Decision to work with the IAHP

Smithsonian APAC Logo

At the end of Thesis I, I had been leaning towards designing a digital archive of Indian American artifacts curated by my friends and family. Once I spoke with Masum, I decided to change direction.

The IAHP presented a wonderful opportunity to pursue my thesis in a live setting, and on a much larger scale. I was attracted to the IAHP’s efforts to build an exhibition that was partially curated through the contributions of Indian Americans. Their desire to create a digital multimedia archive of artifacts was one I shared. My research supported that a participatory archive of factual records was the best way to document a collective cultural history.

The IAHP is groundbreaking because it is the first significant effort on a national scale and by a federal organization to document Indian American history. The Smithsonian Institution was established in 1846 and today, is the world’s largest museum and research complex with 19 museums, 9 research centers and more than 140 affiliate museums around the world.

Once I gave Masum an overview of my thesis and she spoke with me about their needs, we both concluded that it would be mutually beneficent to work together. The IAHP became my client and we agreed that I would deliver the following over the next few months:

Beyond Bollywood Exhibition
1. Design an exhibition logo
2. Create a branding system
3. Design postcards as a for photo and story submissions
4. Design posters to posters to raise awareness of the future exhibition
Indian American Heritage Project
1. Design a logo
2. Redesign the website
3. Assist with several social media marketing efforts

Learning about the Smithsonian’s IAHP

Over the summer, I learned that the Smithsonian Institution’s American Pacific Asian Center (APA) was working on an initiative – the Indian American Heritage Project (IAHP) – to chronicle the experience of immigrants from India and Indian Americans in the U.S. To learn more about the effort, I sought out Masum Momaya, who had just come on board as the new curator. After exchanging a few emails, we spoke on the phone today.

I learned that the key components of the IAHP include a traveling exhibition, public programs, a curriculum guide for youth, an interactive website, and artifacts donated to the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. The most significant component of the IAHP is its planned exhibition, Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation. It is scheduled to open in late 2013 and occupy a 5,000 square feet space at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

The exhibition’s goal is to explore the heritage, daily experience, and diverse political, professional and cultural contributions of Indian immigrants and their descendants in the U.S. Included in the exhibition, will be historical and contemporary images and several dozen artifacts, including those documenting histories of discrimination and resistance, those conveying daily experiences and those symbolizing achievements across the professions. Many of these artifacts will be collected directly from the public through personal contributions. Music and visual art works providing commentary on the Indian American experience will also form a critical component of the exhibition.

Among the specific topics to be covered are: early (late 1800’s-1900’s) immigrant experiences, struggles for citizenship in the first half of the 20th century, professional contributions from the 1960’s and beyond, organizing for labor rights, women’s rights and labor rights and cultural contributions through food, music, dance and in the entertainment industry.

After a one year tenure at the Smithsonian, Beyond Bollywood will travel to about 15 sites throughout the country to reach Indian American communities. A part of the exhibition, consisting mostly of the multimedia artifacts will be maintained online on the IAHP website.

After my first internship…

As you might know from reading a bit about my background, I have a business background that is fairly analytical. While Finance turned out to be the wrong career choice for me, my experience at Asia Society helped me learn something important about myself: I am happiest working when I am using both sides of my brain.

I started Pratt under the assumption that I would eventually seek a role that required both analytical and creative thinking. But after a few classes, the right side of my brain was raring to go after resting for so long. That and being surrounded by incredibly talented designers and artists made me want to see if I too could do well in a purely design role. I now know what the answer is – probably not.

But there is a certain amount of pride I feel to know that I had a strong enough portfolio to have gotten a design internship in the first place, given I had never even used Adobe Illustrator before design school. And in going own the career path, it’s just as important to understand what you don’t want to do as it is to know what you want to do.

I have now worked at both ends of the extreme – finance and design. I think this puts me closer to where I want to be, which is in the middle. Hopefully.

My time at Asia Society

I wanted to regularly update this blog with my internship experience, but classes and working have kept me so busy that my very first design internship has already come to an end, and this is my first post about it!

My six month internship at Asia Society of New York started last September and ended last month. As part of the Marketing & Design department, I worked on designing both print (advertisements, invitations, signage, and web banners) and digital (web banners, exhibition websites) collateral for exhibitions, events, and gift shop promotions. I also got to indulge my inner-photographer when I was asked to take pictures a few exhibitions to submit to the press (including the New York Times!). Everyone in the department was friendly, especially the talented designer who I worked under. It was extremely gratifying to see my work on display and sent out in the world.  And I absolutely loved working in an environment surrounded by art and culture. How many people can check out Buddhist sculptures from the 4th century BCE during their lunch break?

