Southwestern College Art Gallery presented a retrospective of the work of Payson R. Stevens. Trained in both art and science, Stevens is a San Diego resident who divides his time annually between the Indian Himalayas and Del Mar, California. ENERGY LANDSCAPES will show paintings and drawings going back to the 1970s in the Main Gallery, as well as Stevens pioneering Interactive multimedia work, computer generated graphics, books and posters in the Student Art Gallery. The Southwestern College show is the first major U. S. exhibit of Stevens work. He has shown his work extensively in India, most recently at the US Embassy, American Center in New Delhi.
There is a reason why Himachal Pradesh is also known as “Devbhoomi” (Abode of Gods). Pristine valleys, towering mountains, sparkling rivers and vast stretches of green – where else would Gods reside, if not in Himachal. From times immemorial, the natural beauty and soothing climate of Himachal has lured people from all parts of the world. Like a doting mother, Himachal has embraced one and all irrespective of their shortcomings and disregard to the very ecosystem that supports them. Scenic hill-stations have now become major commercial centers and are visited by lakhs of tourists every year, thereby, putting immense pressure on their fragile and ever depleting ecosystem. Since tourism is one of the main sources of revenue generation for people of Himachal, it is essential that tourism should be promoted in a way that it preserves the natural ecosystem and propagates principle of self-sustainable growth.
Guided by its founding principles – preservation of natural ecosystem and creation of self-sustainable rural economy- myHimachal has entered into a partnership with Rural Tourism Network Enterprise (RTNE) to promote rural tourism in untainted regions of Himachal. The pilot project for this partnership has already taken off in pristine Upper Seraj Valley (USV). In its role as a Destination Management Company (DMC), My Himachal is responsible for collection, aggregation and distribution of rural home-stay content to RTNE. My Himachal’s team in USV is bridging the supply-chain gap between rural home-stay owners and potential tourists by utilizing RTNE’s established infrastructure.
Although USV is one of the most picturesque valleys in Himachal (read the details below), it is also one of the remotest region in Himachal, a factor that has hampered the efforts to install very basic infrastructure. Eventually, lack of infrastructure has limited the growth opportunities and employment avenues for local people who have to migrate to the cities to earn their livelihood and support their families. By partnering with RTNE and by utilizing untapped tourism potential of USV, myHimachal intends to provide various avenues for employment to local people in order to support the creation of self-sustainable rural economy.
Upper Seraj Valley Tourism – A Promotional Perspective (by Payson Stevens)
The Upper Seraj Valley (USV) is one of the more isolated and unique tourist destinations in the Kullu Valley. Located between the Jalori Pass to the south and the Gushani Village to the north, it is an area blessed with a peaceful ambience and wondrous, environmental features. If you like nightlife and parties you will not enjoy the USV, but if you love nature, hiking, trekking, and peaceful surroundings you won’t be disappointed. The mountain villagers are friendly and open.
They live in a more, rural traditional way and have a very serious relationship to nature and the reverence of their ancient deity (devi and devta) culture. This should be respected by all visiting outsiders, including attention to modest dress, no obnoxious drunkenness or use of drugs, and peaceful, respective behavior.
The USV is divided at Banjar with Jalori Pass to the south and Gushani towards the north. Guest houses, hotels, and cottages are all available (with a range of cost from Rs.300-10,000/night).
There are numerous USV attractions, some of which include:
? Banjar to Jalori Pass:
- Jalori Pass (10,000 ft elevation)
- Ruins of Raghunath Fort above Jalori
- Seroalsar Lake, a two hour hike from Jalori to a small lake and temple of religious/cultural
- The villages of Jibhi and Ghiyagi with their unique devta culture
- Shringi Rishi Temple (for the valley’s main diety)
- Beautiful hikes along the Hirub Nallah with old Deodar-Oak-Horse Chestnut forests
- Fishing along the Hirub nallah
- Shoja Village with views of the Mankikaran Sapphire high mountain ranges
- Banjar to Gushani
- Hikes along the Tirthan River
- Trout fishing in the Tirthan River
- Tent Camping Sites along the River
- The Sai Ropa Visitor Center of the Great Himalayan National Park/GHNP (with dormitories,
- single rooms, and a 1 km marked nature trail )
- Trail head to entry to GHNP with extensive trekking (days to weeks) throughout the 754 sq km of the Park (entry fees and permission required).
GHNP is one of the most unique, pristine areas of the Western Himalayas. Local ecotourism NGOs and logistic teams assist visitors with trekking in the Park to ensure that they financially benefit from tourism and help with sustainable
livelihoods to protect/conserve the Park resources.
Numerous seasonal festivals/melas occur in the region along with Dusshera in the Kullu Valley every late Fall.
