The KYTA artist residency at Kalga, Himachal Pradesh, is an interesting experiment. Here, art is the medium to promote tourism.

Among the many far-flung villages that dot the Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh, the little hamlet of Kalga sits inconspicuously on a hilltop above the Parvati river. Surrounded by snowy peaks, Kalga is at the centre of this mountainous bowl, and is currently abuzz with the drone of creation.

The concept of artist residencies is not globally new, but it is a novelty in the area. And being in a little Himachali village, spending an entire month in a guesthouse modelled along the lines of a typical village home with an outdoor loo, is a novelty for most of the ten artists who are part of this experiment. The residency is an initiative of Karma Yatri, an organisation that primarily does biking tours.

Called KYTA (Karma Yatri Travel & Arts), art influencing travel, and vice-versa, is the genesis of the idea. The project aims at experimenting with arts and travel to see if the destination can be an inspiration for the artists to create a unique piece of art, and to see if the coming together of artists for such an event can catapult a destination into the spotlight and put it on the tourist trail, albeit for the right reasons.

According to Hashim Qayoom, co-owner of Karma Yatri, the Parvati valley is presently infamous for hemp tourism, and with an initiative like KYTA, they hope to re-introduce ‘clean tourism’ in the region. A residency like this has already generated business for the local guesthouses, taxi unions, porters and others involved directly or indirectly with the influx of visitors, be it resident artists, visiting artists, or simply people curious to attend the various workshops and see what the ongoing event is all about.

For Wei, a Taiwanese contemporary dancer of Chinese descent, being in Kalga is ‘a big adventure,’ especially since it is her first time in India. Ceramic artists Rashi Jain and Emile Degorce have already started building a kiln for their work. Megha Katyal is readying to create magic with thread. Alec, an American of Jewish descent living in Vietnam, is putting together his wide collection of odd instruments to good use every evening, while Sanaya, a Mumbai-based sound artist, is collaborating with him on the same. Ameet, a Delhi-based architect and artist, is musing over designing ‘lightscapes’ using projectors and soundscapes, and Daniel, Fernando and Sachinare using light for producing various multimedia creations. Among the visiting artists, Jaya Ramchandran has kicked off the fest with her Story of Light, a presentation on her work that maps the story of the universe right from the time of its creation, and the wonder that the physics behind it is.

The visiting artists’ line up also includes fun acts such as fire dancing and juggling, among others, by artists who will be visiting Kalga at various points during the residency.

The event has already started influencing Kalga in small ways; the first dustbins have started popping up in the village. However, tourism is a double-edged sword that must be handled with care. While Kalga extends a warm invite to explore its unknown realm, the over enthusiasm of tourism might spill in through the carefully opened sluice gates, just like the water of an angry Parvati can break through the dam being built on it at Barsheni. But as the first golden light hits the snow-capped peaks like an upturned pot of honey, one truly hopes that Kalga doesn’t go down the beaten path.

KYTA is on till May 11.