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Creative solutions to urban challenges

The perception of public spaces has changed. Re-claim, re-imagine and re-purpose are concepts that engage public space initiatives in Indian cities. Place-making initiatives – by people, collectives, organisations and individuals – have turned into sustained movements being shared and followed. We, at Gudgudee have been inspiringly following some of these initiatives.

Involving locals - St+Art Festival

The non-profit outfit, St+Art Foundation, has been working on art projects in public spaces since it began in 2014 with the first street art festival in New Delhi. The main purpose of the orgainsation is to embed art within public spaces, making it accessible to diverse sectors of the society, especially those who are usually excluded from the reach of art. Since its inception the festival has involved, other than Indian and international artists, the locals, organizations and corporate companies. The festival has spread to other cities too: Mumbai in 2015 and next up is Bangalore.

The 2016 edition in New Delhi had Asian Paints collaborate and make the initiative a pitch more democratic. In order to leverage local community assets and to involve locals, Asian Paints invited citizens to donate a wall of their homes to be painted by artists. The initiative has not only transformed drab buildings into vibrant pieces of art, it has brought about a sense of community and belonging into the people of these cities. Govt. office buildings, exterior walls of schools and monotonous walls in tiny by-lanes, which were often overlooked and undervalued by urban authorities, have become sites of possibilities.

Democratic efforts - Equal streets

In Bangalore, the India Foundation for the Arts, a non-profit arts funding organisation, organised such walks as part of a project, Project 560, funded by the Citi Group. Some of these walks, designed by individuals, took audience through by lanes of busy commercial areas like the M.G. Road and by the lake in Ulsoor, discovering the relationship between art and lived spaces. Heritage walks in Ahmedabad organized, among others, by AMC and House of MG, cover important landmarks and heritage sites in the city. In Mumbai, other than the famous Dharavi tour that gives visitors a sense of the largest small scale industries area, walks in tiny Gaothans or coastal villages such as Khotachiwadi, reconnect with the lifestyle, old cottage houses and people who live in these houses.

Democratic efforts - Equal streets

Equal Streets has become a community movement that a number of cities are implemented. The simple idea of bringing awareness about the need to improve safety and mobility on roads and streets has turned into a movement. Support of local municipalities, citizens, NGOs and the local community has made the event bigger and stronger. After beginning in one area in Mumbai, the initiative was taken up by other busy areas and has slowly moved to other cities such as Ahmedabad. An articulated democratic solution to urban issues favored by residents – it has re-imagined ways in which public space can be utilized for quality life in cities.

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