Starved For Art

It was a hot summer day in Dubai, when I parked my car outside O concept Jumeriah (one of my favorite meeting places) I had just finished meeting with a difficult client (By difficult, I mean someone who dances on your every nerve) So I was really hoping that my meeting at O concept would be nothing like the one I just encountered and survived. I walked in to find Ramya Sreekumar, SreeKumar and Sapphire Fernandes patiently waiting, they were on time. It was already looking like a good start to the meeting, so I got to where they were seated and we started talking. They were all keen on working on an Art Show that was unique and like no other in the region. They stressed on the point that Painters and Photographers get a lot of opportunities to exhibit but unconventional Artists like Comic, Graphic, Cartoonists, 3D designers, and more are left with no venues or even shows to participate. I completely empathized with their concern and we started Brain Storming, that meeting were the seeds that planted ART NATION.

Power Puff Girls -( L to R) Ramya, Sapphy, Ash, Sonia and Zar
Power Puff Girls -( L to R) Ramya, Sapphy, Ash, Sonia and Zar

After leaving the meeting, I was bubbling with ideas, thoughts and of course energy. So my calls to my events team started and we all became the ART NATION TEAM. The Founding members were, Ashitha Sangeeth, Ramya SreeKumar, Sonia Bharat Kumar, Sapphire Fernandes and moi! (We felt like the Power Puff Girls – saving the Planet with ART)

By now our enthusiastic team had further developed the concept and we all decided that Art Nation will include Live Artists sections where Artists could freely express themselves and paint, draw, built freely in an artist friendly environment.

Fascinating Art
Fascinating Art

We would also open space for Art exhibition, where selected Artworks could be displayed, including paintings, Graphics, Comic Art, Furniture, Lighting and anything that was creative and unconventional was welcomed.

The Pipers at ART NATION
The Pipers at ART NATION

To ensure we were fair, we also decided that Art Nation will have a Performing Stage, where Talented Performing Artists, Rappers, Dancers, Singers, Rock Bands and more could perform and promote their talent to a wider audience.

Brandon Fernandes's Work
Brandon Fernandes’s Work

By now, the confidence in this project was high and all involved were excited to start looking for the right  Venue that would welcome us with open arms. In my mind that we were a shoe in, I mean look at what we were about to offer the world! With so many of us starved to see appetizing Art, I really thought this was going to be a breeze.

So, we all got in to my Armada and drove the streets of Dubai, it was from Al Qouz to Jafza, from Knowledge Village to Academic City, the days turned in to weeks and the weeks well you can gather that this was taking a while. We were out pitching to Venues and sometimes proposing to get sponsors. Wherever we went, we got a similar answer, hey what a great concept but we are currently booked and won’t be able to give you the space for the show.  By now, we knew Al Serkal like the back of our hand and we were well versed with the beach Road too.

Makeup Artists at Art Nation
Makeup Artists at Art Nation

On one of our meetings, we got terribly lost, not because of my lack of navigation skills but by a map provided to us that was out dated and so after breaking a few traffic laws (sorry to any cops reading this, I really had no idea it was a one way) We got to the office of a prospective Sponsor – who over the phone said they were extremely keen to sponsor. So of course, me being the entrepreneur had started calculating the level of sponsorship and made points in my head for my offer to support the deal and hopefully seal it at the meeting too. So my spirits were still high when getting in to the meeting, we were now seated at the reception. We managed to get there on time and now were subjected to wait for what seemed like an eternity, (if anyone knows me, they know the best way to tick me off is making me wait or worst showing up late to a meeting) anyways back to my waiting, the longer we waited, the more everyone’s spirit lulled, but I had to make sure that I kept it together, I along with Sapphire were going to be doing most of the talking, so I did manage to keep my head cool. Finally, came Madame X, so she sat down and didn’t apologize, now I was a little ticked off, I could feel my ears getting warm…anyways, I started pitching the Event details, I went through the dates, the ideas, the whole concept and also showed a video. She kept quiet through the whole pitch, and being a real poker face that she was, I had no clue where this was going. And you all have to hear the next part, she said, “it’s a wonderful event, I will tell you what, I can offer you Donuts for your event!” Believe me, that what she said, I thought I was going deaf and asked her to repeat and she said, I can offer you about 50 Donuts – would that work for your event? I looked at her in utter shock and replied, thank you so much, that’s very kind of you. Let us have a think about your generous offer and we will revert to you!!!!!!!

I think a million brain cells of mine died after that meeting, I couldn’t believe that no one cared for the Starving Artists and when all hope seemed to fade. Out of no where, I get a call from  Leejo Meera Kuriakose a good friend of mine, who was working for none other than Global Village and she wasn’t alone, I also had another friend,  Ramee Indrarajan working at Global Village. I hadn’t even thought of them as a venue till that call. Once I got an appointment to meet their team, I also made a new friend in their Events Director at the time, Mr. Abhishek Mathur, one of most incredible men I have come across, his vision and acceptance to change is overwhelmingly refreshing and its only because of Global Village’s support that we were able to feed our Starved Artists with an Art Show called ART NATION!

Jennifer Stelco - Does 20 Paintings in an attempt to Break a record of Speed Painting! Our months of hard work had finally paid off and we kicked off the first ART NATION for Dubaites in January 2012.

Its funny how things fall in place sometimes, I guess it was important for me to share some experiences, some acknowledgements and some background behind an event that everyone has come to love.

Our first ART NATION was an incredibly successful event with over 3000 visitors in the 4 days of the event and we had 30 Artists displaying.

ART NATION was our answer to our starving artists and this event is coming back for the 3rd year now at Bur Juman.

This write up is a tribute to the Vision of Artists like Sapphire Fernandes & Ramya SreeKumar, thank you for being starved for more, I wish more people had your appetite for creativity!

If you are a Starving Artist send us your details on

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Written By: Zareen Khan