“Let’s form a foundation, we can do good things” my good friend from childhood Po Garden announced one day. Not knowing the first thing about a foundation, let alone forming one, I smiled and gently told him, it was no good, I was too busy, after all, we also do all sorts of good deeds here at Citylife. Being a persistent little bugger, he decided to go ahead, and in the spirit of full disclosure, before I go any further with this article, I must tell you that I was arm twisted into becoming a – very silent – director of the D Foundation, which was officially formed earlier this year. Dee in Thai means good, therefore we are a foundation which does good deeds. Well that was a good start…but then what?
Po, who worked at the Unit for Social and Environmental Research at Chiang Mai University for six years as well as being the current project director at InterNews’s Earth Journalism Network, immediately went off and purchased a good-sized townhouse down soi 5, Sirimankalajarn Road – serendipitously buying it off Citylife’s design manager and his partner. A month into the foundation I was informed by email that we now had a Burmese language radio station giving news and advice to the thousands of Burmese migrants living here in Chiang Mai – talking of their rights, status, the law and their everyday living. We were off to a good start. But what to do with the rest of the massive townhouse? With all sorts of good things in mind, and having recently taken up carpentry and painting, Po set about forming an art gallery, “to introduce good artists from Chiang Mai and beyond to the community.” But as a scientific researcher-cum-amateur artist, goodness knows how he thought he had the expertise to run an art gallery, especially one which was nonprofit, and during the most horrific downturn when art is the last luxury many would indulge in. So Po trawled the city, and found himself a curator, Marisa Marchitelli, a photographer who had worked for many years in New York and ready to return to Chiang Mai, her home town, and who, like Po, is of mixed background, but a Thai national. Joking aside however, Po, undoubtedly has excellent taste in art and a very keen eye on spotting interesting artists. By being non-profit, Sangdee defines success as being able to pass on as much revenue as possible to artists, musicians and performers in the community, and since it opened its doors, there are certainly a few more smiling artists walking around.
Since the first opening of D Foundation’s Sangdee Gallery (good light) in January, a number of noteworthy, cool, important, and intriguing exhibitions have been put on featuring raw undiscovered talent, world renown artists, local expat art and more – photography, print, paint, sculpture, drawings. But art wasn’t selling; drinks though were flying off the shelf fast and furious during the exhibitions’ occasional openings, and the cunning Po decided to build a bar. It started off with a trickle of friends and those looking for a good time; a community of artists, expats, students, ajarn and neighbours began to visit the bar on Wednesdays, and being a non-profit, the drinks, and yummy snacks, were goodly cheap. Any profits made from drinks go to support the gallery.
Weekly entertainment by local bands, Boy Blues Band, Harmonica Sunrise and Pat’s Band, were put on, slowly drawing a larger crowd. Not to be overshadowed by Po, Marisa, in September, started an open-mic night every Thursday, now one of the most successful weekly events at Sangdee. Belly dancing, poetry slamming, sing-alongs, Monty Python recitals, didgeridoo playing and all sorts of creative types began to turn up and strut their stuff, much to the delight of the growing crowd which began to spill out onto the streets (thankfully our design manger’s partner who lived next door was a fan, and tolerant).
Sangdee also has a baby grand piano and some impromptu piano jams have resulted to the great delight of the crowd. Po has invested in a few other fun toys so if you want Sangdee to organise a karaoke night, a concert, or anything imaginable, just drop them a line.
By popular requests, Friday nights are now movie nights with screenings of classics, cult or any films requested by Sangdee fans. The latest offerings include Broadway nights every Sunday, drawing a different, though no less appreciative, crowd as they listen to melodious piano and violin over a cold glass or two of beer – bidding a fine goodbye to the weekend.
Marisa and Po have energetically organised and put on a slew of events over the months. From activities and classes for children over the holidays, to a number of workshops including drawing, painting, clay sculpting, a variety of photographic workshops (introduction to photography, product photography, food photography, portrait and more), film making, leather craft, fashion design, theatre and drama.
So, do pop down to Sangdee and support our bourgeoning community…either come to enjoy the talent and entertainment, or if you want to join in, there is no one to stop you! You can find Sangdee Gallery on Facebook or visit www.sangdee.org. It is open from 11 a.m. til late daily. Ask for Po, ask for Marisa, or if I am around ask for me…we are a friendly lot.
This has been Sangdee’s first year and already we have done some good things and had some good times. We are looking forward to more and more and more next year and hope that you come down to join us…and help the good cause.