The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on a lot of people, places and things. Countless jobs have disappeared, lives have been lost, and activities previously taken for granted have become casualties.
But in the interests of many who have suffered at the hands of coronavirus, Reetesh Sudhakar stepped up.
The rising senior at Westview High School, along with friends Sanya Surya and Arshia Rajeshnarayanan, created an organization called Youth Artists Unite, a group dedicated to providing a platform for young artists to perform.
When schools were closed this past spring, students like Sudhakar were left without the opportunity to present to others what they'd spent countless hours perfecting. Concerts were canceled, classes and practices were no longer, and performers were left with little reward for what amounted to a lot of hard work.
"We really wanted to give people, especially youth artists, a specific place to showcase their art," Sudhakar said. "With everything that's happened, it's easy for people to lose their incentive. We wanted to give them that incentive."
Sudhakar, who has spent more than half of his life performing musically — choral and acapella singing, classical piano, and playing a traditional South Indian drum called the mridangam — values the sacrifice many artists have made. So in appreciation of that and by way of Youth Artists Unite, he helped create a platform via Twitch, Facebook and Instagram, where people across all genres can strut their stuff.
In addition, Youth Artists Unite also does interviews with adult performers and instructors alike, from areas as far away as Washington, D.C. The interviews are typically released on Fridays, and this past week, the group interviewed Deepti Mukund Navile, the founder and artistic director of Natyabhoomi School of Dance in the nation's capital.
Prospective performers can simply fill out a Google form on the Youth Artists Unite social media accounts, and then they're put on the schedule. Performances are Saturdays. They have included presentations ranging from classical bands to skits and live paintings. Sudhakar said they've been a hit, getting hundreds of views both live and later.
"We've had hundreds of people tune in, not just for live performances, but they also come back and watch them after," Sudhker said. "And we've had people from as far away as California and Texas perform."
This past Sunday, July 11, there were four performing artists, and on Independence Day, five individuals went live, singing and playing the piano, ukulele and keyboard.
The eclectic nature of it all is by design, as Sudhakar believes that art — by definition — should have little to no boundaries.
"We have no restrictions, and I really don't think it would be fair on our part to restrict what people can and can't do, within reason," he said. "The best thing about art in and of itself is that there's no correct answer and there's no right way to perform it. For every person it's always going to be unique."
While Youth Artists Unite has become a fun and interesting project for Sudhakar, Surya and Rajeshnarayanan, Sudhakar thought it important to stress what's truly important about their endeavor.
"During this time, performing arts have really suffered and it's really something that people have taken for granted," he said. "Our lives right now, quite frankly are boring due to having to be held up in our houses. So it's really important for us to keep that connection with art and to continue to support these performers, so as to let them know that their hard work wasn't wasted."
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