We often see the world a little differently when we come close to art – conversations with strangers, films on the screen, passages in books, lines of poetry, portraits and photographs alter the way we think, what we believe in and how we perceive places, people and time. Art weaves varied sentiments, builds, breaks stereotypes, eventually becoming a means of moulding more tolerant, accommodating human beings, who understand diverse perspectives, cultures and characters.

Without art, artists and creators the world would not be able to capture history, celebrate it, reveal it, and open avenues for dialogues and future movements. Revolutions would be forgotten, past topographies would become dull and vague, and life would become uninteresting and dry. Artists and creators often paint a vivid picture of the things they see and thoughts that cross their mind, through various mediums, modes and spaces, and they eventually become the chroniclers of time.

A new online initiative calls artists to come together, and encourages them to participate, converse and collaborate, creating an easy and quick access to opportunities, which can otherwise go unnoticed. Open Call India started in 2020 by Sanah Rehman – a curator and creative professional, is an online platform for artists, creative collaborators and organisations to locate each other, have conversations and join various creative opportunities, grants, art jobs and internships.

Sanah states, “back in my college days I remember being smitten by the idea of being around individuals who were creatively driven. My first art stint was with St+Art India for Sassoon Dock Project, wherein I was the production and artist manager for artists. The project helped me realise that my heart lies in the arts and I thrive on the thrill of bringing projects to life. I went on to pursue a Curatorial Diploma and eventually worked as a core team member at Method Art Space.”

Open Call India is a platform born out of the pandemic as a digital space for artists to meet artists and seek creative opportunities and share one’s art with art peers. “Social Media has played an integral part in reaching out to creative professionals for a plethora of thematic exhibitions born out of corona boredom, more and more virtual exhibitions are taking place enabling artists to be able to show their works, “reveals Sanah. “There was an apparent lack of facilitation that Open Call India is trying to bridge. There is not a dearth of artists or open calls but there was no set platform that provided opportunities to artists at the tip of their finger.” Open Call India acts as a link between art-based opportunities by art collectives and organisations, and artists who seek these opportunities.

Artwork by Tara Anand

The platform passionately believes in – “collaboration over competition” and that all creative and cultural communities should get together and create a bigger and better resource pool than working individually towards the same goal or goals. “Art transcends all labels and cultural boundaries, uniting people and making them feel a little less alone in their journeys,” illuminates Sanah.

Born out of the pandemic and because of the changes that have ensued during the lockdown, and a quarantined, isolated life, Open Call India becomes a significant facilitator for art projects, creative collaborations and a campaigner for art in every situation. Access to art is vastly different now, and to continue the exchange of creative perspectives, a platform such as this is a significant space to initiate and continue creative conversations, despite the constraints that the pandemic has brought over us.

“Open Call functions on being extremely approachable and accessible to the artists, supporting new and emerging voices in the creative arts space. As a one-woman team, I have maintained constant conversations with followers on our social media pages, also being actively involved in their progress.” Sanah points out. “A lot of artist takeovers of our Instagram page were by artists who are brilliant at their art, however, who have not received the attention they deserved. I let them have a free reign over the account, to share their work, influences and thoughts. We also have a Discord Community, which is especially great for conversations on art, art practices, portfolios and artist driven initiatives, for example a photo-book exchange by fellow artists, where artists can list the books that they own, and others can choose to borrow it for a few days.” Open Call is also a discovery-based platform, where artists post their work, to be appreciated and discovered by art peers, organisations and art conversationalists.

Artwork by Tarun Sharma

Sanah reveals that many noteworthy conversations are happening currently, bringing communities together – to think, and create art, in all forms, covering various facets about life and society. “Lot of open calls that have been posted on the platform are about supporting women and queer artists. Non-binary artists also got opportunities that specifically catered to them. A lot of open calls were about creating protest art because of the constantly tense political climate. Many art organisations encouraged art created on various facets of mental health, the pandemic too opened a lot of doors,” she explains.

Sanah Rehman is at the helm of something that was much needed in the art community in India, but which was missing, the pandemic although difficult was a push towards the start of this idea, of an online community, which unreservedly began sharing art and opportunities, and at the same time became a friendly, and accessible space for creators, all via an Instagram page. With daily reports of new artists, new art, genres, exciting art opportunities and an overwhelming support by followers, artists and art organisations, Open Call India is a responsive, forthcoming platform which consistently talks about taking art and artists seriously, in a country where creative opportunities still have a faint following.

Artwork by Yasha Shrivastava

“In the coming months Open Call plans to have a website, where artists can sift through opportunities. I have also received portfolios from over 500 artists and would love to see these artworks see the light of day in a gallery space. The aim is to help artists flourish, through exhibitions, workshops and collaborations,” discloses Sanah.

We know that art somehow finds a place in everyone’s life, we capture moments in photographs, narrate stories to others, reminisce about the days gone by through letters and notes, sometimes little objects and drawings on paper by a child become containers of memories for us, art consistently becoming a part of our lives in unassuming ways.

Art is like a time capsule, it casts itself into history books, frames itself in museums, travels into movies and art shows, into quaint amphitheatres and galleries, sometimes it lays buried in our memoirs, but for it to find a stage to flourish, radiate, illuminate, is a significant part in the process to capture moments in time; reporting, envisioning and re-creating history as we discover fragments of art displayed through periods of time.

Artwork by Debangshu Moulik