Voluntary Artists’ Studio of Thimphu (VAST) – Bhutan is now a registered civil society organisation (CSO), and this provides the otherwise club-of-sorts legal backing and recognition to raise funds for the growth of art in the country.
While the application to register as a CSO was put in last year, VAST received its accreditation on September 2, this week, from the Civil Society Organisation Authority as a mutual benefit organisation (MBO).
Asha Kama, who was at the frontline of registering VAST as a CSO, said, “We could have registered as a commercial entity, but opted out, with all members and volunteers choosing VAST to continue functioning on a non-profit basis.”
The benefits of getting registered, he said, were: one, VAST could streamline their activities and initiatives; and two, it was now entitled to raise funds or apply for them within the country and abroad. Without a registration number, there were issues of trust, when seeking fund.
Getting funds, he said, would not be a problem. “There are funds, I believe, and if we explore, there’ll be no problem.”
So far, Asha Kama said the group, while functioning like a CSO, was dependent on goodwill of individuals, friends, donors, and the volunteers, who contributed to keep the show running.
“Because most works are carried out voluntarily, the overhead cost was low,” he said, adding only a few were employed, and they were provided with incentives.
VAST will now have an office with salaried staff. Asha Kama, who has been requested to be the chief executive officer (CEO), will take the office for a year as a volunteer with no pay.
“We‘ll be answerable to the board and CSO authority, whose rules and regulations we must follow,” he said.
The work of the CSO, he said, will continue to be the same but broader in terms of reach and frequency, like organising art camps and exhibitions, tying up with artists or bodies at regional and international level, and supporting artists gain exposure and experience among others.
The CSO, Asha Kama said, would benefit artists from across the country, particularly the young and upcoming ones. “We’re already linking young people from different districts, and people are interested in opening branches where they live, and we’ll partner and network with them,” he said. “They want to initiate what we did 15 years back when VAST was formed.”
As a CSO, he said, volunteers and staff would help create an identity for Bhutanese art. “Just now our art, contemporary particularly, should grow and meet world class art standards, and stand out as our own art,” he said, adding that artists should also support and enhance traditional art.
From the government, Asha Kama said, there was need for more support, especially in sending artists abroad for exposure, by means of participating in art workshops and exhibitions, especially in the light that artists have always been ambassadors of the country.
VAST has about 20 permanent members, and around 50 student members each year.
For Asha Kama, the success of registering VAST as a CSO, he said, was a heavy weight off of his shoulders.
The number of registered CSOs in the country now stands at 38.
Member secretary of CSO association, Thinley Norbu said it takes about six months for an applicant to get registered as a CSO.
“Within this time period, among others, legal scrutiny and consultation is carried out and documents are reviewed,” he said.
By Kinley Wangmo