The project contracts went to companies involved in painting banners and posters, who answered the tenders and agreed to do the work at Rs 25 per sq ft. There was no further consultation.
“Something that is so large scale, something we have to all live with, should be opened out by the government,” believes Archana Prasad, visual artist and founder of Jaaga, an urban community art-architecture experiment. She believes that a public forum, inviting proposals, and involving the artists and the community, similar to the project at Freedom Park, would have been the best approach.
“When a community or neighbourhood takes over the space, and involves the people, there’s a sense of ownership and responsibility of the walls.” Umesh admits, “The banner artists might have benefited from the expertise of established artists, on things like proportion”. However, for some others, the non art-school aspect of the paintings is the strength of the project.
Tia says, “If art schools or artists had worked on it, it would have been too elitist. You have the other rungs of society participating in something that can be a claim to fame (for Bangalore).”
Employment in Art
BBMP acknowledges the artists’ complaints, but insists that one of their objectives was to provide employment to local artists. They say that about 65 banner artists have gained employment as a result of the project.
B V Satyanarayan represents Murugan Arts, one of the contractors, who in turn hires banner artists. He admits, “We don’t make much profit, but the project is a big help to banner artists. They have been out of work, (because of the ban on film posters on city walls, and the increasing popularity of digital art). This gives them two meals a day. They can now take pride in the work they do.” This pride is evident in the painters.
Dileep , who was painting the walls near Cantonment Station burst into a smile as he narrated stories of how Bangaloreans stop to see and compliment him on his work, for which he gets paid about Rs 2000 to Rs 3000 a month. According to the painters and the contractors, they have been given general guidelines by the BBMP about what to paint. They use images given to them by the BBMP, as well as pictures from calendars and papers for a broad template, before using their own imagination and skill to complete the art work.
Khandre explains that BBMP officials chose many of the images and asked artists to paint based on location. While the state’s heritage structures and historically significant images find space on walls along busy areas frequented by tourists, schools and hospitals have paintings that promote awareness on issues such as health and hygiene, and government organisations have images relevant to their field, and their achievements.
Satyanarayan says the BBMP is very involved in the project. He says that officials, especially Chief Engineer B T Ramesh frequent the areas where work is going on for inspection, and often give their suggestions and comments. Officials working on the project say that there has been a reduction in spitting and defecation along the roads with these paintings.
Citizen Matters spoke to commuters using the Kempe Gowda Bus Stand where many of the walls stand adorned with nature and heritage scenes, and they agree that walls infamous for being outdoor toilets are now relatively clean. However, Srinivas K, who regularly passes by the paintings at Anand Rao Circle, disagrees. He says he still sees people spitting on the walls. “It will get dirty soon. This is a waste of money”. Enthused by the response to the street art, and undeterred by the criticism, the BBMP, like a child with a new set of crayons, is keen to begin Phase II of the project, extending other parts of the city including Yelahanka and Bannerghatta Road. One thing is for certain, if the BBMP has its way, Bangalore is only going to get more colourful.