Sneha Shrestha ’10, a studio art and globalization studies major, recently earned an Advancing Leaders Fellowship from World Learning for her work to provide a creative space for art and culture among the youth of Kathmandu by establishing the Kathmandu Children’s Art Museum (KCAM) in her native Nepal.
We had the chance to catch up with Shrestha a few days after she learned that she had earned the award. Read on to find out more about the good work she has done since graduation.
Talk about your study abroad experiences while you were a student, which helped make this honor possible
Organized through the College’s Off-Campus Studies (OCS) office, my study abroad experiences were both with World Learning under their School for International Training (SIT) program. I participated in their Geneva, Switzerland program, with the theme “International Organizations and Social Justice”. After experiencing a program where I got so much independence as to what I wanted to learn and research, I was adamant about going “back” to SIT’s program in another part of the world.
I consulted with Rebecca Bergren in OCS, and she was very supportive of my curiosity about studying abroad as an international student, having only been as far as India before coming to the U.S.
So, I decided to study in Bali, Indonesia. I went there because it was an art-related program and because I knew it was going to be very different from Geneva –I was looking to experience that.
Everything worked out well: In Geneva, my independent study project was on Human rights of Burmese Women and international human rights efforts. In Bali, my project was on Modern Painting in Indonesia – where I spent two weeks learning from two prominent Contemporary Indonesian Artists.
Tell us what you've been up to since graduation
I moved to Boston after graduation and was hired at Artists for Humanity as the Mentoring Artist in Painting and Education Coordinator. I call this the dream job that I didn’t know I wanted until I got it!
I worked with high school students and helped them not just with painting, but also mentored them with life skills and college readiness. My experience as a resident assistant at Gettysburg and my Projects for Peace experience (which is sustained to this day because of MO:MO: NATION, my t-shirt line), along with my study abroad experiences helped me be very good at my job.
In Boston, as I started working there and bonding with my coworkers who are mostly artists, I was inspired to be an “artist” myself – I say this because there is a difference between being able to make art and being an “artist”. So I started making artwork often and stayed active in the art scene.
Two years ago I got introduced to graffiti and there has been no turning back ever since. The art of using words and alphabets to create art is fascinating to me. I looked at this through my own cultural lens and came up with a graffiti style in my native alphabet – Nepali.
As I honed my skills, and as I started painting more and more walls in Boston, I started getting commissions and exhibition opportunities. So, I was working at Artists for Humanity and as an independent artist at the same time.
Talk about the project that earned you the award. How did you feel when you received the award?
The project was something in my mind since Projects for Peace because it had an art component that involved children, but not entirely. Then last year when I made the decision to go back home to Nepal, I reflected on what my artwork would look like once I moved back. I thought about how best to share what I’ve learned in Boston and what I’ve relearned about my culture. I reflected on my experience at Artists for Humanity where young people create amazing art. I wanted this for children and youth in Nepal too.
I wanted to open a Children’s Art Museum, and just at the right time, I received a World Learning email that told me about the grant for alumni. I jumped at the opportunity!
When I got the award, I was very happy, but I also knew that the other projects deserved the award just as much. My award doesn’t mean that my project is more important or pressing than other projects. It just means that the judges voted, the scores tallied, and I was a winner. I was happy, but humbled too.
Do you feel that your time at the College prepared you well for your work after graduation?
Yes – definitely! I learned things in my classes that gave me an understanding of the world in a way that was so well rounded. Especially my globalization studies classes – my understanding of the world through this major fueled my art major too.
I would like to thank Gettysburg for my experience and my education. My life truly began once I was in Gettysburg – because of all of the opportunities and wonderful people I met in the course of adjusting to a new culture and for showing me that I could make a difference. I still remember filling out my Gettysburg College Supplement Application form where it asked me to write about a time I had made a difference. Well, now I am confident I have made a difference.
Now that I am back in Nepal and I am able to make changes in people’s lives here, I think that I’ve come full circle, from 2006 and leaving my country – and now going back in 2013, ready to make positive changes. Gettysburg really helped me do great work. I am truly thankful, and next year I want to send my little brother to Gettysburg College too! That’s is how much I appreciate my four years at the College!
About KCAM and the Advancing Leaders Fellowship
Political instability, a low literacy rate, lack of access, and outdated views conspire to keep Nepali children from the joy of art. In conjunction with a public and private school, several community organizations and local artists, KCAM will be the first sustainable art space for Nepali children and youth.
It will facilitate two, six-weekend art workshops on Nepali culture for children and local artists, resulting in production of the first two exhibitions. This multidimensional project encourages children’s appreciation of their culture and promotes self-expression through hands-on art experience by allowing them to express themselves and reflect on their culture amidst the instability in Nepal.
The Advancing Leaders Fellowship recognizes the ideas, talent, and vision of World Learning alumni by supporting fellows with an award of $10,000, comprehensive training in social innovation and leadership, and a support network of mentors and peers so that fellows can implement an original social innovation project.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,700 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Nikki Rhoads, senior assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803
Posted: Wed, 12 Jun 2013
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