A 12-year-old seventh-grader living in Liberty Lake is the youngest person to have been nominated for an annual Spokane Arts Award for inclusion. The annual awards are given to artists, cultural organizations and other individuals in four categories: leadership, collaboration, imagination and inclusion.
Sindhu Surapaneni said she has no idea who nominated her for the award. The award winners will be announced later this month.
“They didn’t really tell me what piece of art got me nominated,” she said. “They called me and interviewed me, too. I feel like most of my art focuses on diversity and inclusion.”
One of her recent pieces featured five women of different ethnic and cultural groups in front of an American flag. The women are standing equally as one, Surapaneni said.
“It reminds us to embrace all people,” she said. “It is about giving equal access and opportunities and getting rid of discrimination and intolerance.”
The art piece was purchased and then donated to the city of Liberty Lake. It now hangs in City Hall.
Last year Surapaneni was selected to paint a 9-foot holiday tree representing India for a Northwest Winterfest cultural celebration at the Mirabeau Park Hotel. She put about 45 hours into the task. Then she heard that the Pakistani artist selected to paint the tree to represent Pakistan would not be able to participate and she volunteered to paint that one, too.
The two countries have a long history of conflict, but Surapeneni said she wanted to show that the two countries could work together.
“I didn’t want Pakistan to be left behind,” she said.
She worked an additional 40 hours to get the second tree done, balancing the work with school and other activities.
“I was there past midnight sometimes,” she said.
During the height of the pandemic, Surapaneni taught art classes online, usually on Facebook Live. She continued that effort this summer, partnering with the TANA-Telugu Association of North America to host a series of six-week summer camps. More than 550 students signed up.
She charged $10 for the Zoom classes and TANA donated half to a charity of its choice and Surapaneni chose to donate her half to Blessings Under the Bridge, a local nonprofit that feeds homeless people in downtown Spokane once a week.
The organization needs $700 a week to feed hundreds of homeless people each Wednesday, Surapeneni said. She regularly volunteers there and her donation of $2,800 allowed her to sponsor a month of meals.
“I am so excited to share my blessings with those needed on Wednesday while I volunteer to serve meals for the homeless,” she said.
Surapaneni said she’s finding it difficult to wait to see which artists are selected for the awards but is pleased to be nominated.
“I feel very humbled and honored to be recognized,” she said. “It increases my drive to serve the local community.”
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