When we set up SAMRC in 2001, it was a space which offered
- a) a library of books across the arts, movies and music
- b) a reading/viewing/listening room
- c) a calendar of regular programmes in the arts – visual arts, photography, film, theatre, performance arts – ranging from exhibitions to workshops, discussions, seminars, lec-dems etc
- d) PeaceWorks – an initiative with the youth, using the arts to help develop an equitable and inclusive society
SAMRC was open to the public with a modest membership fee to offset expenses.
At the time there was no similar space or institution in Kolkata or the eastern region. Existing institutions focused on one genre/aspect of the arts (theatre or visual arts or photography), or were for members only, or did not offer all the above facilities. Or were moribund and museumized.
We wanted a welcoming, open, inclusive space which would encourage arts lovers to use it and participate in its programmes – low on bureaucracy, high on user-friendliness.
We achieved it.
A casual glance at the event programme archives will demonstrate the ethos and character of SAMRC.
A decade later, we found certain patterns in evidence:
- a) the library was not really being used – very few people visited the reading room
- b) digital technology changed music listening and film viewing habits
- c) several centres started similar programming across the arts, and built their own networks of viewers and audiences
We felt it was time to re-evaluate the role and contribution of a space like SAMRC vis-a-vis the arts and cultural life of the city. SAMRC was a forerunner. Following in its footsteps many cultural spaces and even coffee shops and bookstores began to offer a mix of arts programming from exhibitions and screenings to intimate performances to discursive events like discussions and lec-dems.
We felt the need to separate out from the herd, and do what Seagull has always done – lead from the front, open up new directions. Bring the Seagull mix of intellectual edginess, depth, vanguard thinking, support of the alternative and the experimental, to the future direction of SAMRC.
The PeaceWorks project, set up in 2003 under the SAMRC umbrella continued to grow. So the natural progression was to gravitate towards the whole aspect of education and learning to SAMRC’s image. Courses. Accreditation/affiliation. Certificates/diplomas. Master classes. Workshops. Fellowships. Residencies. Lecture series. Internship placements. Partnerships with university and college departments. Subsidiary / additional / elective courses that add value to existing mainstream teacher training degree courses.
Over the last fifteen years this has all been achieved successfully, and continues to, through our current projects—PeaceWorks, Seagull School of Publishing, History for Peace and Seagull Art.