US-India Artist Exchange Program


January 23, 2009 to February 03, 2009

This trip was to explore and establish links between organizations in America and India to support the exchange of visual artists between the two countries. This international exchange program was originally established in 1987 by John D. Wilson, Founder of the Chicago International Art Exposition, and President of the Lakeside Center for the Arts.

Link To Lakeside Gallery

India was brought into the program in 1991 when Mr. Wilson met Dial Gidwani, Founding President of the American Institute of Sindhulogy (AIS) . Unfortunately, it did not run after its original trial. It is recently reinvigorated by the attentions of Mr. Arnab Paul, an entrepreneur from India and the founder of US-INDIA Art and Cultural Exchange.

US-INDIA Art and Cultural Exchange

Lakeside center for arts appreciate Air India for their efforts in this exchange program and that made John Wilson very comfortable. The Executive Class seats that make into a bed let you go to sleep after much pampering wake up at your destination. The personal service not only on the aircraft but getting you through the air port and to customs every one calling you by name makes you feel like your flying with old friends.

John Wilson’s Visit To India

New Delhi January 25- January 28,2009

Jan 25. Arnab Paul met me at the airport in Delhi, with his brother in law and two artists. They were very aware of my long trip and after a delightful dinner with other members of the family, they let me go to bed.

January, 26. The next day my host Arnab Paul discussed the agenda and then we visited the studio of the artist Pijush, and viewed work by him and 8 or 9 other artists from Delhi.

January 27. We met with the Honorable Minister Ms. Ambika Soni, Minister of Tourism & Culture for the Government of India. Ms. Soni, Mr. Sarkar, the Secretary and Mr. Vijay Madan, the Joint Secretary – were all very encouraging. Her private Secretary gave Arnab his card asking him to call to get together. They mentioned that the American Ambassador had been informed and he wants to be kept in the loop.

Calcutta January 29 to February 01,2009 Jan. 29 There was a young lady, Mandipa and two other artists that I was very impressed with, Debashis and Tapas. She invited us to her house to view their works. Their work was very original, primarily paintings. She lived with her parents in a very impressive house with the grounds covered with palm trees. She said her grand father had built the house and large pond on the property, but it also attracted thousands of mosquitoes that all but carried you away. Her mother served us a wonderful home-cooked meal.

Jan 30 Calcutta was where we visited the Government College of Arts and Crafts, the oldest art school in India’s University system. Prof. Kamalaksha Gangopadhay, the Principal of the college, gave us much of his time and all his support. We met many of the art professors, Mr. Parag Roy, Dr. Paula Sengupta, Mr. Harimohan Bagli, Mr. Sukhen Saha and we viewed many aspects of the College such as the Indian College of Arts, Rabindra Bharati University, some galleries and studios. This was where I saw the black painting with the gold image emerging. This still stands out in my memory.

Mumbai February 01 to February 03, 2009

I arrived in Mumbai , Mr.Ranjit Butani came by the hotel to meet me Ms . Shobha Gehani, a retired Doctor from Michigan joined us. I had met her previously at a dinner party at Mr. Gidwani’s home in Wilmette, IL. Mr. Gidwani was feting her father Sindhu Ratan Ram Jethmalani, an Eminent Jurist and former Minister for Law and Justice in India and currently member of the Indian Parliament .I have had dinner with Ram on different occasions in Chicago. Unfortunately he was out of town during my visit. Ms. Gehani took me to a number of Art Galleries.

The most prestigious was the Tao Gallery. They were showing Jagdish Chinthala’s sculpture, and had published a hardbound book of his work. This was very gratifying as Jagdish was one of the two original participants in this exchange program in 1991. I had met him as a young student on my first trip and had invited to come work in Lakeside. He did in 1991, and his work was exhibited at the Chicago International Art Exposition. His works were appluaded by Art Galleries in the USA and Europe and he signed up with many galleries . He achieved his American dream. It is very pleasing to see young people to succeed. Mrs Kalpana shah is the owner of the gallery.

We also visited the Art and Soul Gallery, owned by friends of Ms. Gehani’s, Tarana Khubchandani and her sister-in-law Simram. They are the key to a big part of this program’s international aspect. They are working with a group of French ex-patriot’s from the south of India. This group was exhibiting some Chinese artists that I liked very much. They were interested in showing the work of the visiting American artists after their time in Delhi. Ms. Gehani and her husband are very interested in supporting this program.


To quickly summarize this trip, I look at Delhi as the political center, Mumbai as the financial center and Calcutta as the cultural center of India. I feel the artists I met in Calcutta were the most creative, and had broken away from the typical stereotype of institutionalized art.

This exploration was deemed totally successful as all parties involved agree that the ideal place for the American artists to live while visiting will be Indiana Villa. Three American artists will visit India in November of 2009 for a month stay. The owner, S.Sahni, has offered living and working space among the grounds of the resort.

Arnab and his friend the artist Pijush took me everywhere to meet artists. India has such small streets you don’t believe that your car will get down them, but there you are, passing cars coming the other way with at least 15 people milling about on the streets. I have to say driving in India is an unbelievable experience and you will never get me behind a wheel in India. That is why Arnab and all of my hosts had a driver. These drivers could compete on any race track in the world.

I met too many of India’s artists to remember but Arnab has promised to send me names and pictures to remind me. Several works stand out in my mind, specifically one young man Delhi. His pencil drawings of still life’s are vivid in my mind. From Calcutta, a black painting that was on an easel in the College of Arts and Crafts, with a golden image emerging out of it is still fresh in my memory. I did not get a chance to meet the artist because it was in-between semesters.

It was a very rewarding trip and the program has been set in motion. The USA Ambassador must become involved. The American Embassy should sponsor these shows. To follow-up on this visit, Ms. Gehani will visit Delhi and meet with Arnab, to see how they can proceed. The support of the Cultural Minister Ms. Ambika Soni is critical. We now have to rely on the young people like Arnab Paul to follow through, and the many friends of Mr. Gidwani’s, such as Ranjit Butani and Devendar Puri to bring others. The participating artists themselves must not only create works, but they must think of how to increase the project and make it better.
Our three organizations, the AIS, US-India Art and Cultural Exchange and the Lakeside Center for the Arts have established a solid groundwork for the continuation of this project. I now hope that others will join us, to create an even larger support network, where everyone will benefit from the contacts that are made in the organization of this international artistic and cultural exchange. In the recent past, the US government has expressed interest in assisting this concept. Let us hope that the leaders in India and the new leaders in Washington do what they say they believe in, and that they see that supporting the arts is a crucial link in this new world, helping to establish friendship and understanding across the borders.

I would like to thank and acknowledge the assistance of many people and organizations in this project. First of all Air India, for providing me with excellent service and comfortable accommodations from the beginning to the end of the entire trip. The Honorable Minister for Culture Ambika Soni, Mr. Vijay Madan, Secretary, Devender Puri, Dr. Shobha S. Gehani, Mr. Ranjit Butani, Mr. Dial Gidwani, and mostly my host Mr. Arnab Paul, for escorting me throughout this exciting trip.