Transforming Urban India: Art and Culture’s Pivotal Role

A city’s unique identity transforms a city from a location to a destination. Leveraging art and culture helps a city realize its true economic potential and foster demand for a unique cultural experience. Economic development through art and culture also contributes significantly to employment and GDP of a country. With a global revenue of USD 2,250 billion, and employing around 30 million people, it is one of the fastest growing sectors across the world. Other sectors, such as tourism, skill development and industrial activity are also closely linked with the art and culture sector.

A global cultural policy intersects with political, economic and socio-cultural dynamics at all levels of society. Special initiatives by global cultural cities to support identified cultural themes are now becoming inclusive in their developmental framework. These cities recognize the role art and culture plays in supporting economic strategies and leverage it as an asset to uniquely promote and position themselves within the global market.

Government of India Initiatives

Government support, within India, for cultivating city cultural identities has been growing in recent years. A number of Government Ministries have taken actions – utilizing various mediums – to curate distinct city identities.

Ministry of Culture

  • Theatre, arts and literature in the country has received nurturing through the continued support of institutions such as National School of Drama, Sahitya Akademi and Sangeet Natak Akademi.
  • Implementing various conventions, as directed by UNESCO.
  • Actively sharing India’s art and cultural heritage with the rest of the world through Indian Festivals abroad.
  • National Mission on Cultural Mapping and Roadmap focusses on promoting ‘Our Culture Our Identity’ through media and events. It adopts a web-based integrated approach, aiming to target 6.40 lakh villages in 3 years.

Ministry of Tourism

The Swadesh Darshan and Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive programs aim to boost tourism, thematic development and highlight specialization and identity for select circuits and cities.

Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

  • The National Urban Policy 2018 focusses on inclusive development; synchronizing cultural upkeep with the development process.
  • The Smart Cities Mission utilizes a two-pronged approach: area based development of a model area selected by citizens; and pan-city solutions for effective delivery of urban services and monitoring through ICT driven projects.
  • The Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation focusses on upgrading the sewerage, sanitation and urban transport mechanism; enhancing the amenity value of cities by creating and upgrading green spaces, parks and recreation areas.
  • Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana focusses on the development of four types of infrastructure: physical, institutional, economic and social.

Emerging Waves of Art and Culture in India

India’s significant cultural capital includes: 37 world heritage sites; two thriving film industries and many smaller ones as well; and a diversely vibrant cultural heritage. A number of tier 1 and tier 2 cities have been actively working towards creating a unique cultural identity for themselves.

Key Recommendations

  1. A robust policy needs to be implemented for development of cultural infrastructure that focuses on creation of cultural zones where art, artists and people in the creative sector could interact and be nurtured in a symbiotic environment.
  2. The central government should devise a mechanism to develop a framework where cities will participate under a Centre-State co-funded programme. The Intent must be to promote cultural competitiveness among cities, wherein culturally sustainable projects such as placemaking and city branding will be developed and put in place. Furthermore, based on performance, a centrally monitored cultural index should be devised for these cities.
  3. The creation of centre of excellence, which will act as think tanks to nurture and upskill artists, is important. These should have marketplace to facilitate trade of their artworks.
  4. Indian participation needs to be promoted at all major art and culture platforms across the world, so as to generate greater mileage for Indian art, culture & tourism.
  5. An Action Group should be formulated to coordinate and drive initiatives in the art and culture industry in India. This Action Group will constitute stakeholders from both the government and industry, and will act as an apex body for implementation of cultural infrastructure, monitoring funds, organising industry wide events etc.
  6. To attract private sector investment, innovative Public Private Partnership models need to be explored. This could include government support such as:
  • Provisions of schemes & tax incentives to encourage private collection, display and donation of art.
  • Provision of capital support for projects in the form of capital grants for creative placemaking initiatives.
  • Financial institutions raising cultural bonds to finance city branding and placemaking projects
  • Creation of crowd funding platforms to raise funds for conservation of heritage sites, monuments, art galleries

Encouraging a vibrant dynamism in the art and culture sector will involve concentrated efforts from multiple parties. It is imperative for cultural zones and infrastructure to be curated in line with the city’s unique cultural identity. The current regulatory framework is geared towards the promotion of art and culture – to help preserve, protect and promote the cultural capital of the country.

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