NCPA, Art X Company, and British Council launch ‘The Art of the Possible’ research study on the cultural skills sector in India

The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), with the support of the British Council, and the Art X Company announced the release of ‘The Art of the Possible’ a research study on the cultural skills sector in India. The first-of-its-kind primary research project focuses on the transversal and technical skills landscape in the live entertainment and performing arts domains from the perspective of working professionals and sector stakeholders. The study identifies specific upskilling challenges and training requirements within the cultural sector while mapping prevailing gaps, skilling needs, and barriers to the entry of professionals into the sector.

With its emphasis on education, the NCPA is developing a reputation as a major centre for training and education, building on an already well-established programme of workshops and seminars. ‘The Art of the Possible’ is one such ambitious initiative the institution has undertaken to train, support, and develop Indian talent across both managerial and transversal skills domains in the cultural sector. With an emphasis on the latter, the NCPA aims to embark upon a three-year professional development course centred on transversal skills in design and technical production of performing arts. This extensive study, commissioned by the NCPA and conducted by the Art X Company, aims to provide insights and recommendations to enable India’s premier cultural institution to develop its new training programme.

In addition to this primary objective, the study charts a contextual overview of India’s transversal cultural skills landscape, explores questions of sustainability in regard to professional development needs and growth trajectories, and identifies existing learning behaviours and preferences among cultural professionals with technical and transversal skills. The recommendations within the report specifically pinpoint

The research covered representatives from theatre and dance companies, technical equipment vendors, freelance consultants, event managers, educators, technical heads of India’s biggest arts venues, cultural workers in sound, light, stage and costume design, and stage and production managers. Respondents were mapped from a diverse range of Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities such as Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, Guwahati, Pondicherry, Panaji and Shillong.

Bruce Guthrie, Head of Theatre and Film, NCPA, said, “The study was commissioned in 2021 with an aim to gather information and discuss training methodology for Indian practitioners who work with transversal and technical skills in the live entertainment and performing arts domains — in design, programming, stage, and production management. This included a survey and a series of interviews and focus group discussions with a multitude of stakeholders. People from across the country with a wide range of backgrounds and across ages participated in this study. We are proud to make the report readily available to download for the arts community. We invite practitioners to continue to feedback to us, so companies, institutions, and funding bodies can respond to the needs and ambitions of the arts sector. This reports acts conversation started with the wider community across the country as we work towards addressing key issues across the sector together.”

Rashmi Dhanwani, Founder and Director, The Art X Company, said, “Research within the culture sector is hard to come by. While stakeholders have a sense of the players and the range of organisational structures within which they operate, a multidimensional evaluation of the sector is impossible to measure without scientific evidence. The NCPA has stepped up to support the sector by bridging this gap and we are delighted to work with them to bring this vital research to light. In commissioning this report, the NCPA has created a space for culture sector workers’ voices from across intersections to be heard. The workhorses of culture research — surveys and interviews — reached over 200 respondents from every margin. Our hope is that the findings open renewed conversations into the traversal design and technical skills landscape, and trigger more research on the needs of the live entertainment and performing arts domains and their impact on society.”

Jonathan Kennedy, Director Arts India, British Council said, “The arts and culture sector in India is largely informal and is 88% micro, small and mid-scale enterprises. The Art of the Possible report reveals the lack of affordable training and adequate education opportunities for professionals in lighting and sound design; set and costume design; and stage and production management in India. Limited technical and design training and access to international expertise poses a significant barrier to the professional growth of those individuals and companies who work in festivals, theatre and performing arts. There is currently very limited access to develop specialist technical and design skills and networks. In turn, this limits the scope of those professionals, producing venues and companies to collaborate internationally. The report makes strong recommendations for systemic capacity development for design and technical skilling. The British Council hope the report finds strategic importance to strengthen the festivals and performing arts sector over the long term. We hope the recommendations are put into action to support the creative economy and livelihoods of festivals, theatres, designers and stage technicians – who make up much of the life-blood of the cultural industries.”

The Art of the Possible report can be accessed here.

The Art of the Possible report was discussed at a digital launch event on 28 February 2022 which featured leading voices from the sector including Saatvika Kantamneni, independent production and stage manager for theatre and live events, Sankalita Chakraborty, Head of Arts–West India, British Council, and Sunil Shanbag, theatre producer, director, television writer, and documentary filmmaker, alongside Bruce Guthrie and Rashmi Dhanwani. The conversation spotlighted key insights from the report to generate and carry forward vital discussions about the needs of cultural professionals with technical and transversal skills in India.