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Dip into this culture curry, Mumbai-style

Atmika Didwania (24) and Pia Shivdasani (24) decided to combine their passions to start a space that would give people the freedom of creative expression. Didwania is a film school graduate while Shivdasani worked in an events company. When these two High School friends sat together and brainstormed about starting a venture, they came up with Ave 29 at Hughes Road.


Toddlers art class at The Art Loft

“We wanted to open a place that serves as a platform for people to follow their interests and express their creativity. Ave 29 is such a space that lends itself to a range of events ranging from workshops and seminars to corporate meets, art shows, travelling shows, stand-up acts, private dining parties, karaoke sessions and sundowners,” says Didwania, adding that Mumbai is a space-starved city and this gallery can act as an artsy, fun, creative space that can be used in myriad ways. Ave 29 is also given out to people to conduct different activities and events there.


Photography workshop at NCPA

Win-win situation
Apart from Ave 29, the city boasts of several other venues that operate on similar lines, offering a range of short-term activities. Take Extra Mile Cafe in Khar, for example. This culture hub opened its doors on July 7 this year; it offers sessions in self-defence, creative writing, photography and styling conducted by experts. Founder Pooja Chadha (25) believes that such places offer Mumbaikars an avenue to explore their varied passions. “In today’s time-starved world, city folk have no time to pursue an interest in depth.


Make-up and styling workshop at Extra Mile Cafe

They prefer short-term courses, which give them a taste of everything. Today, most people want to learn something, and there are many people out there who are willing to teach. That’s why such a model works,” she explains.

According to her, the free workshops conducted at Extra Mile every Monday helps familiarise crowds with what their range of activities, where some opt for paid workshops. “Offering a bouquet of workshops ensures that business risks are minimised as there is something for everyone here,” she adds.
Didwania adds that for recreation these days people opt for a creative activity instead of dropping by a club or a restaurant: “They prefer to widen their interests and skill set, which serves as their entertainment fix for the week.”


Baking workshop at Ave 29

Platform for all
Bandra-based Temperance, which opened three months back, boasts of workshops in Russian ballet, Zumba, Jiu-jitsu, Sufi Whirling, Poi and yoga, among others. Founder Viola Wadia believes that the sprouting of such cultural spaces is not a trend but an evolution. “People are exposed to a variety of things today. There is a need for such places as Mumbaikars need other avenues of entertainment and networking apart from dinners and movies,” she states.


A dance ballet workshop at Temperance. Pic/ Satyajit Desai 

The Art Loft, in Bandra, can perhaps be regarded as the forerunner in starting such venues that offer a range of workshops. Leila Tayebaly started The Art Loft two years ago. “I was looking at a space where people can express all forms of art. The aim was to allow people to express themselves through simple workshops instead of enrolling in long academic courses. The Art Loft is a platform for people to change and express through art,” she says.

The Art Loft offers many short-term workshops in baking, mixology, ceramic paintings, spray-painting and more. This apart, they offer a range of long-term courses on art therapy, photography, fine arts, acting and dance. They also let the space out for people who would like to organise workshops or art-related events. “People can organise their events but it has to be related to art or culture,” she clarifies.

Old favourite
While most city based cultural hubs are relatively new, the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) has been around since 1965. Recently, they have started short-term workshops in disciplines including Kalaripayattu (Indian martial art form), magic, theatre, dance, music and photography. Amrita Lahiri, Head Programming (Dance), NCPA says, “Mumbaikars have a busy lifestyle and workshops suit people because the time commitment is short.

Also, there are certain aspects of dance, which can be learnt best in an intensive dose. When we bring in instructors from outside Mumbai, the best way to benefit from their teaching is to have a workshop. For first-timers, workshops provide a way to get a taste of the art form, to try it out, before committing to it.”

Each of these organisers mentioned that their workshops were selected based on the interest shown by their audience. Towards that end, they seek feedback on mediums such as Twitter and Facebook.

While selecting the instructors, most do a thorough check on their training and expertise. “We choose good teachers who know the subject well, and are able to communicate it effectively to the participants, while still keeping it interactive and enjoyable. The most important thing is to have a teacher who knows the subject well and is passionate about sharing that knowledge,” adds Lahiri.

To put things into perspective, Lahiri says, “Short-term workshops are more widespread now. Obviously, many people have caught on to the commercial/marketing advantages of workshops. In Mumbai, people are always willing to learn new things and experiment. Doing short workshops is their way of utilising leisure time well.” We’ll believe. 

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