JNANA BHARATHI: How much space does a university visual arts department need? That question has not been settled even nine years after work on a new building was initiated here.
In 2006, the foundation stone was laid for the Visual Arts Department building at Bangalore University here. It is close to completion now, but the university says it will have to share it with other departments.
“The department doesn’t need even 25 per cent of the space in the new building,” said Bangalore University Vice Chancellor Prof B Thimme Gowda. “Other departments need the space, so visual arts students will have to make room for three or four other departments.”
The department was started in 2004, during M S Thimmappa’s tenure as vice-chancellor. “We got Prof Jayakumar G from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda to get it going,” he told City Express.
In the beginning, classes were held in a building that housed the Statistics and Philosophy Departments. “This was only a make-shift arrangement,” Thimmappa said.
The department currently has six rooms — three for sketching and painting and one each for pottery and ceramics, lithography and etching.
The rooms open out to a courtyard and some of the corridors serve as storage spaces. However, the wood sculptures exposed to the rain and sun outdoors are languishing, and the paintings, sketches and other works on exposed shelves are gathering dust.
Thimmappa laid the foundation stone for the new building on March 1, 2006, just before he retired later that month. “The construction began soon after. I’m surprised it still hasn’t been completed,” he says.
All university committees and the Syndicate had approved it, and funds were earmarked for the building. “When I left, the university had a `50 crore reserve fund,” Thimmappa said.
Sources said the construction had come to a standstill three years ago and resumed only a month ago. “We hope to complete it in about three to four months,” Thimme Gowda said.
Jayakumar, who heads the department, said the new building could be mistaken to be too big by anyone who hasn’t visited the top art universities in the country, including the ones in Baroda and Shantiniketan.
“This building will be like Shantiniketan and Sriniketan put together,” he said. “But the space is a requirement, not a luxury. Every student needs around 10 to 12 feet by 15 feet to work in, since visual arts cannot be taught in your classroom set up.”
This space, according to the design, is to have a museum and gallery with permanent and temporary displays by eminent artists as well as students, a source said. In addition to workshops for paper-making and glass-making, and fire, gas and electric kilns, the initial idea was to start an integrated undergraduate course.
“Places like Chitrakala Parishath, which offer fine arts courses at the undergraduate level, cost much more,” said well-known artist S G Vasudev, who was instrumental in the conception of the department. “Not everyone can afford it.”
He said those who think the department is too big should visit other arts universities. “Shantiniketan is expansive, and I’ve heard people say even that space isn’t enough,” he said.
Many who hail from the rural areas opt for Bangalore University’s visual arts course. “They are really creative, but they would have had very little exposure, and it’s very important that they get the same edge as their peers who graduate from other fine arts institutions,” Jayakumar said.
The plan to include an undergraduate course had been mooted to the university bodies, and there was great demand for it, said Thimmappa. “Before I left, I told prospective students that, perhaps, it would take off in a year,” he recalled.
However, setting up the department was no easy task. “There was a lot of reluctance,” he said. “A couple of people even commented, ‘Why would you want something like that on campus? Artists are drunkards!’”
However, he managed to win them over, or that’s what he had thought.
“I’m glad the present Vice-Chancellor has taken up the construction. The department is sure to become a cultural hub, attracting visitors to Jnana Bharathi,” Jayakumar said. “It would be great if it truly served the purpose for which it was constructed.”