A Journey of Growth & Learning
When the Streets were a Stage
Since ancient times, street performances have been an integral part of Indian culture. Whether as a form of entertainment, self-expression or to contribute to/challenge political discourse, this country has seen many a theater troupe and folk band use the streets to get their message across to many. Even during the freedom movement, one cannot forget the indelible contribution of numerous street plays in shaping and mobilizing public opinion towards fighting for a common cause.
Where have the Performers Gone?
Today however, the story is quite different. Art has almost disappeared from the streets. Although alive with street stalls selling everything from hairpins to shoes to vintage wares, sadly, there isn’t a trace of anything to do with the performing arts. One doesn’t get to see ‘nukkad nataks’ and live music performances as often as one would like too. The grey, concrete streets bustle with restless activity, with tired footfalls, but beauty and talent unfortunately find no place to make an appearance.
NSPA: The Genesis
With an aim to bring art back to the streets, to reinstate it with its rightful place in street culture, Mr. Ajit Dayal, an inspired and enterprising financial entrepreneur, founded the NSPA (Natural Streets for Performing Arts Foundation) to “rekindle an atmosphere of street performances in urban India that aims to bring some joy to the lives of millions as they go about their daily commute.”
Creative Intentions: The Purpose of NSPA
The NSPA Foundation has two main objectives. The first is to weave arts into the daily life of the city by transforming public spaces like malls, parks, promenades and railway stations into performance arenas. This, we believe, will make art accessible, inclusive and provide a direct interface between arts and the people.
The second is to give budding artists a chance to showcase their talents and help them earn a livelihood from doing what they love. Hence, artists are remunerated on a pro-rata basis for performances. Since we have artists performing various genres and art forms, the NSPA also acts as a fertile talent pond where fruitful collaborations and networking can take place.
We Launch with a Bang!
The NSPA Foundation unveiled its mission to the public on the 8th of October, 2012 amidst much pomp and aplomb. This ceremony was attended by the founding members, our sponsors - Quantum Asset Management Company, team members, the press and of course, hundreds of commuters. After this, the NSPA began to hold regular performance at three railway stations – Churchgate, Bandra and Borivali.
My, Oh My! - Audience Response
In the days following the launch, our artists were greeted with mixed reactions. On commencing their performance, the initial reaction our artists were greeted with was surprise. For many people, it was the first time they were witnessing a public performance.
On hearing the sound of instruments, bystanders would come flocking around our artists. Once gathered around the performers, they would get drawn into the melodious performance and stand listening for hours. Many enjoyed clicking photographs, taking videos and even inquiring about the NSPA.
Progress Graph after a Year
Right from the day we launched, the NSPA team has been putting in consistent and directed efforts to help the organization grow. Within a year of launching, we began to witness a positive change in the number of venues and artists in our kitty.
Venues: We begun performing at Central, Western railway stations and Carter Road
Artists: The number of resident artists grew to 20
Programs: Our focus continued to lie on street performances
NSPA at Railways
Thousands of people use the railway to commute to work, visit friends and relatives. To infuse melody into this atmosphere of 'organized chaos,' the NSPA would frequently conduct musical performances at Churchgate, Bandra, Borivali, Dadar, Ghatkopar, and Thane stations.
NSPA at Carter Road
Carter Road is an expansive, beautiful promenade that lies along the Arabian sea. NSPA infuses art into this space by holding plays & musical performances here.
Where we stand Today
Although it has just been two years since this initiative was launched, the amount of growth we have seen has been phenomenal. Our current stats stand as follows:
Venues: We now perform at over 20 venues across Mumbai, we have also launched NSPA in Goa
Artists: We now have 70+ artists on board
Programs: We conduct art literacy, community art, artist training and development programs as well as stage performances now.
NSPA at Mumbai Metro
Every day, thousands of commuters travel by the Mumbai Metro. NSPA artists bring music and drama to these bustling stations by holding daily performances here.
NSPA at parks and gardens
NSPA makes park visits even more enjoyable by holding melodious performances in these verdant spaces. While enjoying a peaceful stroll, one can also listen to music or watch an entertaining play.
NSPA at Equal Streets
In a bid to make Mumbai a happier, healthier space, for a few hours every weekend, a section of Linking Road is cordoned off and thrown open to the public for use.To introduce the concept of busking into this space, NSPA artists perform at several spots along the road.
Art Literacy: An Artistic Mission
To create art consciousness in society and foster an educated appreciation of our arts heritage, diversity and the artist community, the NSPA embarked on its Art Literacy Mission. The basic methodology comprises the use of interactive and experiential techniques to impart art education complementary with the prevalent school curriculum. Our artists even conduct in depth workshops where artists initiate their audiences to the context and contours of their art form. Each artist through his/her experience of teaching young children engages them in a conversation through which diverse art forms are taught, performed and an appreciation of art gradually created and nurtured.
Big Dreams, Big Goals (Our Future Plans)
The NSPA has come a long way since its launch in 2012. From the size of our artist base to the number of venues and programs to the size of the team, one spies a consistent trend of growth and expansion. We aim to keep this trend alive by taking the NSPA to every state in the country, targeting more art forms and increasing the number of artists we have on board.
Our Strength & Support : Quantum Mutual Fund
Long after measurements of money, wealth, and GDP fade away, civilizations will be respected for their contribution towards the evolution of humanity.
While the brick and mortar centers of Performing Arts act as repositories of the more prominent artists and Art forms, the groundswell from the heat and dust of the streets create their own passionate forms of Art.
Quantum Mutual Fund is proud to be a Sponsor of NSPA as it supports and revives the wandering Art forms in India.
Based on the contributions from Quantum Mutual Fund, NSPA’s participating artists are paid a salary for their work and do not have to suffer the variability of income that may come their way from an open hat or an open guitar box.
While this unique “revenue model” allows the artists to focus on their performance without worrying about the “total collection”, it also allows the audience to absorb the soulful exchange without worrying about how much they need to pay for the enjoyment.
A smile, a stirring of the soul, a joyful moment – however fleeting it may be – create the sparks that can ignite humanity to a higher level.
NSPA and Quantum Mutual Fund are proud to be a part of the Google Cultural Institute in its endeavor to preserve these ground-level images and sounds for posterity.