the story behind the art fest and details about the art festival – mountains ’18 [fourth edition]

Art has played an important role in my life. I started learning Hindustani Classical Music and Kathak when I was only 6 or 7. I spoiled so many benches in school with my best friend, sketching faces with eyebrows on point. Also, I used poetry as a means of channelizing anger and pain when I was 12; and, grew up to be in a professional dance team in college.

During my masters, as my friends made notes in the class, my teachers allowed me to draw in my notebook because they knew I could only concentrate that way. Art has been very close to my heart; blame multiple heart breaks or a genetic lineage – from my grandfather being a brilliant poet to my mother being a violinist, my father a writer, a social gathering singer to my brother, an architect and a musician. I’ve been soaked in art since I was born and art makes me truly happy – content, satisfied, at peace.

As a Clinical Psychologist, I understand the practical sides of art, too. It’s a great way to express, without causing harm to oneself or another. In a lot of our self-reflective classes, we spent painting what our emotions looked like. Being in a surrounding that is overflowing with the creative ambience has saved me, and has saved many.


Since the time we started The Lost Tribe Hostels in Manali, for me, the idea has always been to keep the place therapeutic – where the community acts as a means of healing and at the same time, people have enough freedom to express themselves without fear of judgment.
The hostel was started with a newly built building, and the walls were quite plain and we had decided to get an Artist, which Alex (my partner) and I had previously worked with for a separate project in Goa. His name was Mithun. A typical artist personality, lean, worn Kurtas, spoke less and zoned out more often than not – but his work would make anyone’s jaw drop. We had recreated Mario Miranda’s illustrative work that depicts a typical Goan lifestyle – fish, coconuts and rains.

Mithun was supposed to come on May 19,  2016 – exactly ten days after our inauguration. We were sitting, waiting in anticipation, excited about how our hostel was going to be painted in colors. We called Mithun a day before his arrival, asking what time was he going to reach.

In response, he told us “Bro! I am getting married tomorrow” and that came as a shock to me. We had been waiting for him long enough to hear his cancellation. I just couldn’t imagine the walls of the hostel without any art on it. It had to reflect as an artistic place, and it surely required a safe place like ours with some stimulation.
We did not know any artists back in the mountains because we were only beginning to know people around us. That’s when the idea struck to us, we thought, which artist wouldn’t love to come in the mountains, with the view we have at The Lost Tribe and paint their heart.

Freshly out of college, I was not so accustomed to how things worked in the real world, and I can say that in retrospect. I decided to create a simple event page and share it with the art communities I followed.Back then, not many people knew about the hostel, we were in our infancy period and only people we knew had heard about us. I would say, one thing that I learnt from that experience was – if you have something in mind you want to do, just take the first step and the rest will follow you in time. So it did in this case as well.

I received too many messages and emails from the artists who were interested to come to the place and celebrate art. It was hard to believe. I had to pinch myself every time I received a mail. Summer Art Fest’16, as I called it was cherished with a lot of love.

I still remember the first day of the art fest, the first time we hosted it. We got our first ever full house a day prior to the fest. We weren’t expecting anything like that, to be honest when we had planned our dates of the fest. I wasn’t sure whether to feel happy or frightened that there were no empty beds a night before the artists were to arrive. Again, everything happens for a reason.

The next morning when I woke up, a group of 22 people had to leave for a trek after breakfast. The artists of the fest arrived around 7 in the morning, a couple of hours before the checkout of the previous day’s guests.

I can’t tell you what a beautiful moment it was – when I went to apologize to the artists who waited in the garden till the time others checked out. I told them “I am so sorry, you guys have to wait” and they all said, almost in sync “you must be crazy for apologizing for that view, it’s unbelievable” and I felt at peace, only for a bit though.

When the big group left, I still had to get the whole hostel cleaned up and beds made. Back then, we only had two other guys (tribe members as we call everyone who has stayed long enough at the hostel). Now we have six, thank goodness.

I can never forget how this artist/board game enthusiast Shraddha, from Ahmedabad, asked me “where is the broom?”

