THE industrial city of Ludhiana, which earlier this year made it to the first list of 20 cities to be developed as smart cities, barely has had a chance to showcase its talent in art. More popular for its cycles and hosiery industry, the city is now looking to revamp its dull landscape, starting with the defaced walls. A new project, steered by the city’s Municipal Commissioner Ghamshyam Thori, aims to make Ludhiana “The graffiti capital of Punjab” and work has already begun with around 20 artists from the city invited to showcase their skills.
“The parameters of a smart city are not limited to good roads, buildings and infrastructure. Cleanliness is another aspect as Ludhiana faces a major issue of defacement of public property. Now, under this plan, we have hired 20 artists and covered 15 sites so far. The target is to cover all entry and exit points, major landmarks, roads, intersections and flyovers in the next six to eight months,” says Thori, adding that the programme is based on a sponsorship model under which a sponsor is allotted a site and they pay for the material and artists. “In return, they can have their advertisement/logo at the site,” says Thori.
The completed works include A Wall of Fame at Gill Chowk, that highlights legends of the state, including Sahir Ludhianvi, Mohammed Rafi, Jaspal Bhatti, Dara Singh and Amrita Sher-Gil. Elsewhere, at Samrala Chowk, Wall of Revolution pays tribute to revolutionaries such as Che Guevara, Martin Luther King, Kartar Singh Sarabha and Shaheed Bhagat Singh. There is also a cartoon corner for kids, with familiar faces like Chacha Chaudhary and Disney’s Mickey Mouse smiling back from the bridge on Pakhowal road. Graffiti for creating awareness about cancer is being painted next to it.
The city is being projected as an industrial hub through taglines such as ‘Make in India, Make in Punjab’ — a graffiti at Gill Chowk — and ‘India Begins Here’ graffiti in BRS Nagar. A similar artwork is coming up at Jalandhar bypass. It will be themed around Ludhiana’s knitting, garment and textile industry. The initiative has also encouraged volunteers, who have painted graffiti in the waiting room and the overbridge at the railway station. A few school students have created a ‘Kala Gali’ (art street) based on the life of Shaheed Sukhdev at Lakkar Bridge.
While the works are being painted since a while, it’s only now that the artists behind them are getting the attention they deserve. Shivam Pahwa, a 25-year-old artist from Karuja Art Group, was the first to join the initiative. He says he has been practising street art for four years but has never received the kind of appreciation and recognition which has come his way in the past few months. “I was doing solo projects in cafes, homes and so on. This project has helped my team, which includes six artists. We are booked for the next one year. If Rs one lakh is spent on a site, then the artist gets Rs 40,000-50,000,” he informs.
“People have finally started giving us recognition. We are working for our city and not for profit,” says Aarti Bhalla, 38. The move has been welcomed by the artist community and as Ravneet Saggu, 29, puts it, “Ludhiana is becoming appreciative of art and this will open new opportunities for us. The Ludhiana Municipal Corporation (LMC) has given us a good start.”
That’s something the sponsors agree with. “It is a unique initiative that Ludhiana was waiting for. We believe people’s participation has made it stronger,” says Gagan Jain, the brand head of Duke Fashion. Interestingly, the Municipal Corporations of Amritsar, Mohali and Jalandhar have now expressed their desire to replicate the graffiti model in their cities.