‘Voice of Art’ is a practice based research challenge rooted in the visual arts. Non-competitive in format and embracing a wide variety of visual arts media and forms, the founding motivation behind the initiative is to encourage ‘different ways of seeing’ – ways that enable young adults to go beyond the dominant discourse and approach arguments related to social concerns with greater sensitivity and understanding.

For us at NiBS, the true change-making nature of the initiative lies in its recognition of the capacity of arts based approaches to evoke emotional reactions and positive change without necessarily needing the finality or definitiveness of a conclusion or ‘solution’. Deciphering more layers or encouraging a new way of seeing in art can simply mean posing a question or provoking a new perspective. And it is this inherent freedom, plurality and diversity offered by the arts that is the source of our hope.

As part of the challenge, students use an arts based medium of their choice to research and respond to a chosen theme and then express their emerging insights, ‘solutions’ or questions as artworks. Students are guided and mentored in the processes of contemporary art practice and receive feedback from an eminent panel of thought leaders and educators. The challenge ends with a public exhibition of their works sparking a dialogue between the talking student voices and visitors’ responses.

For the inaugural edition of the challenge, students were asked to respond to the deplorable and potentially hazardous quality of air in the city of Delhi. It offered young people in schools across the city an open, creative and never before platform to express their views with regard to the state of the air that they breathe.

The second edition focused on ‘Heroes and Sheroes’ – our much loved, admired and emulated icons, both popular and personal; and the values, ideals, ideas and images that they represent. The theme encouraged students to question the existing stereotypes and engage in enquiry into questions such as Who or what is a hero and Who shapes our conceptions of heroes?

We believe that it is such open-ended and sensitive enquiry that needs encouragement if young people are to become consciously engaged, imaginative and sensitive co- creators and makers of the worlds that we live in, rather than just being passive consumers and recipients of the often overwhelming and polarising sights and sounds that surround them.