Part of the perks of being an artist of any kind is knowing other interesting and talented people. You also find yourself constantly being updated on what’s going on in the quirky community. One such thing I’d been hearing about recently was this thing called PFA: Platform For Artists. True to their name, this community tries to bring together artists and art enthusiasts of all kinds via open mic events and conference-like meet ups. They’re active throughout the country, breaking into Agra, Pune, Indore, Bangalore, Mysore, Goa, and a lot of other places. There’s usually an entry fee, but that’s only because spaces aren’t free. They’re not for profit or charity.
On the morning of January 20, 2018, Nanditha Vijayaraghavan called me to ask for a favor. I knew it was for PFA, and I’d participated/volunteered at one of the open mics. She told me about their initiative Art All Night. This was an interesting idea I hadn’t heard of. Art All Night was an artists’ meetup with a twist. People who registered would be put in a room between 9 pm to 9 am, where they would collaborate, create, converse, and connect with each other. There would also be some surprise guest speakers, who would talk about their experiences within their respective fields. A completely informal, interactive, informative FAQ of sorts.
So, when Nanditha called asking for a favor, I started going through the list of people I knew who were qualified enough to talk about their journey with art. I wasn’t expecting her to ask me to be one of the speakers for the PFA event happening that night. I was excited, and immediately said I’ll be there. My session was scheduled for 2 am. I was happy that tonight, I wouldn’t be staying up alone. It was my ultimate insomniac’s fantasy. But, I was also slightly confused. I kept asking myself, “Have their standards dropped, or have I made it in life?”
Some questions are best left unanswered.
January 20 was going to be a busy day for me. I had to juggle two shows between 7 pm and 9 pm, and had just enough time to have dinner before reaching Wandering Artist (Chennai Comedy produces stand-up comedy shows at Wandering Artist every first Saturday of the month, follow the page for updates), the venue for PFA’s Art All Night. I got there before midnight. I had promised to be early, and I was planning on staying till the end. I wasn’t able to catch the first speaker session, because we can’t always have everything we want.
As soon as I stepped into the room, I counted at least 15 individuals buzzing with curiosity and newfound friendship. There was someone with a flute, another with a stringed instrument that I thought was a mandolin (I was later told it was a ukulele), some brought stationery, and there were others who’d just brought themselves. As a comedian, it was nothing new for me to walk into a room full of strangers and get them to listen to me complain about my life. But, today was going to be different.
When it was time for my session, I sat down on a chair in full view of everyone and gave them a little introduction of myself. By the time I was done, I felt like I knew all of them, and they knew me. There were a lot of interesting questions thrown at me, and I knew I was being taken seriously. These people were not an audience. They were all artists in their own right.
The other speaker session was by Ram Keshav, who had by now become the star of my latest brom-com. Ram Keshav is a photographer who is currently working on a project on body positivity. I’m not a click-savvy person. I handle cameras like I’d handle guns – I’ll point and shoot, and not claim any responsibility for my actions. But, even I got to learn something out of his session. Now, I respect photography and photographers a lot more.
By the time it was 9 am, everyone was a little sleep deprived and waiting to head home. We shook hands and exchanged numbers, and promised to meet again some other time. The best thing about Art All Night is the simple fact that nobody came in knowing what was going to happen and left feeling like they had been part of something special. And, that’s exactly how art works. It begins as a clueless experiment fueled by curiosity and perseverance, and with enough patience results in something beautiful and private.
Platform For Artists is a great initiative, and it’s about time we had a community like this looking out for people waiting for a chance to discover the artist within. So, get in touch, and be a part of something new. No pressure!