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Mithila Art Institute

After numerous discussions with local painters it was agreed that the Ethnic Arts Foundation should establish a free Mithila Art Institute (MIA) in Madhubani to encourage and support the development of the younger generation of Mithila painters. In 2003 twenty-five competitively selected and highly talented students (20 women and five men) studied at the Institute in a year-long program under the direction of Santosh Kumar Das, one of the major contemporary painters. Several other painters also helped instruct the students regarding specific images and techniques. The students ranged from 18 to 28 years old. Some of the students had totravel daily by bus or bicycle from distant parts of the Mithila region, and modest scholarships were available for those who could otherwise not attend. Starting in March 2004 another 20 competitively selected students began their studies at the Institute, while eight of the most talented students from the first year continued working on a variety of special projects during 2004. Then in March 2005 another class of 25 students was selected from a competition among 207 applicants.

Art Institute Santosh Kumar Das, the Director of the MIA, is assisted by an Advisory Board composed of major local painters and leaders; Godaveri Dutta, Shanti Devi, Krishnanand Jha, Judge Jha, and Professor Das, as well as Joseph Elder, Parmeshwar Jha, and David Szanton. The Institute provides free instruction, working and exhibit space, materials, and a supportive community for these young artists. The major emphasis is on developing their painterly skills and imaginations, while retaining a rootedness in Mithila traditions and aesthetics. They are also being introduced to broader cultural issues in the Mithila and Indian traditions, as well as the arts of other regions of the world. In addition, the students are encouraged and assisted in developing their personal capacities to discuss and represent their work to various national audiences and foreign visitors.

Paintings by several of the students were included in a recent exhibition in San Francisco and some have been bought by collectors there.