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In Conversation With Manika Srivastav, Artist

Nirmala Garimella

Manika Srivastav is an artist and heads the Brookline Arts Center Board of directors. She has been a practicing artist for more than twenty years. She has also always been involved with social service, from working with street kids in Mumbai to heading the Arts Commission in Brookline.


Manika’s  artwork has been recently showcased   along with other artists at an ongoing art exhibition in Harvard University in Cambridge. This visual art exhibition is a new initiative of  Art MITHAS and SAI. In the past Manika had collaborated with TIE to organize a similar show for crafts from around the world two years ago at the Mass. Institute for Art, where it had participants from organizations like Ten Thousand Villages. About her work, she says “My art has become a reflection of my experiences in various cultures. I make art to give voice to questions, reactions and feelings within me.  My goal every time I start a piece is that at the end I should be able to step back and see my thought. Could I tell my story clearly, to myself? If yes, then that piece is complete for me.”

How did you get involved with the Art MITHAS initiative?


Amala Mahadevan, Board member and Geetha Ramamurthy, Chair of MITHAS approached me more than a year ago with the idea of doing something in the visual arts under the banner of MITHAS. SAI (South Asia Initiative at Harvard) then stepped in with tremendous support. As a new initiative it has been a challenge but a satisfying one. The visual art initiative is consistent with general aim of MITHAS - which is to promote and preserve the arts of South Asia.  An art show allows MITHAS to reach a wider audience that it may not reach through  music alone. I have curated the show keeping in mind the diverse inspirations from the South Asian region. The artists have themselves been very happy with the space and the flow of the art in the show.


Art MITHAS has already organized two events in the last two months? How has been the response?


There have been two events so far connected to the show. The opening reception was very well attended with an audience of more than 125 people. The concourse level at the CGIS South building was full of  engaged  viewers. Professor  Sugata Bose, director of SAI Harvard eloquently summarized the idea behind the show. “It is a conversation between the art, with a harmonious flow between all the pieces". In the follow up event, the talk by Laura Weinstein attracted a small but very interested crowd. The final event will have opening remarks by Tarun Khanna and a panel discussion moderated by me and will be held on November 17that the CGIS South Building in Cambridge.

Do you think the visual arts receive patronage among South Asians ?

As an artist I hope that events like this increase the understanding of the visual arts within our community and with the general population. I have always felt that the performing arts get a lot more exposure than say an art show. So this kind of event creates a platform for the artists to share their art and have a conversation with the audience. This makes visual arts a lot more accessible. It takes time to build up patronage.  A lot of South Asians here are first generation immigrants, for whom it is more natural to spend on education than on art. But, this is one step in a longer process. Further, our aim is to bring art with the South Asian theme to a much wider audience than just South Asians. 

After your partnership with SAI, do you hope it will open the door to new partnerships?

SAI's slogan is "South Asia without Borders" . The arts, be they performing arts or visual arts, very naturally transcend borders.  Not merely political borders, but borders of all sort - between cultures, societies, traditions, thinking, etc. The art from SA has been attracting attention because of high prices in auctions at Sothebys etc. but that is not the only aspect of the art from SA which is interesting. The diaspora artists have a voice very different from artists who live in India or Pakistan. And the hope is that there will be more opportunities like the one SAI has offered to take this voice out in the community.


One idea is to take a show like this to other locations in the New England region and also to open it for artists who live out of the Greater Boston region.




Art MITHAS and Harvard South Asia Initiative invite you to

An Evening Reception for An Exhibition of Visual Art

The Changing Face of South Asia

Open daily 7 am to 8 pm

October 19 to December 20, 2010

Design by Kausalya Mahadevan

Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 6 pm

CGIS South Building

1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA 02138

Exhibition of art by Mona Bhoyar, Gay Gilles, Sehr Jalal, Yanick Lapuh,

Lenore Sempert, Manika Srivastav, and Sridevi Thumati

Introductory remarks by Tarun Khanna, Professor, Harvard Business School

Followed by a panel discussion moderated by

Manika Srivastav, Artist & President of the Board, Brookline Arts Center

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