Madhavi Reddi: Art is Necessary


Written By: Holly Zajur

Madhavi’s message is one that the world needs to hear. It is not uncommon to hear stories about arts funding getting cut in schools or emphasis being placed on “hard” sciences while dismissing the messages art has to teach. Madhavi explains that art is essential to daily life.

“Art is one of the most necessary forces in the world. It is what brings happiness and positivity to people that in turn allows them to function. If we are not happy on the inside, there is no way we can be productive in our lives. If everyone could dedicate a half an hour in their day to art, just like they dedicate a half an hour to the gym, I think we would be a much happier and more productive world.”

– Madhavi Reddi

When Madhavi was a baby, her mother would give tours at the University of Virginia Art Museum. Throughout her preschool years, her mother would encourage Madhavi to articulate what she saw and thought about the paintings. This made art a huge part of her life from an early age and taught her early on that there is much more to art than simply looking at something pretty.

“Growing up, it is art that taught me the meaning of discipline. For example, my education in and practice of Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance) and Tae-Kwon-Do has brought routine to my life. They both additionally served as an outlet where I could expend energy in a positive manner. This brings me to another reason why art is so important. It allows an individual to channel any energy (good or bad) in a positive way and you even get something out of it in the end which makes it all the more rewarding!

-Madhavi Reddi

Art is one of the greatest teachers for today’s youth. However, like most teachers in the Western world, art does not receive the respect it deserves. As Madhavi states, there is good and bad in the world that we cannot ignore. And art provides an outlet to turn this energy into something else. It holds the capacity to teach invaluable life lessons, such as discipline and learning how to create something positive out of a variety of experiences.

Each day the world we live in is becoming increasingly diverse. Forces of globalization and intercommunication increase the interactions we have with more ways of life than we have ever been exposed to before. It is a new experience and we are all learning how to address as we express our own identity as well as learn about identities different from our own. We are not able to label people by a mere category. Living in the United States with Indian heritage, art has served as an outlet for Madhavi to express this experience. Having art in the forefront of her life from an early age helped Madhavi navigate her way through life as a child of a multi-cultural upbringing. Upon reflecting on this experience, Madhavi recalled, “It is art that brings different world cultures together. It helps us understand each other in a peaceful manner, something that even talking does not always achieve”.


“In America, I’m Indian…In India, I’m American…Where do I belong?!”

10389425_678722558910386_3071860939111112869_n“My Name is NOT ‘A’, It’s Anuj.

Please learn to say it correctly or ask me!”             “NO, I’M NOT IN A TRIBE”


“No, I am not Muslim…even if I was it shouldn’t matter!”

“That ABCD Life” By: Madhavi Reddi

Upon addressing cultural misconceptions, Madhavi created a body of work titled “That ABCD Life”, ABCD standing for American Born Confused Desi. Madhavi states, “ ‘That ABCD Life’ is helping me realize several goals in my life. For one, I seek to provide an inside look at a population of our country that is seldom explored but drowns in stereotypes. In fact, I’d like to give a shout out to the subjects in my project who took it upon themselves to combat certain stereotypes from confusing Indians and Native Americans to showing that not all Indians own convenience stores. Another subject decided to change the “C” of ABCD from “confused” to “cultured.” This in fact crosses boarders to another population that I want this project to reach, our counterparts in India who constantly make judgments on us “ABCDs.” Often times when I go to India, I am faced with relatives making unfair and false assumptions about my life based on what the media tells them. I am hoping that this project will give them an insight into the ups and downs we go through as Indian Americans and hope that next time I go to India, they will think twice before making an assumption on my life”.

The participants of “That ABCD Life” disclose their souls in Madhavi’s photographs, bringing to light some harsh realities that would otherwise go unnoticed. Because of Madhavi’s art, their voices are being heard. Madhavi views art as a success medium to discuss any issue because it it’s the most peaceful means of communication, “It creates an individual experience for the viewer which allows them to internalize what they are seeing and what they are thinking and combine the two to better understand the world around them”.

I had the great honor of working with Madhavi this summer through the ARTinstead  Festival. Madhavi has been a true inspiration in my life, not only from the message her work conveys, but how she composes herself as an artist and lovely human being to work with. Take a moment to engage with the messages held within Madhavi’s work and see how it might change the way you see the world around you.

Words of Wisdom for Artists from Madhavi: “Have a reason behind your work. Anyone can be an artist. But to be a good artist your work must reflect the hours you’ve put behind it, the passion and sincerity you breath into it, and of course, the skill you have to produce it. Also, I’d like to point out that a good artist knows the value of technique. When we compare a painting by say, Degas, to one of those giant canvases with splatter paint all over it, we can see the all of those things that Degas put into his work whereas we are not as likely to feel it with the splatter painting. Of course, in today’s world we find people merely glossing over a work by Degas and spending hours on end analyzing the splatter painting which is fine. But if you ask me, to really gain respect in the arts, you must create pieces that clearly communicate something to viewers”.

More About Madhavi: Madhavi identifies as a multimedia artist of Indian heritage from Charlottesville, Virginia. She has been interested in the arts from a young age and her passion has continued through her undergraduate education at American University, where she graduated in 2014 with a B.A. in Film and Media Arts. You can check out more of her work on Facebook .

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