Remember: If you love and respect nature and a peaceful, quiet place then a visit to the Upper Seraj Valley will be rewarded with memories of Dev Bhoomi that will last a lifetime.
In the Upper Seraj Valley, culture intertwines with traditions and life is dominated by hundreds of deities nestled in the serene lap of the Himalayas. Only a person who has travelled into the interiors of the Himalayan region can comprehend what life here has to offer. I’ve been privileged to work as an intern with My Himachal under Mr. Payson Stevens and it has sparked a change in the way I perceive my life and witnessed firsthand how compassion and dedication can lead to a fruitful existence.
Life is but a travel…a journey towards enlightenment as per Buddhist philosophy…my work began in Shimla where I took on the role of a photojournalist sating my passion for photography and honing my writing skills at the same time. 10 days later, I shifted base to a remote village called Jibhi in the Upper Seraj Valley, Kullu District; situated at a height of around 6000 feet, mountains collapse in on this small village encompassing it on all sides livened by friendly and inviting people; atithi devo bhava still exists! I began working under Mr. Payson’s guidance…first documenting, data basing and photographing a rural health camp organized by My Himachal which saw us and a team of doctors from Jibhi CHAI trek to remote villages in dire need of healthcare.
Hospitals here are few and far apart and healthcare, especially among kids is neglected. Interacting with the kids at the schools was a memorable experience…the reality here is a stark contrast to the lives we live…a 5*5 feet room houses 50 kids and a primary school of 200 students has just two teachers. Toilets aren’t available and hence the students are forced to defecate in the open…add to this an inadequate diet and some having to walk around 8 km a day to and fro school…I reminisce about my own childhood…hard but no comparison…their happy and bumbling faces gave no inkling of the problems they face and the smiles turned into grins as I shot them…it was like capturing sunshine without the ghastly flare…
There is a chronic water shortage in these areas. Due to global warming, the sources have dried up and rainfall and snowfall has become sparse. Government supplied pipes are rendered useless due to empty sources and the villagers have to rely on more traditional sources of water such as baudi’s which is a ground water system. My major task during the internship was to visit villages with shortages and interview a group of villagers, survey and photograph the landscape and vegetation so as to establish the ground realities of the water situation there and estimate the topography of the area to simplify the planning and construction process. I did extensive research on ground water recharging, planning and techniques for future reference as well. I visited a total of 15 villages along with the field manager of MH, Mr. Padam Singh often trekking up rough trails to reach villages isolated from civilization …an alternate world of sort…no roads connect them…mobile signals are rendered lifeless…what’s enlivened though are the skies…beautiful stretches of blue on mountainous backdrops with mists swirling in an out of your vision and the true aroma of a rural Indian village.
Life here is self sustained with little need for outside interference or modernity…in fact modernity only helps killing the essence of such a life…what needs development though is the healthcare and education facilities which My Himachal is trying to address. In addition to these projects, I worked on a rural tourism initiative, visiting home-stays and hotels…surveying the properties and photographing them to be put up on the RTNE website.
The entire internship has been a magnanimous learning experience and I’ve been extremely fortunate to work under Mr. Payson who I’ve learnt a lot from. Working on editing a PSA was fun and has helped my understanding and appreciation of editing which has helped me decide my career path in the future…
The eye does not see…it’s the brain that feeds the blind spot…different people perceive things differently…my eyes have been sensitized and the whites have separated from the blacks…I see clearer…Today’s the day and age of social networking…yet cities are unsocial, crowded, polluted and very impersonal. Discos, parties, intoxicants-all a sham…billions of people mere consumers controlled by a handful of families. One person can’t make a difference to the world…let’s not be naive about that…you can however work within your own community…if every village is self sufficient with a bustling economy…there’s no need for the globe to become an urban metallic mesh…
Oh, how easy it is to write…but to feel strongly enough for a cause to put it to practice is a diverging road with hallucinations hindering your sight…I’ve found my path during my short stay at MH…I can only hope others find theirs as well…!
I’ve crossed mountains…literally and figuratively…the Everest of my mind lies conquered and as Micheal Vince once said “Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by its breathtaking moments”
With the generous offer of matching funding, Trinity School (Mohal, Kullu) and My Himachal have initiated a new scholarship program. Working with Trinity School Principal/President, Ravi Singh, and under the guidance of MH members Kamla Kapur and Payson Stevens, three children from the rural village of Ghiyagi (Upper Seraj Valley) have been chosen. Two brothers, Rakesh Kumar (age 9) and Vinay Kumar (age 11) and a young girl, Sangeeta Varma (age 11) have started a new chapter in their lives. The three moved to to Kullu in early June to study and live in the school’s hostel. The children were chosen after discussion with different parents in Ghiyagi who felt the scholarship represented a real opportunity to improve the quality of their education, especially learning and studying in English and learning computer skills.
