Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How We Got Started Organizing Events

Monkey here. So as you may or may not know, as Monkey + Seal has slowly grown from us selling buttons and a few zines to organizing the 2009 Holiday Handmade Ho Down Urban Craft Fair and creating Paper Hat Productions to organize gallery shows. Additionally, I help the ever-talented Francois Vigneault of Family Style organize the SF Zine Fest.

When people hear about the events that Eve and I help curate/organize, etc. people usually ask me how we got started. The cool thing I could say is that "I just got involved and did it," but that doesn't really help anyone out, so since we're all about helping people out here, the real story is that it actually started back in 2001.

In 2001, my freshman year at UC Berkeley, I started volunteering for the student chapter of CalPIRG, or the California Public Interest Research Group. There, I learned about grassroots organizing and helped organize a corporate accountability fair for the school. It was mildly successful, to be perfectly honest.

Later, I join Theatre Rice, Berkeley's Asian American theater group, and after a few years, ended up running the show (pun totally intended) as the Producer. I was fortunate to have the guidance of the awesome previous Producer, Chris Dong (btw, he's running for a cure for blood cancer, so help a brother out and he'll even bake you some cupcakes which I can guarantee will be amazing) and the support of an awesome committee. I learned here how to organize a cast of 30-40 some actors, handle logistics of light rentals, budgeting, auditions, promotions, and managing people. It was easily a 40+ hour a week job on top of full time studies (which, as you can imagine, took the sidelines).

After a year of that, the next organizing I did was when I was asked by Francois to help out with the Zine Fest. After helping out that first year in 2008, I've stuck around, and then moved on to help do the first SF Etsy Handmade Ho Down show (and was greatly helped by the lovely ladies of Mini Marzipan productions) and then set off with Eve to make Paper Hat Productions for our March 2010 Out of Place show.

Eve learned a lot about marketing, press releases, and the outreach side of things first from Cal where she worked with Sun Chen of Vermillion Orange. Later, she picked up a lot while working as a Program Associate for Bay Area Wilderness Training, and then from Joel Hornsby and with her position at VIZ Pictures.

That sort of felt like this quick resume-type listing of what we've done. Really, I'd be happy to go in-depth into each of our experiences, but that would take forever. The main point, is that although it may seem like we just exploded onto the scene organizing 2500 people events and 300 people gallery shows, it's been a lot of time invested. We're also fortunate to have met so many awesome people along the way, and we most definitely could not have done it without them.

If you are interested in organizing an event - I always advise going out and finding other people who are also interested in the same thing. Organizing takes a LOT of time, and it's always easier when you have people you can spread the work out with. That said, the one thing I can advise is that you want to make sure that the other people you're organizing with have the same enthusiasm and commitment to the hard work that's going to be needed to get the event off the ground.

If you want to really just jump in - I say do it. There are tons of ways to make an event successful without spending a lot of money. Want to put on an art show? Find someone with a cool yard, score some wood on Craigslist and make A-frame to stand paintings up, and get all your friends to post about it constantly on Facebook. List your event on Going, Thrillist, Criagslist, and everywhere else that has free calendars to post on. Voila, instant event.

Granted, it is a crapload of hard work, long hours, but it is a labor of love. That said, you should definitely check out our next event, Alien/ation, a group illustration show put on in collaboration with Hyphen Magazine. It's going to be Saturday, July 10th, so mark your calendars and we hope to see you there.

If any of you have any questions about organizing, or are in the process of organizing your own event, let us know! Post in the comments! Go go go go!

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