It’s no secret that a retreat into nature and a great piece of art—both can add a fresh breath of air into our life. Many artists dream of taking a break from the hustle-bustle of city life and set off to a quiet stretch of nature where they can focus on creative work. Sweden-based Ajmer and Nisha Sandhu have taken charge of making this dream come true by turning their farmhouse at Kaliyanwala village, Jaspur, into an international artists’ residency. Surrounded by lush green valleys, just 40 km from Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand, the program TellusArt Home offers a nurturing space for artists to try a change of scene, and have a rich taste of authentic Indian village life.
The program made a splashing debut with ‘My Village, My Nation’ workshop for ceramics, murals and sculpture, held on 6—15 March, 2020, featuring an interesting diversity of work. Going along with the delights of the season, Indian and European artists had a dazzling celebration of Holi—the festival of colours. TellusArt Home, the residency, is part of TellusArt, a Sweden-based NGO, led by Ajmer and Nisha, who have been supporting art and culture, as well as funding empowerment programs for children and women.
The selected artists at the workshop were: Benny Ekman, Carina Åkerman, Fia Kvissberg from Sweden, Dieter Kunz from Austria, Nisha Sandhu, representing Sweden as well India, India’s maestro Yusuf from Bhopal, Sonam Sikarwar, Vijay Dahiyon, Chhaya Dubey, Manisha Jain from Bhopal, Punkaj Manav, Dipti Gupta, Naresh Kumar, Ashish Bose from Delhi, L.N. Naga from Jaipur.
Applications are accepted on an on-going space-availability basis, from established and mid-career artists, as well as newcomers. The workspace is equipped for murals, ceramics, installations, and paintings. The quaint cottage has a mix of laid-back vibe and a sense of community. Soothing earthen scent comes from their mud-painted walls. Empty whiskey bottles have been recycled into a splendid lighting panel. The in-house kitchen maintains hygiene and food safety standards. When not working, resident artists can grab traditional-style, nutritious meals, interact with locals, learn about the state’s rich culture and traditional art forms, and enjoy swimming. As the evening approaches, they can chill out by the bonfire or, simply stargaze into one of the clearest night skies of the country, lying on their charpai, traditional hand-woven bed.
Ajmer, being a trained artist himself, understands the need for dedicated time and space, and also inspirations drawn from new surroundings for making new work. The India-born Swedish art enthusiast has always been on the go, to support the cause of art, by organising workshops and exhibitions across the world. Most of his earnings are spent on TellusArt Academy—a school at Kaliyanwala, committed to educating underprivileged children of the same region. Teachers at the school have been trained by a Scandinavian professional. Increased earning through art can result in better facilities such as teachers’ training, books and resources to make TellusArt Academy run.
Resident artists at the TellusArt Home not only enjoy a unique space for creation and inspiration but also get to contribute to education of the needy children, as a result, in the prevention of child labour, and thus become part of the change that helps heal the world.