Here are a few important milestones in the young life of Changampuzha Samskarika Kendram.
Visva Kala Sangamam
A Workshop of Veteran Artistes in diverse streams of art was the first major venture undertaken by the Changampuzha Samskarika Kendram (CSK). The grand event named ‘Viswa Kala Sangamam (2001)’ was a three-week-long affair during which artistes from Canada, Japan and South Korea worked and lived side by side a sizeable contingent from India, more like a large family. While the visitors from abroad busied themselves chiseling out enchanting forms and shapes from huge granite blocks right in front of a curious but appreciative crowd, virtually uninterrupted items of entertainment went on elsewhere in the Park. The Indian artistes presented delightful numbers of dance and music (both classical and light varieties), chavittunatakam, koothu, kathakali and so on, maintaining a carnival atmosphere during the period.
Lecture demonstrations by the master-sculptors from abroad were a big draw and contributed in no small measure to the unqualified success of the Viswa Kala Samagamam. Some of the fascinating figures sculpted at the time as a labour of love by the artistes continue to adorn the premises of CSK like a sweet memory of the great event.
Children’s Art Workshop
The following year (2002) another three-week cultural extravaganza was organized with special emphasis on children’s participation. Painting and music classes for those interested were conducted under renowned masters. The active involvement of several participants, young and old, made the endeavour a resounding success. Watching Artist Namboodiri creating instant images of numerous kathakali characters in black and white was an unforgettable experience. The illusion of motion in his simple, light strokes was arresting enough. Other highlights of the programme included anecdotal lectures by two distinguished painters, M.V. Devan and C. Karunakaran, on Kerala’s contemporary art scene.
Those creative initial years sprouted radical ideas like having regular music recitals by budding artistes as well as reputed masters, periodic kathakali performances and drama festivals and so on. These ideas have since taken concrete forms and are growing, drawing good public support and participation. One major factor for the heartening popularity of CSK is that all its programmes are totally free to the public and all the facilities that exist at the Park are made freely available to those who seek them—like, for example, for schools to hold their annual functions, for amateur theatre groups to stage their performances and for arrangetoms of budding artistes. What is even more salutary, CSK is open to new ideas.
CSK crossed a new milestone in 2008 when Kerala Kala Mandalam chose it to inaugurate its much-acclaimed ‘Noorarang’ programme (100 kathakali performances) which was to be staged along the length and breadth of the state. It is a measure of the high esteem in which CSK is held by its peers.
Similarly it was simply flattering when in 2008 the Ernakulam Press Club together with the prestigious National School of Drama selected CSK to present a nine-day drama festival in honour of Kavalam Narayana Panicker, the doyen of Malayalam stage, on his 80th birthday. The celebration also marked the 40th anniversary of the Press Club. The festival was a huge affair in which workshops and discussions everyday were followed by top-class stage presentations by troupes from various parts of the state.
Yet another milestone was marked when Avishkar Kala Kendra, established in memory of the famous harmonist Kottaram Sankunni Nair, chose CSK as venue for Avishkar Kalolsavam in celebration of its anniversary. It was a three-day affair in which dancers and musicians of repute featured.
In 2009 CSK set up an endowment in memory of the distinguished musician Neyyattinkara Vasudevan. Income from the endowment is to be used to give an award to a deserving musician on the death anniversary of Neyyattinkara every year. The award function would be followed by a musical recital.
Another endowment to perpetuate the memory of the illustrious kathakali musician Sankaran Empranthiri who passed away in 2009 has been proposed.
The idea behind such gestures is that no great artistes who regaled and enriched our life with their divine music or dance or any other art form when they were alive should go unmourned and unhonoured. It is a debt we owe them.
In 2009 CSK made a quantum jump in class when it added a second modern stage to its substantial assets, thanks to the munificence of its numerous well-wishers. Few other institutions can claim this distinction of having two stages—one open air and the other with a roof. But CSK is fully conscious of its debt to the community– all the facilities at its disposal, including the two stages, lighting gear for special effects, sound systems, stand-by generator, 700 odd chairs etc. are for anybody who needs them. CSK considers them as the commonwealth of the community and the community can use them.