Learn how Vatsalaa Jha’s work as an artist/educator invites people to foster the art of empathy

Local artist/educator Vatsalaa Jha has teamed with Sarah Drake and Great River Regional Library to create a Legacy event series, The Art of Conversation, for adults and teens. This is a platform for people to to come together on a monthly basis to have conversations about inspiring art. The artists are using art to open conversations in a gentler way about topics that may be difficult to talk about, learn from those conversations and each other, and share our combined and collective knowledge as a community.

About Vatsalaa Jha

Vatsalaa Jha graduated from UW-Madison in 2014, where she studied Art and Honors in the Liberal Arts.  She is originally from India.  She immigrated to the United States in 2001 with her family.  Her art always ends up having flavors of intended concepts, deeper meanings, and perhaps overall truths about herself. She has found that art is a way for her to escape from the world and focus on herself and what she personally can create rather than the creation of someone or something else. She is a designer, photographer and conceptual public artist, as well as a core member of the Lyricality Leadership Circle.

Vatsalaa Jha’s Artistic and Community Vision

It’s difficult to label Vatsalaa Jha’s vision and work because she works to break down imposed directives and rigid definitions, as if to confront assumptions with a gentle, “Really?” As a conceptual public artist, Vatsalaa questions the boundaries between art and “not art”. The Art of Conversation is not only a conversation about art, it is an artistic process–the generation of ideas when a conceptual artist takes on the role of facilitator.

She makes art (and creates the art of conversation) she says, because of the joy she finds in creativity. “From coming up with the idea to making sure the idea is crafted, I find a positive experience in making art even if it’s not for production,” she wrote recently. “It’s fun to make something that’s from my own development and conception–something that I can think about, link together, and then hopefully share and communicate in some capacity.”

In other words, when participants come together for The Art of Conversation they are also engaging in conceptual art-making.

Contemporary conceptual artists will often use interdisciplinary approaches and audience participation, and critique the use/abuse of power by institutions, political systems and structures, and hierarchies. “I don’t think a facilitator always has to be in the driver’s seat,” she said. “In fact, sometimes it’s best to let those in the conversation drive and lead the conversation because they are why the conversation is happening. When great messages, interpretations, and ideas are exchanged… it’s really inspiring.” Especially when they come as a surprise–an unforeseen turn or transformation generated by human connection.

The idea-building and the conversation that people end up finding on their own through the platforms she provides are her inspiration and motivation.

In addition to The Art of Conversation, Vatsalaa is working on a public art project on Equity vs. Equality, researching the ways in which equity may be a positive concept. Her dream is for central Minnesotans to be culturally aware by learning about all the people who live here. She hopes there will be more places in Central MN where all feel welcome, as more businesses are established that help with the actual and necessary unity and bonding to build strong community.

Join the Art of Conversation with Vatsalaa Jha and Sarah Drake

Since September, 2022, The Art of Conversation has met monthly on a Saturday at 2. The next event takes place December 18 at 2-3:30 pm, and will feature Bollywood Hindi Music Videos. Attendees will try to understand the stories and cultures of the music videos and look at the music videos as art pieces where language is unknown and yet messages are still known. Register for the Zoom link at griver.org/events.