(Written by Sneha Kudva)
Taking a walk down memory lane now has a whole new meaning in Bohri Ali, Ravivar Peth. One of the oldest markets in the city now has brightly painted shutters that showcase the rich heritage of the old city. The collaborative street art project is being led by A Fresh Coat, a group of young artists who are using the shutters as a canvas to share stories and the history of old vintage shops.
The project was conceived by Alefiya Kachwalla, a liberal arts graduate and co-founder of A Fresh Coat. She noticed the rich heritage of the area while working at her father’s shop, King’s Stationery store. “When people think of the Peth areas, they just see them as crowded and noisy, but each shop has its own story to tell, and we didn’t want that legacy to be forgotten,” says Kachwalla. Co-founder of A Fresh Coat, illustrator Annushka Hardikar adds, “We started visiting shopkeepers to know what stories they want to showcase about their shop”.
The two also hoped to increase the customer base of the shopkeepers through their art. The first phase of the initiative began in April 2019, with the metal shutter of King’s Stationery store becoming their first canvas. The bumpy shutter also happened to be their most daunting project. “I learnt so much that day. As an artist I got to work with such a unique surface and working with oil paints was not easy,” says Hardikar, explaining that oil paints require a lot of mixing and sampling in order to get the right consistency. She adds that working on the bumpy surface of the shutter meant doing multiple strokes, which made the process time consuming. With its pop yellow art, it continues to be one their most memorable projects.
Through their Instagram platform @afreshcoat.in, they reached out to others who wanted to volunteer for the project. “We wanted it to include professional artists and those who have never held a paintbrush before,” says Kachwalla. The design and colour scheme is discussed with the shop owner and a lead artist elements that in his/her style. The execution usually starts around 5:30 am on a Sunday, and the main artist begins earlier to create the base sketch. Two artists are assigned for the detailing and outlining at the end of the project.
“It wasn’t simply about painting shutters. We didn’t want this to be some artwork that they whitewash over after a month,” says Hardikar. She notes that it took a lot of convincing before the shopkeepers agreed. “A few shutters down the line, people actually started approaching us, wanting to know ‘Humaare yahan kab paint karoge ?’ and that really gave us a boost,” she says.
The team has painted 20 shutters so far. “We want artists who work with us to get the recognition they deserve. In phase two, we hope to experiment more,” says Kachwalla. The team has initiated a crowd funding campaign to take the project to different cities and cover their basic expense. “We want this to be a place where people can just walk around to witness the culture and true essence of Pune,” says Hardikar.