– By Dipika Chhetri
There is good news for those, who didn’t like climbing up the dingy stairs to get to the voluntary artists studio in Thimphu (VAST).
VAST will be shifting today into a transformed two-storey Bhutanese house, which boasts a new studio, gallery, café and a view of the clock tower square.
Members, who have worked for days on end with curious neighbours peering over their necks, are proud of the result – a blue paint splattered gallery with arty window displays, which will double as a library and café, an open upper level studio covered with paintings, and pieces of artwork everywhere else.
The café will sell cakes baked and donated by friends, and a special ‘Bhutanese chili’ momo.
The founder of VAST, Kama Wangdi alias Azha Kama, said the move was necessary, with the studio needing better space for the weekly classes for children, as well as the exhibitions that VAST holds.
“It was also an exciting change for everyone, we all needed a new project to come together for,” he said. “The location is much better now, too, and easily accessible.”
Despite the amount of work that has gone into preparing the new studio, VAST may have to move out of it in a little more than a year, because the building is old and may only stay up that long.
“People are surprised at how much effort we’ve put, but then we do a lot of work even for a month-long exhibitions. It’s all part of the fun,” Azha Kama said. VAST has worked from the old attic studio in a building above the Changlimithang national stadium for more than a decade now, ever since it was founded in 1998.
Started as an NGO to teach art to children, VAST conducted weekly art classes for children every Saturday since 1998, annual summer camps, and regularly exhibited the work of its artists, mostly youth, who have grown up with the art classes.
It also takes up philanthropic projects, such as building houses in rural communities, establishing a ‘rice bank’ for the very poor, who otherwise fall into debt, and taking old people on a pilgrimage to Bumthang. The projects include youth volunteers, who get the opportunity to help and interact with people from rural communities, who live different lives.
VAST expressed an interest to register as a civil service organisation last year, but it hasn’t yet applied for registration after the rules for application were released in January this year, despite its excellent track record.
Azha Kama said that there were many requirements that needed to be fulfilled, and a lot of work had to be done before it could apply for registration as a CSO.