India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Payal Tak – Artist & CEO
The Design District in Miami is a potpourri of artistic inventiveness and capitalistic flamboyance. There are glitzy art galleries and quirky bohemian cafes, tucked neatly between flashy Louis Vuitton and Prada stores. There is delightful street art adorning mundane street corners and alleyways, transforming pedestrian walls into binges of color and creativity, and decorating the exteriors of the most ordinary of places, like parking garages.
I’m headed to a new gallery called Lucid, which is located in what has come to be known as ‘The Art Corner‘ of the Design District. This is where the Institute of Contemporary Art showcases new and emerging artists in a three-storied gallery. Right opposite the Institute is the Museum garage, a parking garage transformed into an architectural attention-grabber, with sculpted pillars and outer walls covered with giant metal cars in gold and silver.
Tak Takes Chroma to Fresco
Lucid is down the street from the Museum garage and it is just about wrapping up a public event called Chroma, and kicking off another major event called Fresco, both of which are exhibitions and receptions for a group of very creative, national and international artists. Chroma was inaugurated in December 2022, during the week of Art Basel, Miami’s annual showcase of the arts, an event that always draws big crowds to the Design District.
As I approach Lucid, I see that the foot traffic into the gallery is brisk. I enter to the sound of tinkling champagne glasses and a buzz of voices as people walk through the 3, 700 sq. foot space, which has eleven stand-alone 15-foot-high walls, dedicated to its artists.
The gallery owner, Payal Tak, is at the center of the reception, greeting the walk-in crowds and explaining the layout of art on the walls. She is also one of the artists whose work is being showcased in all the events hosted by Lucid.
“All the artists exhibited here are as passionate about their work as I am,” she tells me, as she shows me around. “My goal with Lucid is to open a space for collaborative art exchanges within the community. By that, I mean I wanted to give a chance to those artists to exhibit their work who may not normally be able to in a commercial gallery, because of the prohibitive cost of participation. These are committed artists whose work may not be ‘known’ in a popular sense, but whose creative vision deserves a larger audience.”
“I have new and emerging artists, as well as mid-career ones, who are not in the ‘rat race’ of high-end exhibits, but are equally talented, though often overlooked,” she explains.
The joys of everyday art
As I walk through the gallery, I see what she means. The mix of artwork is very eclectic: There are abstracts that evoke dreamy landscapes; six images of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe graphic wink at me from one wall. They are created from beadwork so fine they look like tiny globules of acrylic paint; an artist from Berlin stands by his mixed media (wood pulp, paper, and metal) sculptures, explaining his conceptualizations to a rapt audience. His work is an explosion of color and form.
I’m transfixed by a line of women’s portraits that are deconstructed into floral motifs, their expressions mystical and otherworldly-their creator is Graciela Montich, an Argentinian Artist, who is also the curator for Lucid.
Payal Tak Abstracts
One wall displays Ms. Tak’s own paintings, a series of abstracts in complex linear lines.
“A small portion of the gallery is my own studio/workshop,” she tells me. “The rest is committed to exhibiting a regular rotation of artists. I want to bring as many artists’ creations to the community as I can, on an ongoing basis. I plan to hold regular exhibitions, educational art talks, and artist networking events. Creating, exhibiting, and viewing art doesn’t have to be an exercise in elitism,” she declares firmly.
Tak’s singular goal is a simple one. She wants to bring the joy of everyday art, and the ability to exhibit it, to as wide a swath of artists and viewers as possible.
From CEO to Artist
From the professionalism of the presentations, one would imagine Tak has been in the art business for years. In fact, her title, until quite recently, was the CEO of Telesis, a highly successful information technology company providing services and solutions for cyber security, which she started from scratch in 1998 when her two daughters were both under nine years old.
Lucid is the second phase of her life. After selling her business in 2020, Tak reverted to the creative hobby which had always relaxed and reenergized her: art.
“I’ve had a life-long love affair with paints and color,” Tak reminisces.
“I grew up in an art-saturated household. Both my mother and sister were very artistic. I was surrounded by opportunities to learn painting, watercolors, woodcarving, aluminum carving, singing, and so much more. When I was in the throes of growing a business that required a 14–16-hour workday, art was my go-to rejuvenation. I would often paint late into the night when there were no emails flying around, requiring immediate attention.”
An immigrant tale
As we talk, the gallery makes a sale to a client. It is one of Tak’s abstracts.
“The money will go right back into the gallery,” she declares. “I plan to expand into displaying installations, and floor and ceiling sculptures. All that needs investment in the right kinds of design stations.”
Ms. Tak’s life has been a quintessential immigrant success story, the kind that is spoken about at political conventions. She came to the US after an arranged marriage at the age of 21.
“My objective, even before I got married, was always to build a career for myself. Before I agreed to marry my husband, I made him promise he would support any academic and career goals I had. And he has kept his promise—he supported my fledging start-up which grew into a large company. And he’s standing by me now as I play around with creativity and pursue my goal to promote Lucid’s unique concept of accessibility for artists and art enthusiasts.”
A Lucid family
Her husband, Chandra Tak, who is listening to our conversation, smiles and nods amicably. Art may not be his forte, but supporting his spouse definitely is.
When I ask her how her two daughters reacted to the new career of gallery owner/curator she was embarking on, she laughs.
“They belong to our young, fearless and adventurous generation. They were on board with the idea of Lucid, immediately. They’ve seen me at Telesis, working 14-hour days and they know how much my art restored me.”
A mother’s belief in women’s rights
Tak credits her unusual concept of shared spaces for art, which display lesser-known names, to her mother.
“I was raised by a mother who believed strongly in women’s and children’s rights, and I’ve absorbed her passion for underdog causes. I have a particularly soft spot for those who break into male-dominated areas,” she adds. “Software technology is a male-dominated space and when I started my software company, Telesis, women were afforded the same opportunities as men, and the company’s workforce was over 60% women.”
“My mother would always tell me that sharing wealth makes it grow. I applied that mantra at my company Telesis, and it is Lucid’s motto as well. There are so many wonderful women artists whose work would never make it to the walls of a commercial gallery. I want to be the gallery of access for them.”
“And, of course,” she adds quickly, “male artists as well. I’m gender-neutral when it comes to great art. “I believe in equal opportunity, after all,” she smiles.
Fresco will run May 1 to 14
Payal Tak met Lucid’s curator, Graciela Montich, at a small, private event, organized during the Pandemic, which was a particularly difficult time for the art world. Ms. Montich has curated and participated in international shows across the globe, from Monte Carlo to Italy, France, England, and Uruguay.
She was immediately attracted by Lucid’s unique perspective in the world of professional galleries, and Tak’s dedication to its cause.
“We need more philanthropic patrons like Payal,” she says, “and more collaborative spaces like Lucid, where art and artists become intertwined within the community.”
Lucid’s Fresco show will run from May 1 to May 14 and will continue showcasing the art of 13 new artists.
“I can exhibit up to 20 artists simultaneously, giving each one a fair amount of space” Ms. Tak states, with a touch of pride. “I’m measuring the profitability of this endeavor in the number of artists and art enthusiasts in the community I can reach and inspire. This is only the beginning.”