within minutes of our conversation.

What prompted her to open up to a stranger? What provokes her to become vulnerable? It was art.

During, the World Social Forum (WSF) 2024, Freedom Studio spearheaded the alternative art space, an innovative platform that defined perceptions of art. While many initially associate arts with painting, the alternative art space introduced visitors to various artistic forms – from installations to digital creations, thematic art, and more.

This diverse array of art forms stirred a deep curiosity within attendees, sparking an urge for artistic expression.

At World Social Forum 2024

Painting by artist Sunil Ranjit at the exhibition Color Alchemy at Kisimaka, Thamel.
Representative image

I vividly recall the inaugural day of the WSF, where the lack of space initially posed a challenge for our alternative art space. However, guided by the belief that where there’s a will, there’s a way, we transformed a small spare area adjacent to the stage into a vibrant hub of creative expression.

Despite the initial uncertainty, our enthusiasm remained unwavering. As the days progressed, the alternative art space expanded organically, much like an algorithm. Visitors eagerly engaged with the collective arts, expressing appreciation for the artists and demonstrating a genuine willingness to communicate and connect. It was heartening to witness people from diverse backgrounds coming together, united by their shared enthusiasm for art and its potential to address social issues.

Experiencing the safe space fostered by art was truly remarkable. People deeply resonate with the brain drain and investment in war-related concepts, it fosters communication on contemporary global issues like- the Israel and Palestine war, skyrocketing numbers in international migration for higher studies and so on.

Art plays the role of catalyst for healing and connection

Paintings by artist Priyam Pradhan at Siddhartha Art Gallery, Baber Mahal. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale
Representative image. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

I distinctly remember a moment when I was explaining the concept of thematic art, using a prototype of a human skull engulfed by negative thoughts, leaving no place for positivity. In that instant, a woman resonated deeply with the depiction, revealing her battle with postpartum depression and the neglect she faced from her family.

Despite being a stranger, she found solace in sharing her story, driven by the emotional depth art provoked within her. As she spoke, others were drawn in, sharing their struggles with developmental challenges and illness.

It was a reminder of the power of art to validate hidden emotions, fostering a space where vulnerability was met with understanding and empathy. The collective sharing of experiences further reinforced the transformative impact of art as a catalyst for healing and connection.

Art proved to be more than just aesthetically pleasing; it emphasises meaningful conversations and personal revelations. The art on display served as a mirror, reflecting the injustices and challenges faced by individuals, leading to moments of self-realisation and empathy.

The collective art showcased within the alternative art space emerged as the focal point of our advocacy efforts. Through art, we shed light on #shiftthepower, #peacestartshere, #untiyingaid and many global movements. It was inspiring to see attendees embrace the intersectionality of art and explore its possibilities for social change.

In essence, the alternative art space exemplified the transformative power of art as a tool for advocacy and connection. It provided a platform for individuals to explore their creativity, share their stories, and engage with pressing societal issues. As we look towards the future, I am hopeful that the spirit of the alternative art space will continue to inspire meaningful change and foster greater understanding in our world.

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Ghimire is associated with Freedom Studio and working in the field of artivism.

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