Ravi Singh had initially started a Trinity School scholarship program for the children of a few poor Rajasthani road workers and extended it, after discussions with Kamla and Payson, to include a joint program with My Himachal.
MH has a scholarship program in HP since 2007 , which has given monetary awards to deserving students who score high in their class work. The MH-TS scholarship is a more focused program selecting a small group of children who will be closely monitored for one or more years by Trinity, My Himachal, and the parents to support and assess the success and challenges of the program. After testing by Trinity School staff, the children were placed in the classes appropriate to their current level of English and other subjects. This will initially mean being set back, but with the hopes that they will move forward as their skills increase over the school year. It will also place the students in a more diverse social and economic environment, moving them into a wider world of experiences and interactions.
“This is an experiment,” say Kamla. “to see whether we can help a few young students in our area. Trinity School offers a higher quality education then normally available in rural village schools but the kids will have to work a lot harder. We’re hoping that they will be able to meet the challenges they will face and have a wider range of opportunities as their educational skills develop.”
With the generous support of a few My Himachal donors, including Laura Hyman and Michael Keenan in the USA, My Himachal has set aside funds for the first year of the scholarship. The program offers donors the opportunity to be more directly involved in the lives of a few children with regular updates. Trinity School has also offered MH a few more scholarships as additional funds are raised. Those interested in supporting the program and children can contact Avnish Katoch, President MH at email@example.com.
Seraj Valley-Kullu: Two first year undergraduate students from reputed Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication (SIMC, Pune) completed a six-week internship starting May working with My Himachal in the rural Upper Seraj Valley of Kullu District.
Dushyant Kumar and Maynak Susngi, SIMC students were involved with a number of My Himachal projects which included video documentation of the My Himachal Health Mela, 2010.
Two short PSA-like videos, The Work Continues and Don’t Forget Us, on My Himachal child healthcare efforts working with Jibhi CHAI/Lady Willingdon Hospital were produced.
The interns shot and edited the health mela video PSAs working under the direction of Payson Stevens, Advisory Board member My Himachal.
Working in collaboration with Padam Singh, My Himachal Manager, Dushyant and Mayank also hiked to remote villages and did surveys on two new projects; one focused on gathering written and photographic documentation on the quality of tourist accommodations (hotels, guest cottages, homestays) in the Upper Seraj Valley to support livelihood development in the tourism sector and the other project did surveys in the higher villages so as to assess chronic water shortages and awareness related global warming issues.
“We are under the impression that impacts of climate change have already commenced in Himachal Pradesh,” says Payson, leader of the My Himachal rural water recharge project. “There has been a great deal of variability in weather and monsoon conditions these last few years. Higher villages, especially those without sufficient green cover, are suffering from lack of water. The residents of a number of these villages are now forced to travel 1-3 km each way to get their daily water.
We’re hoping to initiate a My Himachal Water Recharge Pilot (WRP) to see whether traditional and modern techniques can help recharge the micro-water catchments for these villages and help alleviate the problem,” says Payson.
My Himachal advisors, Sanjeeva Pandey and Jessica Wallack, assisted Payson in the development of the survey questions along with input from the NGOs GrassRoots (Uttarakand) and Arghyam (Bangalore). Mayank helped Padam Singh in gathering data from 11 different villages as part of the WRP.
Dushyant assisted Padam in the data collection and photographic documentation for the tourism project visiting 14 accommodations.
Though the My Himachal intern program is in its fourth consecutive year, however, this was the first year SIMC student interns were mentored by the organisation.
Earlier students from the prestigious SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai (SPJIMR Mumbai) have interned with My Himachal at Kullu and Shimla.
Outer Seraj Valley, Kullu: Mal-nutrition coupled with limited access to clean water was telling upon the health of many children in interior Seraj Valley of Kullu; something that a medical camp held in the last week of May and supported by My Himachal found out.
Dr Susan Passah, from Jibhi CHAI hospital who was conducting the 6th yearly Rural Health Mela said, “Of the about 500 children examined during the health camp, many of them were lacking proper nutrition.”
Common diseases that were noticed in the children were worm infection, tonsillitis, dental caries, gastroenteritis and eczema,” said the doctor.
Due to lack of access to clean water, most of them showed symptoms of worms infection and de-worming medicines were handed to all children who got themselves examined at the Mela, she added.
Health supplements to those needing it most were distributed and awareness about health and hygiene was imparted to the villagers.
The doctors from Jibhi CHAI had support from My Himachal volunteers in conducting the 6th Rural Health Mela from 24th – 27th May at four remote villages in Outer Seraj Valley of Kullu
“Men and mostly womenfolk from the village have to walk almost 3 Kms to fetch water daily. This task alone not only consumes a lot of our time but water carried home has to be used very sparingly, she said.
