The Sikh Art Gallery in Norwich seeks to connect with community

"The gallery is full of beautiful artwork....

The small, one-story building sits on a commercially zoned street just around the corner from Backus Hospital in Norwich. At one time, it probably contained a medical clinic or dental practice.

Now, it provides succor in another context.

It's home to the Sikh Art Gallery, and within the compact layout is in fact plenty of artwork. As a relatively new business, the gallery is at present a COVID-era work in progress, awaiting larger traveling exhibitions and shows devoted to specific artists for when the pandemic subsides. Until then, visitors are allowed by appointment only.

But the gallery also serves as a welcome center, library, and headquarters from whence Swaranjit "Singh" Khalsa, the owner, does his estimable part to introduce Sikh culture and history to southeastern Connecticut. At the same time, Khalsa says, "It's not just about familiarizing the region with our community, but also educating our Sikh community about Connecticut and America. This is our home now. We want to be good Sikhs and honor Punjab, but we want to be good Americans and honor America."...

....None of the artwork presently in the gallery is for sale, which is by design. "Eventually, we will have traveling exhibits and show work by artists, some of whom will offer pieces for sale," Khalsa says. But the core group of art on display "is a resource for visitors who want to learn more about Sikhism or for schools or cultural groups who would like to see it.

"We needed a place to fully express ourselves on a variety of issues. I treat art and music and language as important opportunities to connect with one another. Art is something that brings an instant reaction or emotions, and we hope ours is in a positive way."

"We want people to think of this gallery as a place to come together, to have a cup of coffee, and to learn about one another," Khalsa says. "We are blessed to have this place, and our mission is to educate and be educated — not to proselytize." He points at the welcome sign. "Our religion welcomes diversity."

"The gallery is full of beautiful artwork. The colors are amazing, unique and symbolic," says Norwich mayor Peter Nystrom, who has spoken at numerous events in support of the Sikh community and will deliver remarks in Hamden at a March 14 event commemorating the Sikh flag and New Year. He adds, "More than just a place to see art, though, the gallery demonstrates Singh's commitment to his faith and his cause — which is to unite everyone. I've known him since 2010 and consider him a friend. He's a nice young man with a wonderful family, and the history of what Sikhs have faced and continue to face is somethng we all need to understand."...

...Understanding through art

"We're trying to preserve our history and, if people are curious, we're here to provide for them," Khalsa says. "These small efforts — and this gallery — are helping gain exposure. And Norwich — the community, the schools and libararies, and the government and businesses — has been extremely welcoming and responsive. We're hoping NFA and other schools in the district will be interested in learning about us, and we are happy to provide materials and artwork to those institutions."

"I had the honor of taking a tour at the gallery," says Angela Adams, executive director of the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce. "Singh has been a great partner not only to our local businesses but to our community as well. I look forward to learning more about the culture and ways the chamber can help support their mission and raise awareness about their religion."

"I have such hopes for this place in many ways," Khalsa says, waving his arm around the gallery in a paternal gesture. "At the same time, just look at this art work. Sometimes, I remember to just stop and think how beautiful it all is."

 

If you go

What: Sikh Art Gallery

Where: 7 Clinic Drive, Norwich

Hours: By appointment only during pandemic

Virtual tour: Available at www.SikhArtGallery.com

For more information: (757) 291-5211, (860) 410-6005, [email protected]">[email protected]

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