Kala Pola, Sri Lanka’s annual open-air art fair, turned Colombo into a riot of colour for the 23rd time, shining a spotlight on a variety of visual artists of Sri Lanka. Organised by The George Keyt Foundation and the John Keells Group, Kala Pola 2016 took place on 31st January 2016. 308 registered artists and over 22,000 estimated visitors flocked into Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 7 which was adorned with a variety of art, ranging from breath-taking paintings and life-like portraits to abstract art and intricate sculptures.

Gracing the official ceremony as chief guest was Dr. Jürgen Morhard, the German Ambassador for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, the Chairman and Trustees of The George Keyt Foundation and the Chairman of John Keells Holdings PLC, Susantha Ratnayake.
Addressing the gathering, Dr. Jürgen Morhard said, “It’s always impressive for us to witness that Sri Lanka is not only rich in nature and its wonderful people, but is also rich in creativity. Sri Lanka at the moment is a fast growing country…But there is something beyond economic controls. What a city which wants to attract international tourism needs is a `soul’. The `soul of a city’ comes from its creative side, it comes from artists… All those who are here, the sponsors [and the artists], thank you! You are changing the city with this activity and you are making a difference in Sri Lanka.”

Cedric De Silva, Chairman of The George Keyt Foundation, said, “This year too Kala Pola caught the attention of many artists and art-loving public, enabling a platform to appreciate and exchange works of art. We estimate that this event has generated over Rs. 13 million in sales, excluding what might have been commissioned by potential buyers. Our sincere thanks to John Keells Holdings and the John Keells Foundation for their commitment towards making this event a continued success for the artists and the art-loving public of Sri Lanka over the past two decades.”

Ms. Nadija Tambiah, Head of CSR, John Keells Holdings PLC said, “We are enormously encouraged by the continuing success of this event in achieving our objective of empowering Sri Lankan artists by providing a platform for talented painters and sculptors to market their art, enabling not only the promotion of their career, but an appreciation and patronage of art among the public. It is encouraging to see art lovers, whether students, patrons, collectors, designers or general public from various parts of the country visiting Kala Pola, truly highlighting the reach and significance of this event.”

Kala Pola 2016 also included a Kids’ Art Corner, attracting 184 child artists. This year the Kids’ Art Corner was aided by teachers of the Cora Abraham Art School while children from “The Dream” – the Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy – also showcased their art. The evening segment of Kala Pola, included lively performances by the acclaimed Ravibandhu Vidyapathi Drum Ensemble and Music Matters Collective with their innovative blend of jazz and experimental fusion.

Kala Pola 2016 was supported by a dedicated team of 91 staff volunteers from across the John Keells Group. Kala Pola Volunteer, Amie Peiris said, “I have always had an interest in art, so volunteering for ‘Kala Pola’ was a really enjoyable experience. I loved speaking to the artists – each one of them had a unique story to tell! I felt really proud to have been a part of something that enabled their work to be showcased.”

John Keells Volunteers also helped Kala Pola artists to register on, Sri Lanka’s first and only corporate digital art gallery. The website enables Sri Lankan artists to showcase and market their work throughout the year to local and foreign buyers. Kala Pola takes place in January each year and artists interested in participating can contact The George Keyt Foundation or John Keells Foundation.

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