Art for everyone

Published: January 9, 2011

Arts Council of Karachi aims to train the masses in all art forms. DESIGN: AMNA IQBAL

KARACHI: The media boom in the early 2000s resulted in increased attention being given to the performing arts. Half way through the decade, institutes like National College of Arts (NCA) opened their Film and Video production department, renowned business schools like Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist) began a Media Science department, Karachi University launched its Department of Visual Studies and Pakistan’s first performing arts academy, National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) emerged under the leadership of the legendary Zia Mohyeddin

Following the trend, Arts Council of Karachi has begun to revive its long gone identity of being Karachi’s first ever art school by reutilising space that had once been a breeding  ground for artistes.

The first art school of Pakistan was established at the Arts Council in 1964 under the guidance of famous artist Aazir Zoobi. Since then the Council has gone onto produce artists, textile designers and media practitioners. Sadly in the past 30 years the Council hasn’t done much to train individuals, in fact it now serves as a store room.

“It’s time for the Arts Council to realise its responsibility and revamp its old school style of administration and teaching to get the youth involved on a larger scale. Today’s youngster is far more aware and educated. We need to institutionalise education not only in the arts but also in film, TV and the performing arts as a whole,” said Ahmed Shah, General Secretary of the Arts Council.

Shah was of the opinion that fine arts is what the Council was known for but today, when so many channels have started and Pakistan’s television industry resides largely in Karachi, it is time for the Council to form an academy of its own and cater to the lower middle class which has been deprived of art education.

The initial stone of the Arts Council Academy was laid in late 2009 and an Arts Council Music Academy in 2010. Both were met with such a positive response that the Arts Council was motivated to expand the program.

“Right away we got around 25 students in the Music Academy and around 40 students in the Theatre Academy. The Arts School already had 60 students in different specialisations and has the facilities to induct up to 150 students” said Shah.

Officials are planning to revamp their faculty and hire those who are young and passionate, rather than those who are older and more laid back.

According to the Arts Council officials, institutes like Napa, Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVSAA) and universities like Szabist and Beaconhouse National University (BNU) have set high standards and the students they have produced are doing extremely well in the market. This was reason enough for the Arts Council to open membership for all media graduates to capitalise on their knowledge and use the council as an alternative platform for their careers.

One must take into account that five years after its formation, only 20-22 students graduate annually from Napa and it comes into question, whether the Arts Council will be able to sustain itself.

“For us sustenance is not an issue at all. The great response that we received at the last two youth festivals bears witness that we will get applicants. Furthermore, I have even spoken to different channel heads and all of them are willing to finance the education of aspiring media practitioners at our academy,” said Shah.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2011.

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