Faculty Spotlight: Divya Rajan

Teaching Artist Divya stands in front of a plain background with side lighting. She wears a red top and gold earrings.

This month, Arts Corps wants to celebrate teaching artist, Divya Rajan, and everything she has been doing in and out of the classroom!

As the world re-emerges from the pandemic’s lockdown, our faculty have been busy at work not only creating spaces for our youth to express themselves in, but also creating their own art.

As an Arts Corps teaching artist, Divya is currently working with our programs Best Start for Kids, Out of School Time, and Creative Schools, engaging students of all ages in theatre and storytelling. As a performer herself, Divya has been working in multiple projects. 

We’re grateful to Divya for sharing more about what she does and how she does it!

 

You were involved in various storytelling partnerships these past few months. Tell us them! What did you do? 

It all started with FESTA this year – that was my first performance for the year, as well as one in a very long time. 

“Lost and Found” happened soon after. Organized by the Indian Embassy Spouses Collective, this was an exhibition of personal objects and the stories behind them. My audio story of a broken comb that I have been holding close for fifteen years now was one of the featured exhibits.

7×7 by Griot Girlz and Finding Trails by Penguin Productions gave me the opportunity to create and collaborate on devised, immersive and site-specific pieces.

With Pratidhwani’s Two Minutes of Your Time themed Coming Home, I came home to the stage, lights and a full-house of live audience. And, I also shot for my first commercial this year.

What made you decide to become a teaching artist?

Call it accidental or call it serendipity, but that is really how I became a teaching artist. I taught my first class as a teaching artist in 2011. I took it up because it felt like a fun thing to be a storyteller to visit schools and play games with kids. However, what I saw, experienced, learned, and received from kids impacted me forever.

I didn’t quite have access to art education as a child. Art was always that “extra-curricular” activity. It was exotic for people to call me creative and artistic; and yet life always boiled down to how much I scored in Math and Science. I also grew up being told that all those who pursue arts and humanities are those who are incapable of pursuing important faculties i.e. science or math.

I wanted to pursue architecture as a child. I wanted to design spaces. When a child is passionate about something, as adults we have the choice to create an environment for this passion to flourish or for this passion to be destroyed. I was that child whose passion couldn’t flourish in the environment that I was in.

From starting off as an accidental teaching artist, today I am a teaching artist by choice because I want to do my small bit to create an environment for children’s passions to flourish. Being a teaching artist is the opportunity life has given me to be that person I wish I had in my life while growing up.

How do you approach a new project or a piece that you are creating? Do you have certain processes you like to undergo?

Devising is my thing. To put it in simple words, I like to intuitively start with multiple creative exercises and allow for narratives to emerge. Once there is something I have hit upon, I start to deliberate and build a frame-work around it.

At a deeper level my process is a lot about confronting my identity, asking questions that matter of myself, embracing my vulnerability and seeking my truth. I weave this into the formal trainings I have had in theatre and what I end up creating is an integrated piece of performance art.

What is your favorite part about creating your art?

Surprises! Every time I create art, it is about confronting my uncertainties. It is chaotic. But, when the work is done, it is extremely rewarding. And, I find myself emerging a little more resilient than before.

What opportunities and challenges do you see ahead for those of us who care deeply about art, young people, and community?

Knowledge thrives when it has an application. The various reputations that art has earned over the years, in my opinion is due to the gap between the art-form and its application. Art has existed for as long as humanity has. So, it is important for us as humans to embrace the artists within ourselves. Bridging this gap between art for the sake of art; and understanding its deeper purpose and impact is a big opportunity as well as responsibility I see as an artist. 

However, although many have trodden down this path, it continues to remain an arduous task. It is going to take unlearning several generations worth of colonized perspectives, oppressive systems of power, regressive mindsets for us to get there. And, arts as a field continues to remain under-funded.

There is work to be done, and we must keep doing what we are doing.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I am in conversation with people about potential collaborations. Hopefully, will have something brewing soon 😊

 
Thank you for sharing your artistry with us, Divya. We can’t wait to see what you do next!