During my time here, I learned how to create and carry out a a cohesive brand identity across different media, spaces and sizes. A new exhibition opening required designing everything from small dinner invitations, large window signage, and even bigger (eight feet long!) fabric banners that were hung high up at the Park Avenue entrance. Part of the design process included collaborating with the exhibition designers to collaborate on colors and typefaces. I accompanied the designer on press checks where I picked up a lot of useful information on proofing and color management, that is going to be very helpful for my classes. It was these types of real-world experiences that I really appreciated, because up until then, I had only done design work for school. Some of the work I did fo the Asia Society can be found on my portfolio.

My thoughts on career-related matters next…

Thesis I Presentation

Earlier this month, I presented the culmination of my Thesis I efforts in front of Pratt’s graduate Communications Design faculty. I received great feedback and lots of encouragement from the audience. My full presentation, which outlines my research findings, conclusions and next steps is below:

Pratt Thesis I Presentation

Parisian Avant-Garde


This past Saturday, I went with a friend to check out the Steins Collect, a beautiful exhibition on the works of Picasso, Matisse and other artists working in Paris during the beginning of the 20th century. The goal of the show was to highlight the influence that the Steins’ (particularly Gertrude Stein) had on the lives of the artists and how their work was viewed. It was especially fascinating to me – living in the present – that the works of these great men were once enjoyed only in private salons, long before they were accepted at traditional museums.

Now considered valuable masterpieces, paintings such as Woman with a Hat by Henri Matisse, were once condemned by art critics with comments such as “A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public!”

I would happily travel back in time and bring this point of paint back with me.

Especially thrilling were the rooms that showed photographs of the Steins’ actual apartments and Saturday salons. I loved Midnight in Paris, which featured Gertrude Stein (played by Kathy Bates) in several scenes. The Stein apartment was the place to be, according to the movie. After seeing this exhibition, I have no doubt that it was. Just imagine that one apartment in Paris was the place to see one of the greatest art collections in the world….

Detox: Day 7

Last day folks! The goop detox has recipes for chicken and fish, which I don’t eat. I realized I hadn’t gotten a good source of protein in any of my meals this week and I’ve lost weight, so I decided to have eggs for breakfast. And I would think that organic eggs are less processed than an organic chicken.

Breakfast: Eggs with Veggies & Tea with Almond Milk
2 eggs
1/2 bell pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
A few leaves basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste 

After heating up the olive oil in a non-stick pan, I added in the egg, bell pepper, salt and pepper mixture. With constant stirring over low heat, the eggs were done in less than two minutes. I sprinkled the chopped basil on top. Normally, I use milk and butter in place of the olive oil. This was tasty, but the milk and butter add a fluffiness that I didn’t achieve using the oil.

The eggs were the densest things I’ve eaten this week. This was a late breakfast so I didn’t get hungry again until dinner.

Dinner: Beet and Carrot Salad
1 cup arugula
1 cup lettuce
3/4 cup sliced beets
2 tsbp olive oil
1 tbsp vinegar
salt and pepper to taste 

Beets and arugula go really well together. Again, I’ve had this salad at restaurants a lot of times, but never thought to make it at home. I ended the day with a rose tea and almond milk. Success!


I can now look back on the week and say that this detox was overwhelmingly a positive experience. I didn’t feel the effects of eating well until a few days in, but once I did, I felt and looked better with each progressing day. I learned new combinations of fruits and vegetables that taste delicious together. While the time I spent shopping, cooking and cleaning was significantly more than usual, I felt a sense of bliss as I was preparing and eating my meals. Having three unprocessed meals every day is unsustainable for me, but my goal from tomorrow is to have at least one unprocessed meal per day (barring vacations, holidays and special events). I think having a smoothie for breakfast or a salad/soup for lunch is definitely doable.

If you’ve been keeping up with me this week, I hope my posts have inspired you try this, even if it’s only for a few days. It’s definitely worth it, even if it’s just for an exercise in self-discipline. I would love to hear about your experiences!

Detox: Day 6

This morning I woke up early to run errands and get to a group meeting at school.

Breakfast: Tea with Almond Milk

Lunch: Greens and Carrot Salad w/ Olive Oil and Lemon Juice Dressing (see Day 3’s lunch)

Dinner: Apple, Carrot and Ginger Soup
All of the pulp from Day 4’s snack – apple, carrot and ginger juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup basil
Salt and pepper to taste

This recipe follows the same process as Day 1 and Day 3’s soup. You can squeeze in some lemon at the end if you wish.

