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Ashwini Srikantiah

Ashwini of ArtWallah

Although we define ourselves as the forward-thinking generation of tomorrow, all too often, many South Asians still feel compelled to fit the typical “model-minority” stereotype. Having received his bachelor’s degree in Television, Radio, and Film from Syracuse University, twenty-five year old Ashwini Srikantiah knows a thing or two about defying cultural norms. Inspired to empower and facilitate the growth of other artistic visionaries, Ashwini became the Artistic Director of the ArtWallah non-profit organization. ArtWallah stands strong as the longest running South Asian community-driven arts festival in North America. In fact, the organization has held its annual arts festival for seven consecutive years. Having attracted a loyal and active group of over 150 volunteer community members each year, ArtWallah has succeeded in its overarching attempt to facilitate communication between artists within the South Asian diaspora. With its headquarters set in Los Angeles, ArtWallah provides a much-needed platform for artists who are looking to make their California dreams a reality. Learn how many upcoming projects and affiliations of ArtWallah organization aim to cultivate South Asian creative juices by reading this week’s Non-Profit spotlight.






Ashwini Srikantiah
Artistic Director




Ottawa, Ontario and
Newtown, Connecticut

Current residence

Los Angeles, California


Syracuse University, BA in Television, Radio and Film (2003)

Work Experience

Viacom Productions, Development Assistant



About the non-profit

ArtWallah is a grassroots, community-based, non-profit organization that seeks to cultivate and empower artistic voices of the South Asian diaspora by providing platforms for expression and by creating channels of communication between artists and diverse communities. The organization’s programs include: The annual ArtWallah Festival of visual and performing arts; YouthWallah, an arts mentorship program; the publication Shabash! The Hip Guide To All Things South Asian; and Uncharted, a storytelling program that documents the experiences of South Asian immigrants to the United States.

ArtWallah is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA and is driven by a small dedicated staff and large volunteer base. ArtWallah is made possible by the generous support of individuals, government and foundation grants, and corporate sponsors.

Most notable milestones

  • Annual ArtWallah Festival – arts festival of the South Asian diaspora, running for seven consecutive years. The ArtWallah Festival brings together artists of all disciplines from across North America to share their work over a weekend in Los Angeles.
  • YouthWallah Youth Arts Mentorship Program started in 2004
  • “Shabash – The Hip Guide to All Things South Asian”, guidebook: Version 1 was published in 2002, cover Southern California, and Version 2 was published in 2005 to cover progressive desi culture across North America.
  • “Uncharted” storytelling program launched in 2006, to document the stories of immigrants over the age of 50.

What’s the niche?

  • longest running South Asian diasporic arts festival in North America
  • tremendous platform for emerging artists, many of whom have gone on to build stronger artistic careers.
  • ArtWallah brings together a strong and active community of volunteers (over 150 each year) who are artists and art lovers. These people are the core of our organization, and keep it running year after year.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Funding. In our current national climate, arts funding has been severely cut, and we depend now more than ever on individual donors to keep us alive.

What’s in store for the future?

Collaborations with larger arts organizations in Los Angeles, to produce events and welcome an increasingly diverse audience.

Who would you like to be contacted by?

  • Artists
  • Marketing / PR professionals who would be interested in helping us promote our events and programs
  • Organizations interested in collaborative productions
  • Potential Sponsors and In-kind Donors

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ArtWallah Festival 2006 Evening Show Jam Session, with
Vidya Quartet, Falu, and the Himalayan Project.
(Photo credit: Jonathan Beckerman)

Guiding principle in life

Live Creatively.

Yardstick of success

Ask yourself: Are You Interested?

Goal yet to be achieved

Opening a Cabaret Blues Bar when i’m 50.

Best practical advice

Ideas are cheap. Making them happen requires a lot of energy. Break things down into digestable, do-able steps, and check-in with yourself and those you’re working with all along the way.

Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture

Do the best you can. And allow yourself to be proud of your accomplishments.


2 Teachers, 3 professors, 1 old boss, my family, & my family of friends.

What motivated you to get started?

A community of artists and activists started the organization, because they felt a great need for community among artists of the South Asian diaspora.

Like best about what you do?

Working with artists and creative thinkers to turn an idea into a reality.

Like least about what you do?

The struggle for money.

DJ Yashraj on the Outdoor Stage at
ArtWallah Festival 2006.
(Photo credit: Jonathan Beckerman)

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A performer.

Biggest pastime outside of work

Singing / Songwriting

Person most interested in meeting and why?

John Cassavettes – I think he’s a beautiful writer and director who really values his artistic process. I also love how he embraces contradiction, and allows simple moments to convey such complex human emotion.

Leader in business most interested in meeting and why?

Google Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin – I think they are visionaries. I like how progressive they are, and I like their approach to philanthropy. I really hope it succeeds.

Three interesting facts about yourself

1. I like woodworking.
2. Despite living by the ocean, I have never been surfing.
3. I was a contestant on “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” I met Rockapella. It was a great day.

Three characteristics that describe you

1. optimistic
2. active
3. social

Three greatest passions

1. music
2. working with people
3. travel

Favorite book

The Synonym Finder

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Interview by Raymond Rouf
Introduction by Rupa Dev

Also this week

Melissa HungAlexis ParraNarges Bajoghli and Nikoo Paydar

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