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Bhaktiland Offers Grants to Support Devotee Artists

By: for ISKCON News on Oct. 26, 2018
Arts

Annapurna Dasi and her daughter Vrinda Sheth with one of their Sita's Fire books

Heartwood Soundstage, an intimate venue in Gainesville, Florida will come alive at 7pm on Wednesday November 7thwith the second annual kirtan dance party and fundraiser by non-profit Bhaktiland Inc.

The show will feature performances by special guest C.C. White, known as the Queen of Soul Kirtan; and the Mayapuris, Dhanya, and MC Bali Rico with material from their current and upcoming albums.

Meanwhile Vrinda Sheth will read from the third book in her Sita’s Fire trilogy, Destroyer of Sorrow, expected in December next year. Her mother, artist Annapurna Dasi Johansson, will also  unveil never-before-seen illustrations from the book.

But most importantly, the event aims to inspire donors and raise $20,000 to support art projects by talented and sincere bhakti artists from both ISKCON and beyond.

Bhaktiland's annual FUNdraiser will be held in Gainesville this November

Bhaktiland was formed in 2014 when Annapurna and her husbandmusician Len Cohen received an inheritance. “I worked for twenty-five years as a school counselor in the Philadelphia school district,” Len says. “After retiring in 2010, I really wanted to put some of my energy towards supporting quality devotional art in our worldwide bhakti community.”

Bhaktiland started with a major contribution from Len and Annapurna themselves, and their first fundraiser in October 2017 raised a further $8,000.

Each year, they set a budget – in 2018, this was $15,000 – and an upper limit for grants, which was $10,000 in 2018. Some projects are fully funded, however in order to be able to support more artists, partial grants are usually given to each project. This year eight artists applied, and five received help from Bhaktiland.

Funding is open to any genre of artist, whether they be sculptors, graphic artists, painters, filmmakers, or musicians. Those benefitted in 2017 included filmmaker Bhagavan Narada Das for his philosophical fable Circus of the Self and its accompanying soundtrack; documentarian Krishna-lila Dasi for post-production on her film The Stolen River about the Yamuna; and Kosarupa Dasi and Radhe Gendron for their award-winning children’s book The Jaguar’s Story.

Kosarupa Dasi's book the Jaguar's Story was one of those benefitted by Bhaktiland

This year recipients included Bali Rico for his upcoming hip-hop album Thunder Drum; and Mukunda Michael Dewil, a Hollywood filmmaker who wrote and directed the action thriller Vehicle 19 with Paul Walker, for his pitch for a TV pilot based on Vrinda Sheth’s Sita’s Fire trilogy.

Applications for 2018 are currently closed, but forms to apply for 2019 are available at Bhaktiland.com.

Looking to the future, Len and Annapurna want to create a culture of patronage for bhakti art, particularly to be able to support the third generation of Krishna devotees now reaching adulthood, and the fourth generation now being born.

“So many children of devotees are very artistic, so we want to support them – and also value their art in its different forms as a potent preaching tool,” says Annapurna. “Art connects with people’s emotions and their hearts, so it is very powerful.”

Krishna-lila's film The Stolen River received funding from Bhaktiland

Annapurna expresses that as a devotee over the years, she wasn’t always encouraged to do art in the way she wanted to. So Bhaktiland aims to give devotee artists the freedom to create in a way that is authentic to their nature.

“I felt that there was very little support,” Annapurna says. “If you have an artistic nature, we think it’s important that you have a place and feel that what you’re doing is valued.”

Bhaktiland is currently looking for ways to grow its effort. Those who would like to volunteer by helping organize fundraising events in Gainesville or elsewhere; being on the board of directors; or offering their skills in fundraising and grant writing, can contact the team via https://www.facebook.com/bhaktiland/.

Annapurna and Len also request those who have businesses and like what Bhaktiland is doing to consider contributing a percentage of their profits on a regular basis. This and any donations are welcome at http://bhaktiland.com/donate/. As Bhaktiland is a 501 C 3 charitable organization, all contributions are fully tax-deductible.

“Or, you can support us by simply buying a ticket to our fundraiser on November 7th,” says Len, “And experience some blissful kirtan, dancing and art.”

“We want to contribute culturally to people’s happiness,” Annapurna adds. “Because if people are happy and they like something, they want to go deeper into it.”  

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