, Newburyport, MA

February 8, 2013

Reading on the road

Tannery series pairs authors and artwork at PEM

By Warren P. Russo

---- — Newburyport’s status as a budding literary enclave is about to receive a rather significant boost, thanks to the efforts of two local women and their Tannery Reading Series, which is collaborating with the Peabody Essex Museum for a trio of cultural events.

Working at the behest of officials at the Salem museum, Newburyporters Kirun Kapur and Dawne Shand have arranged for authors to read from their works during a series of forthcoming special exhibits on India, America and Japan. The Newburyport arts program will travel to the museum to host three literary evenings: “Hot Fusion: Explosive Global India” on Feb. 21, “Indivisible: We the People in Black, White and Gray” on June 20; and “Manga Nation: Japanese Design and American Pop Culture” on Nov. 21.

If the energetic Reading Series co-founders have their way, these multimedia events will tastefully combine art, language, music, food, drink and discussion, creating an interesting and lively atmosphere of cultural enjoyment.

According to Kapur, the Peabody Essex Museum had been searching for thoughtful, casual, fun events to enhance its forthcoming exhibits, and the museum’s assistant director, Michelle Moon, reached out to the Newburyport program.

“What we saw in The Tannery Series is cutting-edge programming that will offer our guests new and exciting ways of engaging with the world, as well as with their own sense of creativity,” Moon said.

Since the Tannery Reading Series — an organization independent of the marketplace — specializes in arranging literary events, the museum is relying on their expertise and advice on what brings people out to listen to authors during the midweek.

“They thought that we, and our local authors, might be a good fit,” Kapur said. “They are always interested in trying new ways to encourage people to come to the museum and explore it in a casual environment that is fun.”

“We are thrilled to join forces with the Peabody Museum,” Shand added, “as their vision and ambition inspires our own work.”

The Tannery Series’ mission, as she described it, is to search for writers whose work “expands our sense of the world,” adding that the museum also “embodies that innate curiosity, that desire for exploration.”

By collaborating, the Tannery Series and the museum hope to do even more than create a festive evening that enhances the themes of the museum’s exhibits. Their higher purpose, according to the founders, is to create a multidimensional, dynamic environment that enables attendees to find connections between art, literature and their own lives.

Kapur and Shand founded The Tannery Reading Series in 2010, with the intent of highlighting literature that “confronts the world in essential and curious ways.”

“We usually get between 80 and 120 people to attend our literary events,” Kapur said. Although the women take their work seriously, their greater intention is to present serious literature in an accessible, enjoyable and casual format that makes for an overall fun experience.

Working with the Peabody Essex Museum officials, Kapur and Shand have framed the literary entertainment for all three events by assembling groups of authors who they expect will not only work well together, but also complement the works of art on display.

The first event, “Hot Fusion: Explosive, Global India,” will feature readings by three of the hottest Indian-American writers, said Kapur, including Suketu Mehta, the author of “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found,” Rajesh Parameswaran, author of “I Am an Executioner: Love Stories,” and Rishi Reddi, who wrote “Karma and Other Stories.” To help set the mood, the atrium will be transformed into a replica of Bombay’s Samovar Café, complete with Indian street food, Indian music and a cash bar.

At the time, the museum will be hosting a special exhibit, “Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India after Independence.”

In June, the Tannery Series will return to Salem for “Indivisible: We the People in Black, White and Gray,” featuring African-American art on loan from the Smithsonian. The third and final installment, November’s “Manga Nation: Japanese Design and American Pop Culture,” is intended to enhance the museum’s exhibition of modern Japanese fashion.

Like many other good things that come in threes, the Tannery Reading Series is a trio of three-hour, third Thursday events. Each runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and $11 for students.

Visit, or call 617-794-0995 with any questions about Tannery Series events. For information about the Peabody Essex Museum, call 866-745-1876, or visit