Savitha Srinivasan has been practicing classical Indian dance for the past 10 years.
Through dance, she said it has helped her develop leadership skills, presentation skills and has helped her in various academic areas such as English, math and science.
When Srinivasan and her sister noticed budget cuts leading to fewer arts programs in local schools, they felt they needed to do something about it.
In 2014, Srinivasan, who will be a junior in high school this fall, co-founded the nonprofit, Art You. The youth-driven organization seeks to promote awareness of classical and cultural art forms as well as use art as a medium to empower youth from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
“We really wanted to make art more accessible and we noticed that there’s this gap between mainstream, or popular, art forms and classical art forms. It’s a lot easier for youth to go and listen to Ariana Grande or Taylor Swift than it is to listen to something [classical],” Srinivasan said. “For us, it was about addressing this perceived gap between mainstream art forms and classical art forms.”
She said it can be difficult for people to understand and appreciate classical art forms. One of their main challenges was to find a way to “make art more accessible in such a way that a person can really get inspired.”
Through Art You, Srinivasan and her team have developed four key initiatives: Art Connect, Art Create, Art Kit and Art STEAM.
Art Connect offers interactive lecture-demonstration workshops for youth audiences in various classical, cultural and visual art forms. Sessions are conducted by experienced youth artist volunteers.
“Over the past four years, we’ve worked with several different organizations and have conducted over 15 workshops both in the greater Seattle area and Los Angeles,” Srinivasan said.
Art You has worked with the Lake Hills Boys and Girls Teen Center, New Roads School L.A., Northwest Behavioral Association, Rosa Parks Boys and Girls Club, Seattle International Children’s Friendship Festival, Telegu Bharathi and Instruments for Change.
“The goal is to reach out to a diverse audience so we’re working with organizations like the Boys and Girls clubs who are able to serve youth who are from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and who are more underprivileged,” she said.
Art Create showcases classical and cultural art forms through an annual performance featuring young people from diverse disciplines.
“Our goal is to provide a really high-quality and professional venue for youth to showcase their art. Being a dancer, I know how hard it is to get really nice and professional opportunities. We showcase a ton of different art forms ranging from classical Indian dance to classical Chinese dance to ballet, poetry, Western classical and Indian classical music,” Srinivasan said.
This year’s show, En Pointe 2018, was held late June at the Interlake High School Performing Arts Center, where Srinivasan attends school.
She said she was excited for this year’s showcase because they were able to have a martial arts youth perform.
“We focus on classical and cultural art forms and we also hold a really great art gallery outside in the commons where visual artists get to show their work as well. Every year, we have around 25-30 performers. Over the past four years, we’ve had about a 100 plus performers and our audience is usually about 250 members,” she said.
Launched in 2016, Art Kit works in conjunction with Art Create. Art Kit gives its students high quality art supplies like drawing pads, colored pencils, canvases and pastels so they are able to continue what they’ve learned from the session.
“We are fortunate to be able to partner with local organizations to distribute the supplies…It also works with Art Core, which is one of the leading art outreach organizations and they also serve a very diverse population,” Srinivasan said. “Over the last four years, we’ve donated over 500 art supplies to them.”
Art STEAM is the most recent initiative. In partnership with Jubilee REACH and She Codes Art, Art You’s partner organization, Art STEAM promotes diversity in tech through art-based CS curriculum modules.
“Using art as a medium to engage youth in STEM fields because we wanted to be able to show youth how art is relevant to their academic pursuits and also frame art in a way that’s more accessible to them,” Srinivasan said.
Through the year-long partnership, Art You has conducted more than 25 workshops and has held weekly coding plus art sessions.
“One of the workshops we did was having students create their own clay animals and then we taught them about the different trophic levels within the ecosystem and then had them create animals in the different levels in the food chain,” she said.
For Srinivasan, art, especially classical and cultural art, is invaluable because it allows people to understand and appreciate others’ heritage and traditions. Through Art You, Srinivasan wants to empower diverse and underprivileged youth to find expression and community through art. For more information about Art You, visit http://www.art-you.org/ or visit their Facebook page, ArtYou2015.