Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m Nikhil Hemrajani – an arts entrepreneur from Mumbai, India, visiting Berlin for the next few weeks.
In Mumbai, I run my own experimental blackbox space called Sitara Studio. I stepped in four years ago with an impassioned plan to convert the defunct film studio, with minimal intervention, into an active and vibrant space for performance art. The passion is still strong today, and Sitara is definitely heading in the right direction.
In the past four years, Sitara Studio has carved a name for itself as an alternative venue that programmes relevant and thought-provoking content. Now I want to build on that reputation by finding our own voice through the curation, and by adding consistency and regularity into the mix.
Last year, I was selected amongst a group of other participants from South Asia for a fellowship programme called ARThink South Asia, which is run in India by the Goethe Institut, British Council and KHOJ Foundation (New Delhi). The idea behind the fellowship is to help arts professionals make a sustainable career from the arts. The first part of the programme was a two-week residency comprising lectures and project work that took place in May 2016.
I’m now at the second phase of the fellowship, where I do a ‘secondment’ – a sort of short transfer to another organisation. This is so I may observe and learn skills that could help me run my venture when I return.
I think this stage is quite essential as it can offer clarity and objectivity that would otherwise be difficult to acquire. A secondment could also allow me to solve problems without the burden of responsibility that comes from running one’s own venue.
The kind folks at ACUD have generously offered to host my secondment, and I’m grateful for that. I think ACUD is ideal for me as it has many similarities to Sitara Studio: it is a multidisciplinary arts space independently run by a small group of individuals. Some of the pressing areas at ACUD, such as sustainable programming and audience development, are the same at Sitara Studio. It would be edifying to compare methods, and see how both ACUD and Sitara Studio are able to programme and create an audience database.
I’m also happy to collaborate, and make inroads into a country and culture that I otherwise would not have access to. The idea of a cultural exchange between two venues is exciting, especially in this time of globalisation.
I’ll be around at ACUD till Saturday, May 13th, so please stop by and say hi if you’re around. If you have any questions on India’s independent scene for music and art, I’m happy to give you my opinion!