Mikala Tai is quite unable to sit still. In the past decade since graduating from university she has worked on multiple arts projects spanning everything from big institutions and multinational companies, to start-ups and collectives.
While at university Mikala worked at the National Gallery of Victoria in a variety of roles from selling tickets to cataloging Fred Williams. When she graduated she embarked on a PhD, and at the same time began working within Contemporary Asian Art: curating shows in Australia, researching and interviewing artists in the back blocks of China, and writing. This then lead to an opportunity to found and work at a commercial gallery space in Melbourne.
I like the feeling of crossing things off. So if it is on the list it will get done no matter how big or small.
Mikala has now returned to consulting full-time, and in the past two years she has been working as part of a collective who’s work has included organising VIP tours of collectors to Art Dubai and Art Basel: Hong Kong, managing the Cultural Program at the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, and working with Portable Studios on their events. In her ‘spare’ time Mikala also lectures in Contemporary Art at RMIT and will finish her PhD next year.supergraph.com.au @supergraphau facebook
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
Supergraph is a contemporary Graphic Art fiesta. It is a three day event modelled on an art fair but with a greater focus on the act of creating and creativity itself. We are showcasing exceptional work from emerging and established artists for an affordable price. I decided to take the plunge after working the international art fair circuit and realising that it was all out of my price range!
I wanted a place to go to be able to find really great works without having to wipe out my savings account. Then after talking to my students at RMIT and listening to their frustrations about how hard it is to get their foot in the door, Supergraph was born. It helps the buyer find something that fits their budget and it provides a platform for artists – whether they are graduates or internationally recognised – to showcase their work.
Please explain your business model.
It is pretty similar to the standard art fair: artists pay to exhibit with us and the general public pay (a small fee!) to visit us.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
We are currently working on the inaugural fair that is happening over Valentines weekend next February at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne. So we are sorting through submissions, choosing a band to play our Secret Saturday party and drawing an endless number of possible floorplans – but it is very fun.
Over the next three months we are really excited about Melbourne Now at the NGV, being a little silly at Meredith and seeing Supergraph happen in Feb 2014!
How do you make ideas happen?
I am a constant list maker. I like the feeling of crossing things off. So if it is on the list it will get done no matter how big or small.
What does your typical day look like?
The typical day is atypical.
I generally walk to work with a friend then, as soon as I hit the studio, things go a little mad. Between production meetings, writing lectures, searching the internet for more artists we want to collaborate with and client meetings, the days tend to have a force of their own. I do always make sure they are punctuated with a good slice and a few coffees. If we haven’t got a pressing deadline I try to leave work at a friendly hour.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
I think our biggest challenge has been to ensure that we don’t become slaves to it. Starting a business is hard. Really hard. We are a passionate team and we really believe in our product but, at the same time, we are aware that Supergraph will only work if we still love it and haven’t let it become our task master. Finding that balance can sometimes be a struggle.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Don’t let people tell you it can’t happen. If you have done the research, tested the market and crunched the numbers don’t let the naysayers get you down.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry at the moment?
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
Of course! Business is an integral part of society and thus can be instrumental in influencing how we think. All the choices you make in business have a butterfly effect – from being a paperless office to designing with reuse in mind. These seemingly small decisions can have marked effects and make the everyday running of a business contribute to larger social outcomes.
Speaking of affecting social change, we’ve teamed up with Shout for Good to encourage readers to ‘shout a coffee’ to charity by clicking the button below. Is there a particular charity you’d like to support? (follow link for complete list)
Easy. Peter Mac.
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.
Nick Hallam @nhallam
Bonnie Abbott @Bonnie_Cristine
Jeremy Wortsman @jwortsman
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
Yes! We want to talk to anyone passionate about Graphic Art. If you are an artist we want to hear from you, if you want to give us some support to make the event even better the batphone is waiting, and if you want to get a start in the event or art and design industry please chat to us. We want to work with talented people.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
How often to you step back and reassess? Is it a yearly retreat style thing or a weekly hour. I am a little fascinated with how these moments can help steady a business, pull you back from tangents but also let you realign and redirect. But when are you are in the thick of things it can become easy for these moments to drop off the priority list. I would be keen to hear how often and how structured other businesses are when it comes to pulse checking their businesses.
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
Everyday Coffee on Johnson Street and anywhere that serves a mean pork belly dish.
We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?
Sure thing. An artwork from Supergraph.