This soup is different from the others I made. It’s slightly sweet and spicy and has a more subtle flavor, reminding me of butternut squash or pumpkin bisques. Despite not having any cream, it tastes rich. It was also the easiest to make since I already had the pulp ready. I love efficiency in the kitchen!

And so, six days down and I truly feel great. I slipped on my skinny jeans to go out with friends after dinner and they fit me differently than before. I’ve lost a pound or two (unintentionally), but I feel stronger. My whole body seems more toned, as if I’ve been deflated and my skin is a lot brighter. One more day to go!

Detox: Day 5

After a hectic week, I slept in on Friday (ah the joys of being a student!). I only had tea for breakfast and wasn’t hungry for any food, which is rare. I am always hungry in the morning. More side effects of this detox? Probably!

Breakfast: Tea with Almond Milk

Brunch: Oatmeal with Berries (see Day 4’s breakfast)

Snack: Rose Tea White with Almond Milk

I continued the day not feeling very hungry. But I needed something to warm me late in the afternoon. I only like to have caffeine once a day, so I brought out my loose organic white tea infused with wild roses. So fancy, right? The rose flavors went together wonderfully with the almond milk. I don’t know why I haven’t tried this combination before.

I had pledged to do my best over the weekend and stay away from processed food. I went out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant and steered clear of tempura, teriyaki or anything heavy. I ordered a veggie sushi entree. It doesn’t look like a lot of food, but given how much I’ve eaten for the past few days, it was quite satisfying.

We finished dinner at 8:30 and came home after a late movie five hours later. And I wasn’t hungry before bed. That deserves a wow.

Detox: Day 4

I wanted a more hearty breakfast with my tea today so I tried out another option (although it is a variation) from goop.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with Berries
1/2 cup plain oatmeal
2/3 cup almond milk
1/2 cup of mixed berries

I heated the milk in a saucepan first. Once it felt hot to the touch, I added in the oatmeal, and stirred until most of the milk was absorbed. I added the berries in last and let them cook for another 2 minutes.

If you’ve followed me since the beginning of the week, you’ll know that this is the first complex carb-meal I’ve eaten in four days. This is a big feat for me as I’m someone who always welcomes the bread basket at restaurants. So I was looking forward to the oatmeal, but funnily, I got full a little more than halfway in. Usually, I find myself wanting two bowls. And now I’m eating less, and also craving less. But I’ve been expending the same energy – going to classes, work and working out. Hmm…..  For lunch, I kept it light.

Lunch: Avocado and Cucumber Soup
1/2 avocado
1 cucumbers, peeled
1/4 cup basil leaves
Juice of 1 Lime
1/2 tsp salt

I blended everything together until it was smooth and creamy. The soup was refreshing and reminded me of guacamole. Cucumber and avocado work really well together. Has anyone ever added cucumber to guacamole? I’m going to try it.

Later in the day, I made myself a pre-workout snack.

Snack: Apple, Carrot and Ginger Juice
2 apples
12 baby carrots
1 tbsp ginger, grated
1 1/2 cup water 

I roughly blended the water and apples (chopped) before adding in the other ingredients. I’ve mentioned before I don’t have a juicer, so what came out was quite pulpy. I don’t mind pulp, but this time I strained it and refrigerated the pulp for a future soup or smoothie. I was left with three glasses of juice. It had a beautiful color and sweetness, plus a little kick from the ginger. goop’s recipe includes beets, which I couldn’t find in the supermarket. I’ll definitely make this juice again – it was so easy – and keep looking for beets (canned ones are fine too). For the amount of ingredients I used above, you can add 2-3 medium beets (cut into wedges) into the blender with the apples.

Dinner: Greens and Carrot Salad and Spinach and Peas Soup (see Day 3’s lunch and dinner)

Dinner was quite filling and some steamed almond milk later on was a comforting way to end my day.  With the fourth day almost behind me now I can say that I am experiencing the powerful effects of cutting out processed foods. My skin’s brighter, my head’s clearer and I don’t have any of the usual energy spikes and dips throughout the day, which obviously came from consuming sugar and heavily processed foods. I know I haven’t made a great discovery here. I was expecting this outcome. But all the same, it feels good accomplishing it for myself rather than reading about someone else doing it.

Tomorrow is the start of the weekend and this might be one of the few times in life I find myself wishing it was still the middle of the week. But social life be damned. I am seeing this full week through, even if it means ordering a salad, hold the dressing, when I’m out with friends.