Art has always been therapeutic for me. 5 years ago, when I underwent major knee surgery, I utilized art as my escape; it was a way for me to cope with the mental and physical pain I was dealing with at the time. I could channel my troubled thoughts into illustrations on paper, enter a meditative state, and leave the grief behind. My love for art blossomed exponentially after I realized that it held the power to heal.
With this realization came my desire to bring the therapeutic qualities of art into others’ lives. I sent motivational artwork to my friend, who was undergoing cancer treatment, and she told me how much it helped lift her spirits during such a turbulent time in her life. Overjoyed that I could positively impact someone through my work, I enthusiastically dove into creating artwork revolving around mental health and positivity. I could see that the messages behind my art were resonating with others, and this inspired me to keep creating.
Soon, I started seeing art as a limitless possibility. I found that I could express any emotion or message through a creative lens and reach audiences who didn’t even speak the same language as me. It became clear that art could have a profound impact on others, and I started focusing on spreading awareness about topics I cared about through my work. Whether it was through visual arts or creative writing, I touched on issues from Asian-American representation and the dehumanization of women to climate change and voter rights.
Being a young female artivist (art activist) of color didn’t come without hurdles, however. It was cumbersome to find spaces where I could share or speak about my work or take part in artivism with others as a collective effort. I would rarely see people who looked like me being represented in the creative community, and I often felt out of place or unheard in the art world. The lack of opportunities for artivists like myself was disconcerting, but it was what ultimately pushed me into creating my nonprofit organization, The Art Shine Foundation.
My aim for ASF was to foster a community where youth artists from all backgrounds could come together to share their work, conduct service and activism through the arts, and collaborate. I had grown tired of the lack of representation and resources for Gen Z artists, and I wanted to create a space to amplify the voices of youth creators from all over the world, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.
When ASF started growing, it felt like I had finally found my home. We turned into a vibrant cohort of intersectional artivists, altruists, and philanthropists, coming together to create change and improve lives of others through creativity. Whether it was advocating for racial inclusivity through our Black Lives Matter Gallery, delivering care packages to nursing homes across the country, or raising awareness for women’s rights through our FeminArt magazine, I was able to bond with like-minded activists internationally and bring my vision to life. So far, we have reached 6,000+ young artists, allies, and activists from around the world through our initiatives.
I have learned that working to solve social issues or create change in the community cannot be accomplished through traditional means. Complex, deeply rooted problems are ones that require innovation and selflessness, which is why I built ASF on the pillars of creativity and empathy. I find that the language of kindness transcends any geographical boundaries, and when I lead with compassion, I receive it right back. Though leading an organization can be difficult, I have learned that if you are willing to motivate your team, take risks, and work extremely hard for goals you want to achieve, you can make anything a reality- and help others realize this fact too.
Many young people want to start an initiative but are too intimidated to. To youth wanting to create change, my advice would be to utilize what you love in order to create an impact on the community. My background is artistic in nature, and at the end of the day, what gives me the most joy is creating. Art is my solace; it is a way for me to connect to myself, the world, and others. It has done so much to improve my mental well-being, and I know that it can do the same for so many others.
ASF would not have grown or developed the way it has in the last year if I weren’t truly passionate about what I was doing. I’m a fervent advocate for every issue we raise awareness for, wholly enjoy amplifying the voices of other teen creators (because this was always something I wanted someone to do for me), and always use creativity as a way to communicate what I feel. Even if I face hurdles with my organization, I’m able to endure them because I’m incredibly internally motivated about what I am doing. So, I would tell others to find something they value- a LOT- and dive into utilizing it to create change.
I never expected ASF to blossom into such a booming space. Building my team from the ground up, leading people I’d never met before, doing paperwork on my own, building a website, and getting people involved and interested was tedious at first. But over time, I have found that with enough hard work, compassion, and open-mindedness, anything is possible- and this mindset is what makes me unsinkable.
Art is truly a universal language, and it is something which can unite people no matter their background. Together, the ASF community has been able to advocate for equality and positively impact peoples’ lives. We’ve become one of the go-to spaces for Gen Z creators and innovators alike, as juxtaposed with such a space which never existed before. ASF may be one drop in the ocean, but it is creating ripples of kindness, advocacy, and social change for generations to come. And I’m so lucky to be part of that.
Trisha is the founder of The Art Shine Foundation and can be contacted through the following channels: