Sculptor Harpal Shekhupuria(Sourced)
Sculptor Harpal Shekhupuria(Sourced)

Brush with generosity: Tricity artists get together to help freelancers hit by Covid crisis

Seven months without work, many freelance artists in Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali with master’s in fine arts degrees are desperately trying to stay afloat
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Nirupama Dutt, Chandigarh
PUBLISHED ON SEP 22, 2020 11:48 PM IST

A post by sculptor Harpal Shekhupuria on Facebook, seeking the support of artists with government jobs to help freelancers hit hard financially by the Covid-19 crisis, has got a heartwarming response.

Artists from the tricity and Punjab have come forward to contribute what they can and form a transparent group to help those in need.

“I have a private job,” says Shekhupuria, “but I am doing what I can to help artists and will continue to do so. I have been a freelance artist and I know the trials and tribulations one has to go through for sheer survival.”

Gurdeep Dhiman, who does have a government job to support his creative endeavours, feels, “this is a time when all should come together as a community to help one another without prejudice.”

Most artists have decided to come together for the cause instead of approaching art bodies, which many feel promote a few select names for workshops and sponsorships. Some have even questioned their alma mater in not empowering the students with skills and modern facilities to be able to survive in the competitive art market.

Senior sculptor Jaswinder Singh, an awardee of the Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi and a master’s in fine arts degree holder draws attention to the problem, saying: “All my degrees are for sale as I have no other means of survival!”

However, as he is 50 and experienced, Jaswinder Singh is confident of managing on his own. But he wonders what youngsters graduating from art colleges now will do after being “disheartened in the world outside.”

There are very few opportunities for freelancers in the city right now with some of them saying they were disenchanted with the functioning of the North Zone Cultural Centre which in a camp before the Covid-19 outbreak ignored talented freelance artists and got students from the college at daily wages.

When asked what could be done to help young artists, Bheem Malhotra, chairman,Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademy, says: “The administration has promised us partial interim financial grants and we will try to help artists through workshops. At a personal level, I have been helping some artists get paid work outside.”

Two young sculptors, well appreciated for their works, have decided to support themselves with daily needs shops. The road is tough but well-known photographer Randeep Maddoke, lauding Shekhupuria’s initiative, says: “These are hard times, but we must make a sincere attempt to overcome and help the artists in crises in these Covid times.”

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