Say the words “Indian art” and what might come to mind most quickly are the Taj Mahal, Ravi Shankar, classical Hindu dance and Bollywood. But during the past several decades “the subcontinent” has changed dramatically, and a whole new artistic energy has emerged. It is this art — in many disciplines, and with all its links to the past blended with all its contemporary and cross-cultural influences — that Anuradha Behari, president of Chicago’s Eye on India Festival, is determined to showcase as she produces the fifth edition of the event, running May 28-June 25 at venues throughout the city and suburbs.
Behari came to the U.S. in 1997, along with her husband, who is in the corporate world. With a slew of business degrees and an impressive resume of trade ventures in her own pocket, she settled in the suburbs, raised two kids and went into what she laughingly calls her “Rip Van Winkle phase.” Then, in 2010, she visited India to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival, where her mother, a playwright and novelist, was speaking. Dazzled by all that was new in Indian culture, she decided to create a different kind of cultural exchange between India and Chicago, a city with an ideal demographic mix.
“The Chicago and immediate Midwest area has a population of about 150,ooo Indians, with a local merchant class on Devon Avenue, business people in Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates, doctors and corporate types in Oakbrook and Burr Ridge and professionals in Naperville,” said Behari. “They’re all quite different, but during the past 10 years they’ve gained access to about 25 Indian television channels, and phoning overseas has become much cheaper, so the need to actively look for culture and connection here has lessened. My goal is to create programs for a mainstream audience — a mix of about half South Asian, with others who just love India, or are U.S. business leaders with a keen interest in gaining a better understanding of their colleagues in India. Some of the work is from Indian artists who live here, while some is directly from India, and some is a real cultural exchange.”
‘EYE ON INDIA’
When: May 28-June 25
Where: Various venues
Tickets: Prices vary
A collaboration with the Field Museum is an ideal example of the latter, with “Following the Box,” a 2013-14 documentary film by anthropologist/photographer Alan Teller and his wife, Jerri Zbiral, among the festival’s more unusual offerings. The film tells the story of the couple’s trip to Kolkata, India, that was triggered by a find at an estate-sale — a shoebox filled with old photographs and negatives made in India in 1945. The photos led the Chicago couple halfway around the world as they tried to unravel the mystery behind who took these compelling pictures and for what purpose, and what remains of the places they captured. They also tapped contemporary Indian artists who each drew inspiration from these images to create new artworks in response.
Here are more highlights of the 2015 Eye on India Festival:
Opening Night Gala (May 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bridgeport Arts Center, 1200 W. 35th St.) Tickets: $150. This Eye on India fundraiser will celebrate the festival’s 5th anniversary and preview its highlights, including the “Zero Waste Sari Project” created by fashion students of Columbia College Chicago who used old sari fabric to create new fashions. The evening also includes dinner and musical entertainment by Sara Ranganathan (a.k.a. “Saraswathi Veena”), young singer Preetish Chakraborty, and the Chicago Children’s Choir. In addition, Eye on India will honor an outstanding ambassador of Indian and American cultural exchange.
Manish Nai opening reception (June 6 from 5 – 7 p.m., co-presented by Kavi Gupta Gallery, 219 N. Elizabeth St.) Free admission. This exhibit marks the North American debut of new works by Mumbai-based artist Manish Nai and will feature four large-scale site-specific works in addition to wall hangings, sculptures, and prints. The media used in Nai’s work are both modest and quintessentially Indian. A panel discussion, “Space and Place: Transcending Local Meaning in Indian Contemporary Art” is set for June 11 at 6 p.m. at the gallery.
“Language of Opportunity” and “Searching for Sparrows”: A Documentary Work-in-Progress Showcase (June 17 at 7 p.m., co-presented by the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.) Free admission. These two documentaries examine the change and loss involved in the rapid globalization in India. Clips from the works in progress will be screened, with a discussion moderated by filmmaker Dinesh Sabu. “The Language of Opportunity” looks at the role English plays in the lives, hopes and dreams of a new generation of upwardly mobile Indians.With birds as a focal point, “Searching for Sparrows” follows the journey of five citizens from Hyderabad, India, who are working to fortify a sustainable balance between a city undergoing haphazard urbanization, and its natural ecosystem.
Grammy-award winning Vikku Vinayakram and Selva Ganesh with band ARKA (June 20 at 7 p.m.; preshow at 5 p.m. featuring local Indian classical musicians). Co-presented by the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago, the event is at 10915 Lemont Road, Lemont, Il. VIP Tickets $100 (with premium seating and an artist reception with food and drinks); regular tickets $25 – $35. Percussionist Vikku Vinayakram, and his son, Selva Ganesh, perform a program of traditional music of India with fusion group ARKA.
International Day of Yoga (June 21 from sunrise to sundown), co-presented by City of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Reddy Set Yoga! and the Consulate of India, Chicago. At 63rd Street Beach, 6300 S. Lake Shore Dr. (5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m.); Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago (8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.); Mozart Park, 2036 N. Avers Ave. (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.). Free admission. With free yoga, meditation, pranayama, and cooking workshops offered by certified yoga instructors and ayurvedic experts. For details visit www.EyeOnIndia.org.
Fareed Haque Group and Grammy award-winning Vikku Vinayakram, featuring Selva Ganesh, George Brooks, and special guest ARKA (June 21 at 8 p.m.) Co-presented by Martyrs’ 3855 N. Lincoln. Tickets $20. Guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque and saxophonist/composer George Brooks join ARKA and percussionist Vinayakram for a richly textured program of contemporary music.
“Following the Box” documentary film screening and conversation (June 24 at 6 p.m., at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Montgomery Ward Lecture Hall). Free admission.
More events will be announced. Visit www.EyeOnIndia.org