Over the last three years, Delhi has seen the setting up of several hubs where creative people can informally exchange and collaborate, notes Shailaja Tripathi.

Addas and creativity have been best friends for a long, long time. Quaint coffee homes, modest restaurants, nondescript canteens and kiosks have often been the protagonists in such narratives. Heated debates, discussions and brainstorming happened not on television sets, nor did they need specially designed high-profile events to trigger them. Spontaneity and passion were the hallmark of such sessions.

The passage of time rendered most of these places defunct and many of us mourned the development. But then, for how long can two close friends remain separated? So here they are, back, not with a bang but gradually negotiating their space in a city crammed with formal, state-of-the art, organised structures showcasing art.

One such hub is The Greenhouse, a three-storey building located at Hauz Khas Village. The place came into being last year when Avinash Kumar, a member of B.L.O.T (Basic Love Of Things), a multimedia outfit, joined hands with photography collective BlindBoys, other multi-disciplinary conglomerations like Quicksand, CoDesign and UnBOX.

The place, which subscribes to the philosophy of creating a space for independent individuals pursuing varied disciplines to come together and fuelling collaborations, also has the backing of Goethe Institute, the German cultural institute in Delhi.

From crafting mini-books to having a public art photography project to something as unusual as ‘Your Flyer Here', an exhibition of music flyers, this not-for-profit place has witnessed some real offbeat ideas. “It is really like an inter-disciplinary lab getting people to work together in a friendly environment. Another goal is to work in the realm of education, so we have workshops imparting new skills to youngsters. We recently had one on urban planning,” elaborates Avinash. He recalls how a recent event held at The Greenhouse brought an interactive designer, an exhibition designer, a filmmaker and a musician into a team, exploring some new projects.

Art galleries, cultural centres and auditoriums have their sanctity, everybody agrees, but not everybody can afford them. And how many of them would welcome, say, a college student exhibiting his canvases? An art gallery might be devoted to showcasing quality art but at the end of the day, it remains a business-driven model. Musician Nikhil Mawkin has been on the circuit for over a decade now. Nikhil performs at five-star hotels and he can also be spotted at the TLR Café or The Living Room Café in Hauz Khas Village once a month. “I also travel a lot with my music and when I come back, I am hungry for a good place to perform. TLR somehow manages to tap that part of the Delhi crowd that is genuinely interested in music. The art displayed on the walls, performances, interiors and the food… everything comes together here,” feels the artiste, whose fresh experimental and ‘non-rock' music can be heard on the RED nights held at TLR on Fridays.

The thrust here is clearly on music, underground music to be precise, and understandably so, as the man behind the venture, Gautam Arora, is himself a musician. But visual arts, particularly experimental photography, also get a platform here. Shiv Ahuja was barely 20 and studying Economics at Kirori Mal College when, a year ago, he had his first exhibition of photographs of musicians during live concerts and shows. Coming up soon is an exhibition by three students of St. Stephen's College.

While the haunt gets to display cutting-edge art on its walls, young talent gets a showcase. When it comes to sustenance, Harsh, who takes care of marketing and publicity for TLR, reveals it is the food business that gets the moolah. Artists exhibiting their work don't have to pay any commission. “It's a kind of barter system that we operate in, but that too is not mandatory. If an artist wants, he/she can give us, say, one frame or nothing at all. It's highly informal and casual.”

Besides facilitating artistic expression, another aspect on which these artistic joints score is the friendly atmosphere. Ajay Jain, a travel book author and photographer, began Kunzum Travel Café in Hauz Khas Village with the objective of bringing avid travellers, photographers and other photography enthusiasts to hobnob with each other and exchange ideas. So you might walk in one evening to find a travel talk in session or a book reading in progress, musicians jamming or Delhi Drum Circles drumming. At a time when prices of everything have hit the roof, this place serves coffee and cookies for which Ajay has set no prices. Yes, you pay what you like. “The whole idea was to enable creative people congregate at one place. Such a place was missing. If you go to any restaurant, marking a corner isn't easy and then not everybody wants to spend that kind of money,” says Ajay, who keeps it going through the sale of his books and photographs available at his cafe.

Artist Pooja Iranna rues the absence of more such places where artists could engage in dialogue “because art openings are only about wine and cheese, and at seminars, book launches and discussions one can only hear and not participate actively. Also, we repeatedly talk about exposing kids to art and culture but you really can't take small kids to such events...”

Pooja's contemporary Manisha Gera Baswani has tried to fill this blank with Manthan, a gathering that takes place once every three months with different artistes as speakers. It could be any creative soul — architect, designer, gallery owner, violinist, singer — or a toy designer, like the 66-year-old NID professor Sudershan Khanna who recently featured in a Manthan talk. The artistes make presentations, seven-minutes-long, in the intimate setting of the lawns of the architect couple's house in Panchsheel Park. And the couple's firm Morphogenesis funds the evening. Gera and other founder members form the curatorial team which decides on the subject and speakers for the event. The whole event is also video-taped. “The platform is essentially to encourage crossovers and we don't invite non-creative people. Also, due to space and other limitations, we have made it a strict RSVP event and restrict it to 60 people,” says Manisha.

Keywords: art exhibition