At the best of times, an artist’s life is filled with uncertainty. 

As the world eased into the dull stillness of lockdown this year, artists around the world were in despair. What would happen to their exhibitions and concerts? Book signings and film shoots? While bigger organizations were likely to ride out the storm, smaller independent artists were unlikely to survive the COVID-19 crisis. 

It was this worry that drove Purvai Rai, a 25-year-old Delhi-based artist, to step up and support the artistic community during the coronavirus crisis. Her personal experiences and struggles as an artist made her realize that lack of work during the lockdown might force a struggling artist to give up on their dream completely. 

She and a friend, Ayesha Singh, founded Art Chain India, a platform on Instagram and a website to create a sense of community in the creative sector and provide a platform for artists to sell their work during the pandemic. Many artists started buying works from other artists too as part of this project. Artists collectively sold more than 120 artworks worth Rs 9 lakhs using #ArtChainIndia in the first three weeks of its launch. 

The platform provides artists access to mentorship, information, and markets through peer support. Initially started as a marketplace, the project eventually became an attempt to provide information and resources that artists need. It also helped create a sense of community where the artist could interact directly with the buyer, rather than through a gallery or an agent. 

Explaning why she began this initiative, Purvai said,“It came out of this urge that whenever this pandemic is over, we shouldn’t lose artists. They shouldn’t leave their practice, saying, ‘Oh I couldn’t sustain myself because I’m an artist’. We want artists to be able to say that, ‘I survived through the pandemic because of my art’.”

And that’s why Purvai is one of Harappa’s ten Habit Heroes, an initiative to celebrate ordinary people who went above and beyond to support the community during the COVD-19 crisis. Many of them have stepped out of their comfort zones and showed extraordinary courage to help people tide over these troubled times. 

In the otherwise rigid and stratified art world, Art Chain India was an attempt to disrupt hierarchies and provide artists an avenue to sell their artwork. It is the point of contact between the artist and the buyer, and nothing more. The sales they made through this platform helped the artists send money back to their families and allowed them to shed their dependence on big galleries to sell their artwork.

Apart from helping with sales, Art Chain India also set up a mentoring network. The platform put new artists in touch with established artists to guide them through the pitfalls and problems of the unorganized sector.

Purvai made the Harappa Habit Heroes list because she helped create something that will outlive the coronavirus pandemic. She identified the problem and was able to effectively create a solution. She channeled her empathy as well as resourcefulness to help out her fellow artists. And finally, she used her networks and support system to come up with an idea that uses the coronavirus as just a starting point for something far, far bigger.

Purvai Rai is one of 10 Harappa Habit Heroes. Meet all the Habit Heroes here and learn more about the work of other Habit Heroes here and here.

Shubhayan is an Associate Specialist in the Curriculum Team. A graduate of the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, Shubhayan enjoys laughing at his own jokes and playing the bass guitar.

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