“When it [breast cancer] affects a woman, it does not just affect her. It affects everyone around her...” noted Dr Dipankar Roy at the inauguration of the global campaign – Support Breast Cancer Survivors Through Art – at Taj Bengal, Kolkata.
When the onset of the pandemic forced people inside the confines of their homes, Roy decided to seek a way to support a social cause while allowing artists a much-needed creative outlet in the midst of isolation. Having been associated with the Obama Foundation for close to nine years, he sought out their help to connect with the National Breast Cancer Foundation of America (NBCF) at Dallas, Texas.
Within 24 hours, he received a response from the Director of Partnerships at NBCF, Becca Epperley and their Chief Program Officer, Douglas Feil – both of whom not only supported the idea but also insisted that it be turned into a global campaign. As a first step towards the campaign, Roy started an organisation called International Art Acts, where within a span of six months he managed to gather more than 700 artists from across the globe.
One of the artworks on display at the exhibitionAmit Datta
Roy’s campaign for breast cancer survivors was officially launched on February 14, 2021. The in-person exhibitions started on August 12, with the first one being inaugurated by veteran artist Shuvaprasanna at his ArtsAcre Foundation in New Town. Since then, the exhibitions have travelled across multiple cities around the country, at venues like the Nehru Centre Art Gallery in Mumbai and an 18-day-long art corridor at Taj West End, Bangalore.
Some of the artworks on display at the exhibitionAmit Datta
The exhibition in Kolkata, which started on December 16, will continue till December 22. The next chapter of the campaign will be an art camp at Taj Ganges, Varanasi from January 14, 2022, to January 17. Following a few other exhibitions in India, the campaign will then move over to America on April 1, 2022, where it shall continue until July. The final exhibition is scheduled to have US Vice President Kamala Harris in attendance as the chief guest.
(L to R): Dr Dipankar Roy, Smita Bajoria and Pankaj Parekh during the inauguration
The Kolkata chapter of the exhibition began with a preview of the works on display. The installation contained works by eminent artists like Shuvaprasanna, Sanatan Dinda, Paramita Sen, Aatmica Ojha and the former chairman of the Karnataka Lalithakala Academy, M S Murthy, who had flown in especially for the event. During his address, he praised the art exhibition that was held in Bangalore and said, “It is a great honour for us to be able to join this good cause.”
M S Murthy addressing the audience
Apart from artists, special invitees for the evening included Smita Bajoria, Consul General of Denmark for West Bengal, and Pankaj Parekh, Chairman of the Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce. Bajoria shed light about how the proceeds from the campaign will be used to set up four cancer infusion centres across the country, where the needy will have access to free treatment. “Concentrating on helping others... I think there can be no better deed than that,” she said.
Parekh, “a cancer survivor”, applauded the efforts of Dipankar Roy and congratulated the participating artists whose works were on display.
Smita Bajoria (left) and Pankaj Parekh
“The story does not end here. Following this, we will be starting four cancer infusion centres in India,” said Roy. These centres will support cancer treatment plans, including radiation and chemotherapy, for patients from low-income backgrounds. Palliative care will also be provided.