It is hard to imagine in what state the art of Assam would have been in the absence of some art societies that have been playing a great role in promoting art and supporting artists in the State. The very foundation of the modern art in Assam owes a lot to these cradles of creativity that came into being around the assemblies of artists, art lovers, poets and writers at different stages and places in the State.
If we look back to the time when it all started unfolding, we find that the most crucial period in this context was the 1970s decade. Years before that, though, the Gauhati Art School – established by Jibeswar Baruah in 1947 – tried to create a platform for aspiring artists, but due to its small magnitude and many a hurdle of time, the horizons of its students could not expand beyond a limit. They had to work in a small, insipid environment and there was no attempt at novelties and experiments that could have ensured their growth. Yet, the establishment of this school was a positive step by a great visionary, who, later on, went out of his way to encourage bright talents, including Benu Misra, to seriously pursue a career in art.
The 1950s that followed was relatively more vigorous, not only in terms of the number of gifted artists that emerged in the scene, but also the number of cultural organisations that came forward to promote art in the region. These include the Assam Lalit Kala Akademi, Assam Academy and Assam Progressive Writers and Artists’ Association.
But it was during the 1970s that the art scene of Assam witnessed a wider revolution, primarily due to the emergence of some prominent art organisations. It is the name of Assam Fine Arts and Crafts Society, established in 1971 under the leadership of Neelpawan Barua, which comes to our mind first. Over the last four decades, the Society has been playing a pivotal role in promoting art in the region and providing a good platform for artists and young prospects. Workshops, exhibitions, lectures by eminent artists, summer camps for children, and many other activities by this Society have, over the years, kept the artistic environment vibrant and colourful. The Society has 180 schools affiliated to it across Assam, and the number is still growing.
One of its most significant contributions to the world of art and sculpture of Assam is the syllabus prepared scientifically by it for art schools.
The joint efforts of the AFACS and the Gauhati Artists Guild made from time to time are extremely heartening, to say the least. The young brigades of office-bearers in both these two organisations are playing a stellar role in all the activities mentioned above. The Guild’s contribution to the art world of Assam is also no less significant and it has been quite dynamic in keeping the State’s artistic environment lively, ever since it came into being in 1976 under the leadership of Benu Misra. Since then, several artists and art lovers have helped the Guild transform into a strong entity. The Guild’s annual magazine Chihna is a highly revered publication enriched with erudite articles on art. Apart from art-related activities like exhibitions, workshops, lectures, et al, these two organisations also come forward for social causes in the hour of crisis, which speaks a lot about their social responsibility too.
Jorhat Fine Arts Society, established in 1976, is another prominent organisation which has been keeping the artistic environment in and around Jorhat multihued and energetic. The well-equipped gallery at its office, ‘Kala Bhawan’ has been serving a great purpose in this regard. Organisations like Kallol Kala Gosthi of Nagaon, established by the legendary late Pranab Baruah, and the Artist Village of Udalguri set up by Rabiram Brahma, have also contributed to sustain a creative environment in their respective areas.
Two recent developments have added a new dimension to the art world of Assam. The first one is a platform created by the Assam Fine Arts & Crafts Society for the AFACS diploma holders. Aptly titled ‘Uttaran’, this branch of the Society will provide a launchpad to the youngsters requiring a much-needed exposure.
The second one is huge in magnitude and is an umbrella organisation encompassing all the visual artists of Assam. Formed earlier this month, ‘The All Assam Visual Artists Association’ has come into existence with the pledge to work for the welfare of the entire artist fraternity of Assam, and help resolve the burning issues concerning them. These are extremely positive developments in the art world of Assam and it is wished that all these art organisations will continue to taste success in their respective missions.