Chennai witnesses endless number of pop-ups nearly every week — most of which are dedicated to lifestyle and fashion brands. It was about three years ago when 25-year-old Urusha Maher, a self-taught artist, created her own eco-friendly stationery label, The Paper Dolphin, that she realised it wasn’t easy to get an affordable platform to showcase her works in the city. “Even though there are many platforms and pop-ups for those stepping into fashion or lifestyle space, there are only a handful of events for the huge artist community in the city. That is when I decided to bring art-based businesses together through an organised platform, Art Fleamart, that would not only help amateur artists showcase their works to an audience, but also make a sale to those interested in buying,” recalls Urusha, who has held three editions of ‘Art Fleamart’ in the city so far. Organised through her stationery brand, the market allows about 25 upcoming artists from the city practising a variety of art forms, including paintings on acrylics, oil, handcrafted items, home décor, stationery, digital artworks, illustrations, cartoons and anime. “The only condition for any artist to be part of our fleamart is that they should not be well established. We have had students who wanted to exhibit their artworks to know if they want to pursue a career in the fine arts, and working professionals, who are practising art as a hobby.
We charge a small fee from the artists to be part of the flea market, and then allow the artists to keep all the funds they’ve raised through the sale at the event. Many of the participating artists create exclusive artworks for the flea market and are overwhelmed by the response,” she says, adding that the last edition witnessed a total of 850 visitors taking interest in city artists. Even though online portals like Instagram and Etsy have been allowing artists from the city find global audience, offline events help in networking with other artists and exploring possible collaborations, asserts Urusha. Chennai’s small, but steadily growing art community has always found that there aren’t enough spaces in the city for interacting with fellow artists and improving skills. That is a gap that the Art Fleamart aims to fill. “We have been overwhelmed to see hundreds of college students and youngsters coming to support the artists,” she admits. Through her upcoming edition being hosted in Bengaluru, Urusha will be providing an opportunity to a few city artists to showcase their works outside the city. “My aim is to make the initiative a prominent one in the Chennai art sphere,” she remarks.