Monthly Archives: August 2008

Views of the Himalaya – A Curator’s First Steps

Upon entering the vast unknown of the non profit world – I quickly realized how I wanted to do things differently.  I didn’t want to just raise money, I wanted to tell stories and connect communities together.   I didn’t want someone to just donate money and forget about it.  Or worse, not really understand where their money was going.  I wanted to them to care about the communities we were raising money for.  To care what happened to people on the other side of the world.  To understand that while they have a different face, language, culture, and religion – they want the same things for their children that we do here at home.

As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

I chose photography to be the medium to create the story around our year two partner, the dZi Foundation.  Unwittingly, casting myself in the role of curator-in-training.

In four short, fast, months I enlisted the help of a local photographer and documentary filmmaker to help me reach out to photographers I wanted in the show and to develop a critical opinion of the pieces we found that seemed appropriate.  We set a high bar for the quality of the show, never considering that we wouldn’t get the artists we searched out.

Lessons learned:

1.  Photographers live hectic lives, are hard to pin down, and are asked a lot to donate work for shows or good causes.  Keep it simple and inexpensive for them to be involved.

2.  At the same time, almost every photographer saw the value of what we doing and wanted to be part of creating the story of this diverse and colorful region.

3.  Producing a show is expensive!

4.  Traveling show is even more expensive.  I shipped ‘Views’ out to Los Angeles for its second gallery show.  A month later, I flew out myself one way, rented a car, and drove the show back to Colorado for a third of the shipping cost.

5.  Trust your gut.  And your eye.   I knew immediately what I liked or didn’t like even if I didn’t have the words yet to express why.  90% my initial reaction was the right one.

6.  Find artists you trust and ask their opinions to help hone your eye,  create your verbage, debate your decisions, and develop your overall view of the show as a cohesive story.

7.  You can publish your own exhibit book. rocks!   No design fees, no minimum orders, and you get a ISBN number and link so that people can view and buy your book online!

8.  Many galleries book a year out and many have submission guidelines and dates.  If galleries are booked, get creative.  We have shown the ‘Views’ show in a variety of venues.  The American Mountaineering Museum, as the first show at a new gallery in LA, and a movie theater with a formal gallery attached to its lobby.

9.  .  Don’t forget the purpose of the show beyond storytelling is fundraising.

The unexpected lesson is that the ‘Views’ show connected me intimately with people that had only been on my periphery.   We ran in different circles, some in different cities, our busy lives preventing any real connection.  They are deep and talented individuals that gracefully allowed me to be ignorant, helped me develop my ‘curator’s eye’, shared their experiences, and gave me their enduring support.

I’m so grateful for that blissful twist!

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from small beginnings…

…big things can grow.

Such is the nature of Mountain to Mountain’s creation, its outreach, and the projects we support.

Two years ago the seed was planted to ‘be the change’. Like many across the world it was a simple act that spurred me to action. In my case, I read a book, “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson. Inspired by the story of what one man can do to promote peace and educate children, with nothing more than passion and the willingness to make mistakes, I came to a realization. “What are you waiting for?”

A traveler and ex-pat for over ten years, I considered myself a global citizen. If that was truly the case, what was I doing to be part of the global community? How was I helping my global neighbor? The answer depressed me. And kick-started me in action.

Truth be told, I’m a doer. Some people may call it impulsive. Reckless. Crazy. Others close to me have kinder labels. I had no prior experience in philanthropy, fundraising, little public speaking experience, and no management background. Yet overnight, I decided to create a non profit. I’d learn ‘on the job’.

So, with the help and support of a good friend, Mountain to Mountain was born. The decision was made to host an author event with the man that had inspired my call to action and raise money for his foundation, Central Asia Institute. Our mountain community here in Colorado would come together to fund a school in the remote mountains of Central Asia – thereby connecting our mountain communities together through a common thread of education for all.

Our mountain communities are unique. We are small knit communities that share the common love of the outdoors, sports, and travel. We endure long winters, yet have thriving art cultures. Tapping into those values was what could make Mountain to Mountain unique in its fundraising and outreach. I didn’t want to just raise money, I wanted donors and supporters to understand WHY it was so important to get involved with our partners and our projects.

And thus, through the winter season of 2006/7, the author event branched out into a much larger fundraiser and booksigning alongside an inaugural charity trail running event, Race for the Mountains. Now I was adding the additional branch of ‘Race Director’ to my rapidly growing tree.

In just seven short months, we raised over $100,000 through our grassroots outreach. Enough to support the building of two schools in Pakistan with Central Asia Institute. Two communities that will benefit from their girls and boys being educated in a region with few schools, teachers, or opportunity. Two communities that recognized the value of educating their children and devoted their time, sweat, and materials to provide the manpower to make it happen.

and so we continue to grow….

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