Last week, dancer and former Kalakshetra Foundation director Leela Samson had criticised the management of the arts and culture academy in Chennai for allowing the institute’s campus to be misused. In a Facebook post that seems to have since been deleted, the artist said that the institute’s classrooms were being used for the “sales of vegetables, clothes, food – including non-veg food items being sold under the sacred banyan tree, the very heart of the institute.”

The controversy began after a recent event to promote sustainable living at the institute’s premises. Reports said a flash mob had been held at the event.

Samson also wrote that the wooding flooring at the institute was being damaged because of commercial structures built in the classroom. had reported on the Facebook post and had also spoken to Samson.

N Gopalaswami, the Chairman of the Kalakshetra Foundation, responds to the allegations and speaks about the event at the centre of the controversy.

In keeping with our general approach to renting our premises to culturally inclined institutions or for genuine social causes, the Kalakshetra premises were rented to Reciprocity Foundation, headed by the architect Sheela Sriprakash, for a festival on the themes of organic food, Yoga and Pranayam, water and waste management, urban farming, conservation and renewable energy. The administration had no reason to suspect any likely inappropriate use in view of the fact that the same institution was given the premises on rent last year too and further, the themes indicated by them are all current, appropriate and in fact are the ones that are championed by Government Of India.

But in light of the fact that the institution had not maintained the sanctity of the premises in the highest traditions of Kalakshetra (the reference here is to the not-so-elegant impromptu dance), the administration, apart from expressing its disapproval, has also informed them that hereafter, their institution’s request for space in Kalakshetra will not be entertained. I have also advised the administration to get not only get text but the sub-text of the proposed use before giving out the premise on rent.

I may also mention that some unscrupulous elements are playing on sentiments by spreading false information and rumours that non-vegetarian food was supplied and that wooden dance floors were damaged. These are utter lies but the most regrettable part is that a former director has lent her voice to these unfounded rumours and she did not have the courtesy of first checking facts independently or by contacting an official of the administration. 

– N Gopalaswami, Chairman, Kalakshetra Foundation