Art Ichol is set up in the rural landscape of central Madhya Pradesh. Maihar and especially Ichol's villages, are relatively cut off from the modern urban world. Creating and running the centre meant working in tandem with the local communities for building the centre and employing manpower, sourcing material from them and learning about traditional building techniques like the use of Chuna-Surkhi, handmade Khaprael, bamboo roofing, stone work, etc. Not only this but running the operations of centre means having local staff from the villages around and from Maihar. Every member working at Art Ichol lives at the centre or in the localities around.
This leads to their inevitable interaction with creative persons, artists, international visitors and important people. Through the centre, visitors from around Ichol, Maihar, Satna and Rewa and those involved in the project can understand and have a glimpse of the world beyond their villages or small towns. They are beginning to understand how valued traditions and culture can be - how different customs are world around. Art and craft techniques are exchanged and a socio-empathic mindset emerges, benefiting all those present and involved in the centre's activities.
Working with the communities around Ichol, our yearly MAI (Maihar Art Ichol) Festival for visual and performing arts includes activities like theatre, art, craft and education. Visiting artists devote time to community skill building by teaching local children art - thus identifying potentially talented children that show the promise of excelling in various mediums. The centre focuses on specifically developing these individual skills while also helping children use art as a general medium for expression, therapy and social interaction. Barriers of caste, religion and stature are bound to break down and in fact, soft-skills, creative thinking, confidence, self-expression, sensitized artistic understanding, gender equality, social skill building, cultural tolerance and kinship is fostered.
Thus continually, Art Ichol is enhancing their creative ability, intercontinental exchange and unique collaborative experience through workshops and residencies. Also it brings urban established professionals into the rural scene and thus facilitates dialogue and knowledge exchange of traditional techniques and modern application. Many villagers have never seen or heard of a sculpture park or had any experience of watching art or seeing projects develop. The idea is to expand the thought process and create a better future by addressing socio-economic issues via the visual arts. Ours is an institution where international artists are constantly visiting the center to leave behind multi-disciplinary work and have inter-cultural dialogue. Thus artists from all over the world are creating, building and collectively working besides and with villagers and local artists.
While there was an initial hesitation of involving their families, we are pleased to see that men are now bringing their women and children to the centre to participate in public performances and creative workshops. Introducing art at this scale opens their mind to infinite possibilities, to creativity and to positive utilization of one’s spare time. The various communities of Ichol have now begun to intermingle and involve themselves in work outside their farms and fields. Women who were restricted to step out from their homes before are now finding a space where they are free to express their ideas and thoughts. With introduction to art, children have been performing better in studies and they are learning to appreciate the importance of creativity and new thought process. Help is provided through emotional support to children and people who have to face the daily hardship of struggling for their livelihood. In effect Art Ichol creates a sense of pride in one's community and a sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself and while reinstating the importance of each individual’s contribution to the project.
For the urban Indian population and younger generations, we hope Art Ichol will also now be a meeting place for urban and rural children to interact, help and influence one another positively by creating a common platform, where children from different backgrounds come together. For the arts, rural economy and urban economy health, we aim to re-establish the faith in the arts as a viable means of livelihood and balance rural migration. The idea is to also preserve and promote our native forms, patterns and techniques of art and craft that are slowly disappearing in India. Lastly, placing the area on the tourist map, means helping its communities and villages to receive better development in infrastructure, facilities and mobility within the region.