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Exhibition combines charity with art

Artwork by Seema Kohli
Artwork by Seema Kohli

By Sairah Masud

AN EXHIBITION combining art, social impact and philanthropy to benefit a number of worldwide causes has opened in London.
Founded by siblings Devika and Maya Sarin, the Art of Kindness exhibition aims to “empower artists, collectors and communities alike by curating socially-conscious art” and donating a portion of the sales proceeds to social projects.
Devika, an economics and environmental studies graduate, who moved to London from the US, founded a digital art business as a way to incorporate the arts and social impact into her daily life. She told Eastern Eye about her motivation for launching the innovative concept.
“I strongly believe in the power of the arts and its direct influence on our wellbeing and society as a whole – the root of the word philanthropy means ‘for the love of mankind’.

Devika Sarin

“Art of Kindness itself was founded to give people the opportunity to engage with art and philanthropy while being transparent and creating greater access for those who might not know how to get involved with either world.”
The business aims to combine the $45 billion (£34bn) art market with the $56bn (£43bn) philanthropy sector to create a social art and philanthropy network, creating greater access to a wider audience.
Using digital screens and virtual reality, the exhibition takes viewers on an “art-kindness”
journey by creating social dialogues concerning people, places, religions and community. After purchasing the art, patrons will be able to create their own “kindness legacy” by selecting a social champion to support and later, track their involvement in the process.
Devika said: “Both are supported and powered by patrons who not only help artists and those empowering communities do what they do and allow others to join in, but also contribute to the rich narratives that accompany creating a beautiful piece of art or being there for one another. Many people who collect art are also philanthropists, so in this way, it is the perfect marriage.
Her sister, Maya, as creative director, brought an “innovative and inspirational” mind set to the project.
“My reason for getting involved is twofold – one is that I saw an opportunity to join my sister and help build something that is so close to our family. Second is that the Art of Kindness’ business model is based on a shared value system: everyone benefits. It’s not every day that you get to be a part of something like this.”

Maya Sarin

Art of Kindness is working with five official non-profit partners from a range of sectors, including the Elephant Family, Charity: Water, Microgram, Project Pressure and Acumen to help with the provision of water, sanitation and education and tackling issues around the world such as climate change, women empowerment, energy, and conservation.
“The beneficiaries of the platform work in various sectors and geographies around the world. Currently they serve global communities across Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe.
“By providing access to more funds and sharing the stories of human progress, we can encourage further transparency and participation,” Maya added.
“We’re very excited. There have been and will be challenges along the way, but we are looking forward to sharing the Art of Kindness with the community and celebrating where we have come so far alongside those who helped us get here.”
Many of the artists featured in the debut exhibition are from developing countries. Through the use of different mediums – including photography, mixed media, pigment on canvas, digital print and pastel, they depict the role of their environment through their artwork.
Devika said: “All of the artists are recognised and celebrated in their fields. They were selected for their talent and have exhibited all over the world.
“Each one has an element of kindness and a way of encouraging dialogue directly through their art or personally because of their childhood in emerging markets or passion for giving back.”
Artist Seema Kohli from India, was first told of the exhibition by the director of an art gallery in Bangalore, and said the concept “resonated with her ideology”.
Her journey into the world of art began as an “extremely shy and introverted” young girl, who used art as a means to express herself and her imagination.
“As a young child, I was “put on to painting” on the advice of a doctor. My parents had taken me because they were worried about their extremely shy, introverted daughter,” Kohli said.
“My childhood was full of stories. If paper was not available (and sometimes when it was) I would draw on my body or on my clothes, often the faces of women and their hair. I was a compulsive doodler; my hands could not stop.”
Her artwork – which will help the Odisha Elephant Project in eastern India, home to the largest population of wild elephants in the country – is a way of raising awareness to future generations about environmental issues.

Artwork by Seema Kohli

The NGO protects wild elephants from threats including habitat loss, poaching and desperate farmers who are affected by crop-raiding elephants that leave the forest to find food.
“The whole idea of sharing is inspirational in my work. I believe without sharing there is no art,” she said.
“Our generation made a lot of mistakes for which (future generations) have to pay. I am hopeful for a better world where the generation ahead of us is more aware and concerned about their environment.”
The Art of Kindness at The White Space in Leicester Square, London, is on until Sunday (12).