MYOB: Toto Funds The Arts

Toto Funds the Arts is a non-profit trust set up in 2004, which nurtures and encourages young artists in India through awards, workshops and other events. In this edition of Mind Your Own Business, we interview Abhijeet Tambe, a trustee with Toto Funds the Arts.

The presence of an institution seeking to nurture the arts is undoubtedly a source of comfort to many in the creative industries. What prompted the creation of Toto Funds the Arts and could you tell us a bit more about TFA?

TFA was founded in 2004 after the tragic death of Angirus ‘Toto’ Vellani. He was a bright young talent, and the foundation was created by his family and friends with the aim of encouraging and nurturing young Indian artists showing potential, and who could perhaps use a helping hand.

What, in your opinion, are some of the major challenges facing both young and experienced artists today? Are these challenges largely economic, infrastructural, gendered, or perhaps to be attributed to a different set of reasons?

In a developing country like India, with so many other priorities for the state to consider, probably everything you mentioned is a challenge for an artist, especially a young one! We have inherited a pretty unique social system with some high walls built in. I think one of the big challenges for artists here is crossing over those walls.

TFA seems to have arisen in response to a need for increased institutional and financial support to the creative community. To this end, how does TFA encourage young artists? What are some of the grants and awards that TFA provides?

The financial support we give is limited to the awards, which are given annually in the fields of music, photography, writing, and film. We also do workshops and events through the year. We’re driven by a sense of connecting older artists to the younger generation, and passing on encouragement, experiences, and knowledge.

We also understand that external juries judge anonymous applications sent by TFA. What is the process of application for these awards, and what qualities, in your opinion, have jurors identified in the previous recipients of the awards?

We solicit applications around July–August and following this we have in-house processes for reducing them into what we call ‘long-lists’ in each category. These are the candidates that the various juries get to evaluate. Speaking for the music applicants, we are looking for candidates that either demonstrate great skill in channeling their musical influences or make bold ventures into new territory, or better still, both together!

What is the intention behind the awards at TFA? What are some of the expectations from those who have won TFA awards?

As far as the award goes, it’s a trophy, a cash prize, and a handshake (or a hug) with no strings attached. But the process of receiving applications and choosing a winner is such that it also serves as a forum for the community to connect and engage with each other in a pretty meaningful way.

In what other ways does TFA collaborate and engage with the creative community?

TFA does workshops and events through the year; we’ve done workshops related to writing, theatre, music, and photography. We do an annual music concert called “The Night of the Nominee”, where the nominees for the music award all perform on the same night. Then there’s a series called “Creative Journeys” in which a senior artist gives a talk about, well, his/her creative journey! We hold regular readings and discussions on writing that’s old as well as emerging. And this year we also have an exciting new music initiative, but we’re only announcing it in September!

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