Nisha Nair: Creative Participation through Art as a Site for Pedagogical Transformation
ArtSparks Foundation is an educational nonprofit organization that leverages the power of the visual arts to support the development of 21st century learning and life skills in children from some of the most disadvantaged communities in India.
In order to deliver its programming for children, ArtSparks recruits from within the local communities where it works, women—often marginalized by their own lived experiences—to serve as facilitators. This presentation intends to shed light on an art project that was initiated in response to a curatorial call by the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC) in NYC, for an upcoming exhibition. Four of ArtSparks’ women facilitators were encouraged to submit a piece towards the open call, that has since been accepted into the show, set to open in March 2023. The artist statement submitted on their behalf, included below, read:
What happens when social memory is evoked amidst newly emerging social consciousness? How might it further the reimagining of individual and collective identities? These are some of the questions that the four artists-facilitators have grappled with in response to the curatorial call. Their work serves as a site for recollection as they come together to contemplate their inherited positionality as women, mediated through sociocultural norms and often unequal power structures that maintain systems of patriarchy that in turn impact them either directly or indirectly. Through their images, rich in their narrative qualities, they seek to challenge these norms and power structures by reimagining and reclaiming their presence as women. While the art-making process serves as a means to extend their thinking into new horizons, the work they produce is intended to shine a light on their experiences and provoke consciousness-raising conversations among other women with similar shared histories. The aforementioned art project will serve as a lens through which to explore how creative participation in the making processes of art through the collaborative and negotiated development of ideas, the assumption of various roles, the formation and re-formation of identities, and more, has implications for transforming teaching practice.
Nisha Nair is the Founder & Executive Director of ArtSparks Foundation. At Teachers College, she is a doctoral fellow and candidate within the Art & Art Education program. She is also an instructor within the program, having co-designed a course in art and community engagement, which she teaches in the Fall semesters.
Nisha’s work in education spans varied settings, across continents, in both the US and in India. She has served in various capacities from teacher, teacher professional development specialist, curriculum developer, researcher, program director, to her present role as Executive Director. As Executive Director, Nisha wears many hats, supporting organizational strategy development, program design, human resource development, fundraising, and donor relations, to name a few. At the core of her work in education lies a deep interest in how meaningful art experiences can support the development of a range of human capabilities that in turn propel individual and social transformation. And in how educators can promote such experiences for diverse learners. Her current research explores teachers’ creative participation in the making processes of art, viewed through a sociocultural lens, and the position exchanges they facilitate that have implications for perspective transformation and altering teaching practice. Prior to education, Nisha spent 8 years as a multi-award winning graphic designer working in the field of Marketing Communications Design, meeting the branding and design needs of diverse clients such as the Smithsonian Institutions, National Endowment for the Humanities, NASA, and more.