Payson Stevens, founding and advisory board member, My Himachal who was present at the Health Mela said: “The advent of global warming variability in the higher villages, with apparent chronic water shortages and the concomitant impact on child healthcare will only add to the problems in these remote areas.”
“Our work for the last five years has hopefully helped in some small way but the looming issues are still enormous challenges for rural areas, and especially for children,” he said.
In all children of four villages – Teel, Mohini, Pedcha and Garaho in interior Seraj Valley of Kullu were examined by health teams who had to trek long distances uphill to reach these mountain people living in a countryside where motorable roads are still to reach them.
The actors also engaged the children in an interactive session educating them about the food pyramid and what essentially needed to part of their daily diet.
Photo credits: Mayank Susngi
Kullu: We’re in the beautiful rural village of Pedcha where the third day of our rural health camp is underway…the primary school here is bustling with activity…kids singing, playing, learning and being informed and attended to by our health team. Through the medium of Kalajata, a traditional street play, the health team is trying to bring out the importance of health to the children. The motto here is “Hamaara Swasthya, Hamaari Zimmedari” which translates to “Our health is our own responsibility.”
The health workers engaged in an interactive session with the kids, informing them about the nutritional pyramids in their open classrooms i.e open mountainside overlooking snow-capped mountains. We’re hoping that tomorrow’s health camp shall be even more fruitful!
Southwestern College Art Gallery presents a retrospective of the work of Payson R. Stevens. Trained in both art and science, Stevens is a San Diego resident who divides his time annually between the Indian Himalayas and Del Mar, California. ENERGY LANDSCAPES will show paintings and drawings going back to the 1970s in the Main Gallery, as well as Stevens pioneering Interactive multimedia work, computer generated graphics, books and posters in the Student Art Gallery. The Southwestern College show is the first major U. S. exhibit of Stevens work. He has shown his work extensively in India, most recently at the US Embassy, American Center in New Delhi.
Originally trained in molecular biology at the City University of New York and in oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Stevens studied at the Arts Students League and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has been involved with traditional and new media as an artist, designer, writer, and film maker for 40 years.
Stevens founded two award-winning companies, InterNetwork, Inc. and InterNetwork Media, Inc. and was a 1994 recipient of the Presidential Design Award for Excellence from Bill Clinton. He was lead author of “Embracing Earth: New Views of Our Changing Planet,” printed in four languages. He was also contributing author and artist/designer to the award-winning college textbooks “Geology Today” and “Biology Today.” His film credits include a CINE Golden Eagle Award for a National Public Television broadcast script on Antarctica. From 1981 to 1995, Stevens and his company helped develop a series of award-winning Earth science reports, brochures, posters, and multimedia projects for the major U.S. science agencies.
Stevens has continued to do fine art in both traditional and computer-generated formats since 1970. His electrographic art was in many group shows in the 1970s and was published in the first book on this art form, “Copy Art.” His computer art was featured on the SIGGRAPH 83 Art Show Poster and exhibited at SIGGRAPH and other group shows. His computer art was published in the book, “Computer Images: State of the Art,” and is found in corporate and private collections. Stevens is currently painting and drawing in his studio in Del Mar and during annual trips to the Kullu Valley, India where he lives part of the year with his wife, the writer Kamla Kapur.
While living in India, Stevens witnessed the impacts of rural poverty: pervasive child malnutrition, limited immunizations for childhood diseases, and few doctors. Moved by these conditions, he helped found the US and Indian NGO, My Himachal (www.myhimachal.com) with a focus on child health care, education, and environmental conservation. Stevens and My Himachal were recipients of San Diego’s Project Concern International’s “Hands Across the Borders” award in 2008. He has been an advisor to India’s Great Himalayan National Park since 2000.
Opening Reception: January 28, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Artist Talk: January 28, noon – 1 p.m.
Southwestern College Art Gallery
Stevens will discuss his paintings and the synthesis of science, technology and fine art that his characterize his career.
Special Reception: My Himachal Fundraiser: February 21, 2010, 2 -5 p.m.
Join the SWC Gallery as it hosts a special reception to raise funds for Stevens’ NGO, My Himacal. Well-known adventurer, television personality and Fortune 500 motivational speaker Dr. Jeff Salz will host the event and discuss Stevens’ work in India. All proceeds from the sale of the artwork will be donated to My Himachal to help fund childhood health, malnutrition projects and preparing rural villagers for the impacts of climate change.
The exhibit will be open to the public from January 28 to February 24 (Monday-Thursday 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Wednesday/Thursday 6-8 p.m. Parking is free on the day of the receptions. The gallery is closed on college holidays).
Southwestern College Art Gallery
900 Otay Lakes Road
Chula Vista, CA 91910-7297
Gallery: 619.421.6700 ext. 5383