I was amazed at that question and her kindness. She was empathic about how I was handling it all by myself. She and other artists helped me clean the whole place and then we started our fest at 12 noon sharp.

It made me believe in me. It made me learn that things were possible. You only had to get up and get it. Our first community circle, with the artists from all over the world + a few other guests who joined, talking about them – sharing their love for art – it was absolutely beautiful.By the end of the three days, we felt like we had known each other since we were toddlers. We played board games, we played dumb charades, we spoke and we spoke with such love and honesty – about ourselves, about art, about the meaning of life.

To be frank, as much as I thought to myself “this is something we should do every year” – I didn’t think I would be able to. But I did. We did another art fest, the same year in November in Goa. It was harboured beautifully, too. With Goa being Goa, there were more drunk nights and uncensored conversations, of course. However, the core of the art fest was retained.

Last year, in 2017, we pulled off another Art Fest and this time I had some help from Ritu Arya ( She really levelled up the quality of creatives we used and was a pillar for me.

After organizing the Art Fest for three times already, we are hosting it again. This time in collaboration with Platform for Artists. We are hoping to have one hell of a collaborative project this year. 50 artists can pull off something wonderful and I have faith in the spirit of the Art Festival.

I am putting down all the details you need to of the fest here – 

We will have 50 artists coming from different places in India with their experiences and talents. Writers, painters, sketchers, dancers, singers, musicians, actors, illustrators, photographers and others who have interest in experimenting with new forms of art can join us to learn, teach, share, connect and create miraculous artwork during these three days.

Three days agenda:

DAY 1: 25th May, 2018 Friday

Everyone will reach the Location by 10:00 am. Post breakfast, we will begin with activities for everyone to get introduced with other participants. For pair collaboration activity, you will get to collaborate with other artists and create art. You can choose your own partner amongst them and work together to create artwork which includes art skills of both of you. Each pair will then get time to showcase the artwork created to the other artists and audience.

DAY 2: 26th May, 2018 Saturday –

We will begin the day with a YogArt session by a trainer/a short morning hike followed by breakfast. We begin our 2 hour ceremony at 6 am, with an opening circle. This is followed by a 60 minute yoga session with free form movement, Asana, Pranayama, mudras, chanting and guided meditation. This will be followed by everyone coming together to make ONE big community artwork.

People can opt for one of the two: Morning Trek or YogArt session.

This day will be dedicated for group collaboration activities for everyone to connect, collaborate and create art by exchange of art skills. We will give divide people into groups to maintain heterogeneity in the groups. We would give out situations for groups to come up with solutions through their forte in art. The activities will be documented for creating an after movie of the entire fest. This day will be primarily focused on creating artwork. We have scheduled jamming sessions and skill sharing activities late evening where we all can bond over bonfire and hot chocolate.

DAY 3: 27th May, 2018 Sunday –

We will all go for local sightseeing, trekking and exploring the art and culture of village Jagatsukh. This time can be used by every artist to capture the beauty of Manali through his own art form. We conclude the project on this day by 5:00pm. So in brief, the Manali project will be of learning, teaching, sharing, connecting and collaborating experience for the artists.

FLEA MARKET/BAZAAR: Apart from this schedule, you’d experience a Flea Market set up at The Lost Tribe Hostels, where both local artisans and urban brands will exhibit and sale by putting up their stalls filled with quirky socks, scarfs, posters and chai. There will be about 15-20 stalls with each stall size will be 6 by 6 ft.

COST: The entire trip cost is kept at modest amount of Rs 3,500/- .

This will include your accommodation for two nights (25th May, 26th May) at The Lost Tribe hostels, Manali and Breakfast for two days (26th and 27thMay). Any other cost that will be incurred on the project has to be managed by you.

Event page link

Google form for registration –

Link to the payment

For Registration and further details, please whatsapp/call on:

Kshitija Sarda – 8605361915

I am anxious, yes. I am more excited, though.

More updates later,
Signing off

stuti has also written about

Leave a Reply