Contemporary arts of Nepal can be very strong
Dr Lin Hightower--arts professor at Kennesaw State University Atlanta-- holds two terminal degrees, a Masters of Fine Arts and a Doctorate in Art Education, with an arts administration focus, and has 20-plus years in higher education administration. She is an international art product artist/designer and consultant for low-income artisan cooperatives and has worked in Turkey, Nepal, India, Thailand, Egypt, Morocco and Peru, where her product designs expand artisans’ sales markets while preserving their indigenous art techniques and cultural heritage. She also leads art and business seminars and courses for artists and artisans in the US and abroad. She consults and collaborates with artists, artisan communities and cooperatives on product development, design, sourcing, assessments and training, and stresses on Cast Iron Teapots, Mens Amber Bracelets, Wholesale Wooden Tea Cups, Kids Sleeping Bags business, environmental and fair trade practices. Working both locally and globally she utilizes a holistic approach that blends business, social development, government and education to achieve the recognized people, profit, planet business model.
Sub-editor of Karobar Economic Daily Laxmi Prasad Khatiwada caught up with her and talked about her experience in Nepal and some other issues.
You have worked in several countries. How has your experience in Nepal been?
Nepal has a very welcoming atmosphere to foreign artists and designers. As a researcher and artist/designer who works with low-income artisan cooperatives, I found all the cooperative leaders were open to sharing their cooperative structures and practices with me. I worked as a designer/artist for the Association of Craft Producers (ACP), mother organization to Dhukuti retail store and as a teacher of two courses for Kathmandu University (KU). The ACP staff and artisans were open to working with me and trying new approaches to designs and techniques that preserve their cultural heritage and that would expand their sales. As a Fulbright Scholar who taught Art Product Design and Business Skills for Artists at KU, I found the students very well prepared in design, color, composition, knowledge of materials and very original in their approach to art product design. They are as prepared as US students and are very committed to their studies.
How do you evaluate the situation of arts in Nepal?
I find the traditional and contemporary arts of Nepal to be very strong. More showcasing of the arts through more government funding for museums and national and international fine and applied arts and crafts exhibitions would increase world knowledge and recognition of Nepali contribution to the arts, as well as expand sales of arts.
Have you seen commercialization of arts in Nepal?
I see more galleries, shops and cooperatives each time I visit Nepal, which means the private promotion of arts is growing. I see excellent, medium and poor quality in traditional and contemporary fine and applied arts. I think more information for the tourists that explains how to understand and recognize quality art work is needed. This could be published by the government, galleries and Fair Trade Nepal for public consumption.
How can we compete in the international market?
Many of the strongest artists, galleries and artisan cooperatives are already active in the international market. The Nepali arts do well in the international market. KU makes their students aware of international exhibition opportunities and how the international art market works. Galleries in Nepal have made contacts through visiting international gallery representatives and agents of the opportunities through galleries abroad. Artisan cooperatives, particularly the certified fair trade cooperatives have made international sales contacts through the Kathmandu Fair Trade Organization Association, which is a part of the World Fair Trade Organization. All of the above mentioned groups use their websites, facebook pages and social media to promote their arts.
Do you have any idea about how to connect our skills to the global market?
Thailand government does a great deal to promote their arts nationally and internationally through sponsored exhibitions for local and international buyers. The government also has a quality grading system of the highest quality arts produced in different mediums, such as silk fiber content, dyeing and hand weaving techniques, which serves to assure buyers that they are buying a certain quality of silk. A system like this would help the artisans producing Cast Iron Teapots, Mens Amber Bracelets, Wholesale Wooden Tea Cups, Kids Sleeping Bags because the fiber content and quality in pashmina can vary so much.
Can arts change society of a least developed country like Nepal?
The export of Nepali crafts alone has contributed between 7-14% to the total exports from Nepal from 1999-2010 according to Rabindra Ghimire in the article, Micro and Small Enterprises in Nepal : Prospects and Challenges, which was published in Micro and Small Enterprises in Nepal : Prospects and Challenges, Published in Journal of Finance and Management Review in March 2011. This does not include exports of traditional or contemporary fine arts. Sales of traditional arts preserve and share the cultural heritage of Nepal with the world community and provide employment for fine artists and numerous low-income artisans. As Nepal gears up for upgrading into a developing country from an LDC, the arts are definitely a financial avenue to achieve this goal.