Above: Items from one of Ohanga’s gift boxes (“Coffee Lovers”). The boxes are delivered free in Rhode Island.
Helping connect artists and art lovers
What can a couple of engineers do to help out an artist? A lot, it turns out.
Engineer Subham Sett supported his wife Oindrila Sikdar’s studio business for years, so he knew all the ins and outs of art administration and marketing. When the pandemic hit, her main source of exposure, physical shows, was taken away from her, he said on a recent call. Sett and fellow engineer and art appreciator Yuping Wang realized that this dilemma was actually an interesting technical problem – how to help artists reach their audience. The creative company they founded last year, Ohanga, is their answer.
The two co-founders had worked together for years at Dassault Systèmes’ Providence offices – Wang in software development and Sett in mechanical engineering and logistics. Wang joined the Amazon robotics team in Massachusetts, but the two kept in contact, since both have been living in East Greenwich since 2003. With Wang’s expertise on delivery systems and Sett’s understanding of artists’ needs, they envisioned a company that would help Rhode Island artisans reach people who want support local business: “I was always the person asking the EG moms’ group, ‘Where can I find this made by a local artist?’ Sett understands the struggle of the artist; I understand the struggle on the community side,” Wang said.
Last summer, the Ohanga team went on (socially distanced) studio visits with artists to understand how they work and how their works can reach customers. Their main campaign last year was a series of seasonal gift boxes – a way to test out relationships with local makers and to help people learn more about the artists in their area. They want to encourage sustainability and fair trade practice, so they’ll be releasing a new subscription for everyday needs, like coffee, jam, and other pantry items.
Sett, Wang, and Margherita Bassi, the company’s director of creative content, emphasized the supportive relationships they want to form. They raised over $3,000 for grants to local artists, and the company also began to publish Etch, an arts magazine by local writers. The magazine is headed by Bassi, a Boston College graduate, and its first issue last year was on “Art at a Distance.” In that winter issue, Etch published interviews with artists, like painter Anne P. Wert, and an analysis of museums during the pandemic.
Ohanga is looking for local artists and artisans to collaborate with (apply here), as well as summer interns and writers for the spring issue of Etch, which will have the theme “Art of Change.”