Time now to write about the making of the staircase exhibition at Inorbit mall - the big thing for me. This happened in Feb, 2011.
My dream is to have a lot of exhibitions along staircases on arts and social issues, especially at workplaces. We could use some more creativity and expression at workplaces. We are way past the cigar and black suit days, when emotions were seen as a weakness. In fact, I have never even seen those days and can bet the young guys would hate more & more if pushed into that work environment. And even if they have to wear black suits, they wont smoke cigars or like acting stiff faced. People are more and more expressive these days. These are some things organizations accept, and once that happens, they can even utilize it to make their work culture, happier, more open and better.
Now coming back to the exhibition. It started off in December and I was facing a tough time getting through to MNC companies. I know they have their reasons and I have my causes - to make this thing happen. So someone said, buddy, you do it in malls. Well I keep hearing people asking me to do the exhibition stuff in apartments, hospitals, jewelery stores, schools etc etc. The mall thing made sense, because I wanted to do an exhibition on handlooms. An exhibition at a mall, would give me that opportunity demo my idea and also to sell products for an NGO - make social impact.
Inorbit mall agreed host our exhibition, but left us only few (9) days to get sponsors. We had a great venue, many footfalls guaranteed, an interesting concept - but the sponsors would not agree. But when its your idea, you got to make it happen, and make it happen as good as you can. So even though I didn't have sponsors, I was working with people who work very creatively, and work for making things happen (rather than making profits only). That was the prime reason that I was able to pull up such a professional exhibition, on my first go. It took a lot of effort from me, but I got an opportunity to take a lead and make it happen. You could do it in software or finance (etc) too, but its easier to see things when doing an event.
The first couple of tasks were to (1) prepare an idea on how to prepare the staircase for exhibition, (2) talk to friends/work/partner colleagues about the opportunity and find people who can provide certain deliverables, and (3) find sponsors to meet the costs. I found 3 people who were actively involved in separate tasks - Pankaj to suggest on staircase interiors, Lakshmi to curate and Ruchi to work on the posters. I worked/coordinated with each of them, and being on the job, has been a very good learning experience.
I had to face disappointment, in finding the sponsors. Though I identified companies who could partner and would benefit from a concept like mine, I could not get their support. Quite a good amount of time went into the exercise, but its all a part of learning experience. It makes me feel a little sad that I neither got the monetary support, nor a feedback on the proposal. We must have had a footfall of about 15-20K in the stall area and about 2-3K in the staircase area (besides that so many more people saw our posters). But I can only hope that, now that I have pulled up a show; the next time some pics will do the convincing. PS... some news paper interviews might help too :-)
The last days were most interesting. A day before the exhibition, we had to change the interior idea - as events unfolded. So we started off trying out the things we had at hand. We took a rope and wrapped around the staircase handle. I didnt like it very much, but something is better than nothing. Then we took another rope did some more wrapping at the other end. The middle area was ropeless but seemed okay. Pankaj got an idea to tie remaining ropes vertically, which brought out an architectural effect. Meanwhile we were helped by 2 volunteers - Anshuka and Vijay - and I cant thank them enough. I learnt an important lesson to know when not to take a break. I hope I can recall it when such a time arises again.
When everyone was leaving at 10PM, a day before the exhibition, I decided to stay back until I completed the decor. I certainly wanted it to be a damn good exhibition, and thinking of it over and over again had brought me that sense of ownership. And it was an interesting experience to stay in the mall for the whole night and work like one of others who were working there. It was funny, because the guards would come again and again, and act like big bosses - suggesting you should start cleaning now. So then I asked them what are their responsibilities and if this was one of them, etc, the bosses shrugged away. Later we made better friends (everyone appreciates hardwork), so turns out, they did not like the cleaners complaining about cleaning after people who work in nights. I did not get it completely still, but expect the cleaner to be a lady - so our Mr.Guard tell her how he bossed me. Later, I did clean the bigger stuff, like an empty adhesive tube or a can of something, etc. I completed more than of the decors around 2'clock and decided to take a break. I saw a lot of people working in the malls at night - carpenters, event managers, guards, etc.
Next day I never got the time to go home. I received the NGO and arranged tables/chairs for them. By the time I got out of the mall, it was closing 10:30am. I needed to get easels. Unluckily before I could do that, I lost phone. I went to get out a carrier, who was on a midway to another delivery. He said it would take 20 mins and I climbed up and even fell asleep for 30-40 mins in the small cabin. Thats all I slept and rested in next 12 hours. When I got the easels back, I had to carry each of them to the exhibition area and from there to different places of the mall. If figured its just easy to carry it there, then to get more mall management involved for a simple trolly, that the guy in charge wouldn't give me. So I got back and found Pankaj there. We fixed up some photographs that were falling down from the walls. I had to do this thing for entire 2 days. Better walls & tapes for the next time.
So that night I went back home past 11, took a shower after 40 hours, and slept a little later. Because of the toil of the exhibition, I call it my first marathon (done few half's earlier). I think, I must have climbed over a 100 floors, walking up and down along the pictures.
I did a few more interesting things during my exhibition.
Pressed with time before the exibition, I had taken great pains to invite the press. And they did come, only to take photograph about the stall (& salesmen) and none of the staircase exhibition. OH Boy! These press photographers are always in such a hurry, dont even spend a bare minimum time to find out whats actually going on. So I was pissed off initially, and wondered if the salesmen from the village, sneaked their photographs in and kept me out by not telling the photographer about the staircases. But I soon got over it. Well I can get in paper some or another day; there is greater advantage to keeping a secret identity. The salesmen looked cool on the newspapers and must have bragged about it to friends back home ("see wifey! got featured in not 1, but 2 very popular telgu newspapers"). :-)
I gave a lot of guided tours to people. It was fun taking to children and grownups. Since many photographs were falling off the wall, I constantly carried a scissor and a tape, to fix them while giving the guided tours. The guided tours were about how handlooms are made and with discussions about the issues faced by weavers. Such sensitization is required to preserve these skills in the longer run.
PS - the sales from the stall at the exhibition were to a tune of 43K in two days.