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Keshav Khanna

IWB Blogger

Prerna Jain Gave Up All The Perks Of A High Paying Job In US To Save Local Art

  • IWB Post
  •  June 10, 2017


It’s hard not to fall in love with the local art from around the world, but could you imagine someone giving up their entire lifestyles for the local artisans?

When Prerna Jain quit her job in the US to live in Jaipur to get the local artists their dues, we were kind of surprised. But then again, who wouldn’t give their hearts to a blue pottery vase or a Sanganeri Print blanket or maybe intricately created silver showpieces?!

From the Phad paintings of ancient Mewar to the Sanganeri print of today’s Jaipur, they’ve all got a certain Rajasthani Charm to them that is self-evident.

However, let’s give you a test. Can you name just one Rajasthani artist? The odds are that if you aren’t an artist yourself, you’ll not be able to answer that question.

This is where the Maukaa Foundation steps in. Initiatives like Maukaa are trying to stem this death of traditional Indian art styles. “Safeguarding Indian art forms from extinction” is their motto and they aim to create an ecosystem for artists where they can practice and create art. We spoke to Prerna to discuss the often-ignored issue.

Talk to us about the difference your life went through after you moved from the corporate to the creative sector.

Prerna: I worked for amazing companies when I was in the corporate sector. My stint with Deloitte was the longest. I was very comfortable. I used to work in good offices, travel First Class and stay in 5-star hotels. I was used to a certain standard of life. Now, it’s very different. I am essentially roaming the scorching hot streets of Jaipur meeting artists and talking to them and learning art forms from them. It’s just very different. My bank balance itself is a testament to how much my life has changed (laughs). 

How did your family react when you told them that you were quitting your job in the US to come to work with artists in Jaipur?

Prerna: Honestly they still don’t understand. I mean my family too saw how comfortable my life was back in the US. They enjoyed the perks of it as much as I did. Now they look at me and my lifestyle, and I think they hope for my return to the US. They have given me a 6-month deadline for if this doesn’t work out.img_4 (1)

Funding has been a real problem for the Maukaa foundation. Just starting a project, requires a lot of money. Talk about how your experience has been raising money.

Prerna: Yes, funding is a real matter of worry for Maukaa, because, in India, art isn’t institutionalized. So we have to consider varied sources to raise funds. I approached an incubator initially, but that didn’t work out. We’re trying to find serious investors or companies that might take this up as their CSR. But right now we’re focused on crowd-funding. We have set up a crowd-funding page and already raised Rs. 80,000!

Crowd-funding is my preferred form of raising money because you’re connecting with real people. So not only are they donating money but they are also getting educated about it. That is a win-win.img_5 (1)

What were your other struggles? What personal fears did you have when you took this leap?

Prerna: Initially when I began talking to the artists in Jaipur, they were very reluctant and hesitant to be a part of Maukaa. That was a real challenge. I had to convince them about what Maukaa wanted to do, and it was a lot of work.

Personally, I didn’t face many challenges because I am not scared of change. I enjoy taking up new initiatives and ventures. This was exciting to me.

How do things work at Maukaa? Do fixed salaries imply that their artwork is owned by the foundation?

Prerna: Yes, so we pay fixed salaries to the artists. That was necessary to offer when I was in talks with them in the beginning. They were also initially reluctant to do take this up. And more importantly, didn’t understand the value of their artworks. Currently, we offer them prices for their that are higher than the market values. But yes, somewhere along the road we’d like to hire artists on a permanent basis.img_2 (1)

Institutionalization of art is a struggle in our country. But you studied art in countries where Art is indeed institutionalized. What do you think should be done about that?

Prerna: Oh there’s a lot that can be done by everyone really. There is an urgent need to create a whole ecosystem around Indian art. First of all, there is a need to create a marketplace. There has indeed been the commercialization of art, but you need demand for art to be there. To do that you need to create awareness among the youth. Young people today are earning more than ever, but they aren’t told about the gems of Indian art that exist. For instance, schools in the West have museum visits as regular features of their curriculum. Why isn’t that the case in India?

The Government, too, can play its part by instituting programs for artists and artisans. There is a pressing need for Art residencies in this country. Our final goal is to create something akin to the Art League in New York City, over here in Jaipur. Every state has its own respective artforms, those must be appreciated.

Talk to us about how Maukaa has influenced the life of an artist.

Prerna: Well we’ve only been up and running for about 6-months now. That is a very short duration to truly judge the potential Maukaa has to influence the lives of artists. But I can tell you what we have done. We’ve given artists creative spaces to explore their art. Many hadn’t ever worked on a large scale! We had an artist called Harish Chandra Sen who worked in a small workshop near Hawa Mahal. We collaborated with him to get more artists under our umbrella.img_3 (1)

Their work indeed shows a lot of improvement.

Finally, could you tell us who your favorite artist is?

Prerna: Oh God. That’s a tough one because there are so many. (Ponders for a minute) I am going to go the clichéd way and say Leonardo da Vinci. I absolutely adore the mysterious amalgamation of Art and Science in his work. It’s truly breathtaking. In Miniature Indian Art, I love the Ved Pal Bano, he has crafted his own style of miniature Indian art. Then there is Manjunath Kamat, he’s outstanding. I also love the work of Astha Butial who has a modern contemporary style.

Prerna believes that if immediate attention isn’t paid to these artists, their artwork faces a sad demise in about 10 years. With it will be the end of the remnants of the Golden years of Indian Art.img_1 (1)

Not many people leave their cushy jobs in developed countries to come back and work on saving Indian Art from extinction. India has a rich tradition of art, and this undoubtedly deserves much attention. We applaud Prerna for her wonderful initiative and wish her all the success with it.

If you’d like to donate money to the Maukaa Foundation, click here.

For more information about Indian Art Forms, visit their website here.

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