for ISKCON News on Feb. 19, 2011
The Vaishnava Arts Council (VAC) launch took place on the 9th February at Bhaktivedanta Manor.
The event, organised by Madhusudana Das, brought nearly 50 devotee artists to the Manor's theatre room for presentations and exhibitions, followed by light refreshments, discussions and networking. Those present included singers, musicians, sound technicians, DJs, videographers, film makers, photographers and fashion designers.
Madhusudana began proceedings before handing over to Kripamoya Das. He introduced the evening, explaining how artists are often in the background and are overlooked, but tonight the focus was on us! The event was therefore an opportunity to recognise the wonderful work carried out by devotee artists and show them the gratitude that they rightly deserved.
Kripamoya also highlighted the growing interest in the Vaishnava Arts Council and the fact that the launch evening and other activities of the VAC were being closely watched by devotee artists in the UK and, indeed, around the world.
The first part of the evening consisted of various presentations. Giri was up first, discussing the work of the festival program team. He gave an account of some of the music festivals that they participated in last year before inviting people from the audience to forward any known contacts of festival organisers to organise future programs.
Rav Chambers then gave a personal account of his struggle to unite both his own world and the wider world of arts and business. Both he and Kripamoya earlier remarked on the wide sets of skills that those present possessed and how we could work together and with businesses. It was an interesting talk about separating artistic endeavors with the business of arts and how artists have traditionally distanced themselves from the income generating aspects of the art. Rav also offered to provide guidance to artists keen on developing a business.
Kripamoya then gave a talk on the place of artists within ISKCON and how art, he felt, had become "fossilised" within the movement. Srila Prabhupada had always been keen on using art to represent and foster interest in Krishna Consciousness, from the multi-plate illustrations in his books to dioramas, stage performances and film.
Devotees would take suggestions to Srila Prabhupada of different methods of how they could present Krishna and Vedic culture, and if he approved then they would be tried. However, Kripamoya felt that after Srila Prabhupada's departure art had become fixed and locked in a "golden age." Tonight, he said, was now a chance to change that.
Madhusudana then spoke more about the VAC, its inception, goals and current state. Already two issues of Creation, an electronic magazine, had been produced and had been well received. The Creatory, a free directory of devotee artists, was also starting to grow.
The second part of the evening began with Madhusudana's wife Keli Cancala Dasi giving a mesmerising Indian Odissi dance performance. The dance was a representation of one of the gopis enquiring about the whereabouts of Krishna while reminiscing about His previous pastimes of stealing milk and cream, hiding the gopis' clothes and of killing demons.
This was followed by the premier of a new track recorded by Kripamoya. Jagannath Suta Das facilitated, dimming the lights so it could be better appreciated.
Three short clips from Matt and Aradhana were then showcased before Param-dhamananda's Rasa Yatra was shown. Beginning in the Himalayas it used no narration, just sounds and music from the immediate environment. Sadly it had to be stopped before this meditative and unique travel documentary reached Vrindavan as we had run out of time. Receiving wide acclaim, a full showing was requested in the future.
A Q&A session had originally been scheduled but had had to be dropped due to time pressures. However, devotees gathered in impromptu groups afterwards to discuss the evening and each others' work and projects. Many made their way to the prasadam room, where light refreshments were served.
A further, completely agenda-free meeting has been scheduled for Monday, 7th March at the devotee-run Woods Cafe in Bricket Wood. Seats are limited so places and food need to be booked in advance.
Emails for this and any other matters relating to the VAC should be sent to Madhusudana at firstname.lastname@example.org .