Bhubaneswar turns into an open-air art gallery


Bhubaneswar ebbs with art: pipli lights (lights with Odia applique art) on trees, jhoti or tribal prints on prominent facades, repurposed sculptures and thoughtful art in public spaces. As the Men’s Hockey World Cup 2023 is being held in Bhubaneswar and Rourkella (Odisha), the former has been transformed into an open air art gallery.

Each work mirrors colourful scenes from everyday life thanks to STAMP, or Street Art and Mural Project Development —a joint venture of Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) and the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC).  STAMP was formulated in 2017 ahead of the World Asian Athletics Championship to amplify the art and culture.

“The state government took support from Odisha’s Lalit Kala Akademi to facilitate STAMP. Nine curators were involved to brainstorm and bring forth the best thematic art for citizens,” says Balwant Singh, IAS, Vice-Chairman, Bhubaneswar Development Authority.  

Balwant elaborates that 650 artists were associated with STAMP and says that project, funded by Odisha Mining Corporation, covers around 8 lakh square feet of walls. The artists, who are of local, national and international origin, were selected by Odisha’s Lalit Kala Akademi.

As part of the symposium, 35 of Odisha’s sculpture artists – 7 working with terracotta, 6 with scrap metal, and 22 with stone sculptures, along with 6 international artists from Italy, France, Korea, Egypt, and America – were invited to create sculptures across the city to give the city a thematic dimension.  

Prathyush Behra, an architect with Bhubaneswar Development Authority’s technical wing emphasises that, “Each art work is colour coded- the variation has an intention. So when people pass by, they see the blue hues of the overbridge merging with the colours of the sky- giving it a vista-like dimension.”  

Vishal Jain, transportation planner, says “Each art work intends to interact with people, be correlative and contextually appropriate.” He explains, flyovers close to the Bhubaneswar fire junction have images of fire engines and fire fighters. Public spaces near the Nandan Kanan Zoo have art works depicting animals and birds, which not only add an aesthetic dimension to the city but also an ease of navigating the roads.  

Bhubaneswar calls itself “India’s best kept secret”: the reason behind this tagline goes back to the lesser known fact that the city was planned by the German architect Otto Königsberger in 1948.

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