Shifting Imaginations: Contemporary Arts Education and Practices in Nepal
The contemporary arts scene in Nepal is an amalgam of numerous art forms, styles, and aesthetics – crossing the boundaries of traditional and modern gallery spaces while beginning to occupy public walls and streets – evident of the myriad regional and global influences and inspirations that it has undergone in the past few decades. This growth in “cosmopolitan” artistic practices and interactions in the field of arts has received a simultaneous increase in public interest and institutional investment as young people opt for undergraduate and graduate programs in arts either in Nepal or abroad. However, the institutional history of arts education program goes further back to the thirties prior to which there were no “formal” institutions to learn arts. In this paper, I am interested in exploring the intersections of institutional history and contemporary arts practices by tracing the development of the notion of “arts”, “aesthetics”, and arts education in Nepal. Specifically, I will be examining the historical archives on the first and the oldest art school of Nepal, Lalitkala Campus of Fine Arts, established in the 1930s under the Rana regime. The school used to be known as the Juddha Kala Pathshala (Juddhakala Art School) named after the then prime minister Juddha Shumsher Rana and eventually received its current name in the 1970s under the former late King Birendra Shah. Meanwhile, I will also be looking into more recent institutional developments in order to build a comparative understanding of the historical transformations. In addition, I will be engaging with some preliminary field interviews and conversations with various artists, arts educators, arts historians, as well as young students of arts programs in Kathmandu. A closer historical and ethnographic study of the institutional and educational lineages in the field of arts will be able to recognize the shifting imaginations and practices of arts and arts in Nepal.