February 21, 2021 “Save our Stages & Coppersmiths’ Alley”
Chris Brown & Priya Krishnan Das
Today we heard from reportage proposal winners Christopher Brown and Priya Krishnan Das. Chris and Priya both responded to last season’s call for reportage proposals to present during season two of USk Talks. We also discussed the new Reportage Grant offered by Urban Sketchers. USk is offering a small monetary award to develop your idea for a project that tells a story and inspires our community, to highlight the best examples of these efforts and to inspire new artist-reporters in our community. The selected projects will be featured on USk channels, which may or may not include USk Talks. Visit this link for more information and send your proposals by 1 May, 2021.
|Chris Brown / Priya Krishnan|
Christopher Brown joined us from New York City to tell us about his reportage project, Save Our Stages. Chris is a lighting designer and technician who spent most of his career in Off-Broadway theaters. He has been documenting what the performance scene is like now, after almost a year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He started the project in late summer 2020 after returning to work at MOMA, where he does lighting and technical support for the performance studio. On breaks he would take walks and notice all of the empty venues, many of which had messages of hope or defiance on their marquees. He began to capture these venues – their facades or stage doors, or juxtaposed with their surroundings of bodegas or the belongings of an unhoused person. The venues he selected show a variety of types of venues – some famous, some historic, some small and struggling. Chris also interviewed people in the industry and ancillary industries about how they are faring, and found some despair, some hope, and some creatively repositioning themselves to continue to work in this uncertain time.
The theater industry was hit hard by the pandemic, with the venues originally closing on March 13, 2020, for what they thought would be a few weeks. Nearly a year later venues are still closed, but some have found creative ways to use their space. One theater has been able to repurpose as a food bank, using the organizational infrastructure already in place to help others.
Priya Krishnan Das
Priya Krishnan Das joined us from Pune, India, to talk about Pune’s Coppersmiths’ Alley, also known as Tambat Ali, and her reportage project about this historical place and industry. We learned that the art of coppersmithing has been a part of India for 3,000 years, and this community of coppersmiths migrated to this area in Pune about 400 years ago.
Priya spent time with a community of coppersmiths, about 50 who live and work in one part of Tambat Ali, showing “everything coexisting” – tools, men working with copper, laundry hanging to dry, shoes, bicycles, and members of extended families working together. She also captured the women in the community and the work they do to run the households and support the efforts of their families’ handicraft.
Priya’s sketches and stories showed us the ways that some families are dealing with the decline of traditional handicrafts – one sketch portrays a young coppersmith who quit his job at a bank to work with his father to help keep the craft alive. Another story told of a father telling his son not to continue the trade because of the low wages.
She also showed us how the coppersmiths are a part of the community – they started a library that serves as a community space with seating for elderly patrons and low membership fees open to everyone. This very comprehensive reportage shows how the coppersmiths of Tambat Ali live, work, worship, and participate in their community.
Challenge: Sketch it Before it’s Gone
Draw, document and tell the story of an endangered industry that you hope to see revived and saved.
When you share your USk Talks Challenge sketches on Instagram, use the hashtags #usktalks and #usktalkschallenge and tag Chris @cbrown_sketchhouse and Priya @purplesoulart. Follow Chris, Priya, and our hashtags on Instagram, too!