Festival in Focus: Serendipity Arts Festival

Highlights of one of India's largest multiarts festivals, straight from the Director's desk.

One of South Asia’s largest multidisciplinary arts initiatives, the Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) is back with a bang this year after a pandemic-induced hiatus of three years. Like its previous editions, this time too, the festival focuses on inclusive programming that appeals to a wide range of audiences, including those with family and children. Festival goers can expect a range of exciting workshops covering crafts, music, dance, theatre, visual arts, photography, culinary arts, children’s programming, etc. SAF is slated to be held between 15 and 23 Dec 2022 across different venues at Panjim, Goa. While the crux of the festival is conceptualised by eminent curatorial personalities, it spans multiple heritage venues across the city that are significant in their own rights. Its multifaceted programming will initiate buzz and spark conversations around the arts across South Asia. Smriti Rajgarhia, Director of the Serendipity Arts Foundation, takes us through this year’s festival highlights and shows how it caters to different audiences at once. 

Serendipity Arts Festival is returning to Goa with an in-person festival after a break of three years. What are some of the highlights of this year’s programme?

It is difficult for us to choose from the variety we have to offer at the festival this year. Exhibitions range from the world of specialist books on the art history of India to the display of craft and its rich traditions of materiality through space-making, and visual arts exhibitions on film, archives and the intersection of art and technology. We will showcase a range of contemporary plays with a focus on narrative, community and storytelling, while the dance performances will cover classical, experimental and contemporary genres. The music concerts will cover a wide range of genres, including classical, folk, indie pop and rock performances. And as always, there will be a range of exciting and informative workshops covering the culinary arts, as well as talks, children’s programming and programmes created for people with special needs.

What are the main genres that are on offer at this year’s festival programme?

We are a multidisciplinary festival which covers all art forms. We encourage interdisciplinarity, immersive experiences and audience engagement. These are addressed via creative placemaking and site-specific works. This year, we will explore the nature of public art, the idea of home-grown sustainability, technology and literature.

Once Upon A Time, Curated By Mayuri Upadhya for the Serendipity Arts Festival 2019
Once Upon A Time, Curated By Mayuri Upadhya for the Serendipity Arts Festival 2019

Who are some of the participating artists and curators this year? Are there any new formats or venues for one to visit?

We have ten curators – Mayuri Upadhya, Geeta Chandran, Pramod Kumar KG, Anjana Somany, Veerangana Solanki, Sudarshan Shetty, Prahlad Sukhtankar, Quasar Thakore Padamsee, Ehsaan Noorani and Bickram Ghosh – and over 500 artists performing and engaging with the festival in an array of special international projects. We have many new venues, with several outside closed spaces to explore. From the Post Office Museum, Excise Building, Old GMC Complex, the Art Park with a dedicated children’s space, a marketplace featuring some of the best of Goa’s sustainable products and a DJ showcase at night all the way to Nagalli Hills Ground for our big arena space, we have peppered the festival through Panjim with 14 plus venues.

What are some of the key themes and subjects being explored this year?

While our overarching themes remain the same – access, sustainability and diversity – this year we have seen an increase in the idea of technology as a medium for arts practice and dedicated projects around young learning and accessibility.

As a first-time visitor to Serendipity Arts Festival, what would you say are some of the tips and tricks for navigating the various venues?

First and foremost, be open to discovering the festival and the city at the same time. Take your time to explore Panjim and see it engage with the arts. Use our shuttles so that you don’t crowd the city and please register for quick entry. Last but not the least, carry your own water bottle to reduce the use of plastic and use our water stations to fill them up. 

Goa Medical College, Serendipity Arts Festival, 2019

What are some of the highlights for people attending with their families? What are some of the programmes that you have for people of all ages?

We have a dedicated children’s programme from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM at the Art Park in the mornings with workshops and readings. You can even go to The Foundry in the old GMC Complex for some children’s theatre. We have many food workshops open to all ages, as well as workshops in music therapy and those that will help you engage with your senses through music and movement. For the theatre artist in you, we have workshops on theatre at the studio space in the Excise building.

If a viewer has only 24 hours to visit, how do you suggest they spend their time?
Start your morning with a cup of coffee at Caravela and move your way slowly to the festival venues by 12:00 PM (that’s when it opens). Explore the Post Office Museum exhibition and make your way to the Art Park to the Goan Tribal Table stall for a scrumptious meal and some music in the park. Indulge in some retail therapy at the Mercado shops situated in the Art Park. Catch a matinee show and enjoy the GMC Complex in its entirety. End your day with a stellar dance or music performance at the Arena, Nagalli Hills Ground. If you have some energy left, you can take a late-night art walk at the Excise building.

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