As an artist and illustrator, I am incredibly honored to be a Champion of Change. In a country rich with diverse stories -- my story is one that is linked to the concept of storytelling itself.
I came to the United States when I was four months old. I grew up in a large Indian family in a small town outside of Los Angeles. Being Indian-American has its benefits and challenges. My family stressed the importance of education but faltered when it came to supporting creativity. At an early age I was a reader; I devoured books. I wanted to be a writer but I also wanted to draw. Filling the pages of sketchbooks was a happy pastime. My parents encouraged me to pursue typically secure and safe majors, but I chose literature. At the University of California, Santa Cruz, where I received my degree, I struggled with the desire to make my family proud while remaining true to myself. After years in the non-profit sector, I turned to art. I realized that the combination of art and literature allowed me to create work that tells a story.
My art career was not seen as a path to success and I could see my family's growing concern. The challenge isn't the lack of success stories in the arts nationwide, rather it's the lack of strong, successful, female Asian-Americans in the arts. There was no role model I could name to reassure my family that a person like myself could make a living through art. The problem is two-fold: an absence of Asian female voices in the artist community means it is difficult to believe art is a path to success; in addition, families and communities are reluctant to support what they cannot understand. However, if our community continues to hesitate encouraging aspiring creatives it will not change.
I create an illustration nearly every day. My work captures the simple, romantic and whimsical stories from life. Drawing from my background as an Indian-American and as half of a mixed-race marriage, I've connected with a wide audience. Technology has allowed me to share my work with a global community. The response has been tremendous. On a daily basis I am greeted with emails and messages expressing appreciation for creating art that represents diverse communities and work that delights and inspires. By pursuing this alternative path, I have connected with and mentored others who are interested in the arts, or starting a small business, or simply those who question the common path to success.
I believe that we are surrounded by beauty and inspiration. Art is powerful, as a means of communication and connection. As a voice in the Asian-American community representing the arts, I challenge our community to encourage and foster creativity because the world needs our stories to be told. The world needs art.
Nidhi Chanani is an artist who creates illustrations that capture the everyday romantic and whimsical moments in life. In a fast-paced society that is saturated with a variety of media, her work reminds people to recognize those moments. Her work inspires aspiring artists young and old to pursue creativity and to recognize that art can be their voice and path in life.
Check out Nidhi's "What's Your Story" video submission: