For over 15 years the nonprofit Society for Art & Cultural Heritage of India (SACHI) has been recognized for its partnerships with Bay Area arts institutions and local and international artists and scholars. Kalpana Desai, SACHI President, talks with India Currents about the creative programming that showcases the richness and diversity of the Indian artistic tradition.

How does SACHI connect to the current South Asian Bay Area arts scene and the institutions that support that scene?
SACHI is a community driven organization. SACHI has carved a special niche for generating rewarding learning experiences especially in the visual arts, but also through film, theater, book discussions, conversations, textile workshops and music and dance demonstrations. SACHI has a long standing relationship with art institutions like the Asian Art Museum, the Palo Alto Art Center, the Cantor Arts Center, the Mills College Art Museum, and the Berkeley Art Museum. In addition, we share a strong affiliation with the Center for South Asia at Stanford and the Center for South Asian Studies at UC Berkeley. Over 15 plus years, SACHI has partnered with nearly 50 Bay Area and international groups.

What does SACHI bring to Bay Area arts and culture that is unique?
The South Asian visual arts space is one that has room for a wider reach beyond artistic and academic circles. Performing arts often provide rich context in elucidating and illuminating concepts explored in the visual arts. We bring together different forms of artistic expression in creative ways for a dynamic and multi-dimensional understanding of Indian culture. The recent exhibition on yoga at the Asian Art Museum, for example, inspired a children’s yoga workshop. Similarly, a Thumri-Kathak music and dance performing arts event in conjunction with the Maharaja exhibition beautifully evoked an atmosphere of court entertainment.

How does SACHI represent both classical and contemporary arts?
Our close association with Bay Area museums and our connections in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, London, Mumbai, and Delhi enables SACHI to access both scholarship and living artists from a wide geographical spectrum. Contemporary art is an area that interests SACHI in many ways, because it intersects with current events. The SACHI team stays connected to both the classical and contemporary realms, as well as folk art traditions.

What are you most excited about in the May lineup of SACHI events?
A highlight event is on May 18th. This event is exciting because it brings together Swami Vivekananda as a reformist thinker and pairs him with a contemporary Indian artist, Jitish Kallat, whose Public Notice 3 was installed on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. This event will make a powerful statement about the state of the world through Vivekananda’s timeless message of universal harmony and Kallat’s creative transformation of this message. The Art Institute of Chicago curator who worked closely with Kallat during the installation, Madhuvanti Ghose, will be presenting the talk.
On May 23rd, SACHI is hosting a talk by Vedanta scholar Prasad Vepa, Trustee of the California Institute of Integral Studies. The Not-so-Hidden Secrets of Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita will provide a philosophical exploration of the yoga exhibit.
SACHI started in 1997. How have you seen the organization change and develop over the years?
SACHI has evolved organically over the years, and it continues to grow and flourish with the changing composition of its talented and dedicated volunteer Board. The scale and number of programs launched annually has perhaps doubled over time. As a result, SACHI’s visibility in the art and culture world has increased with a greater demand for program participation than it can comfortably accommodate within its existing framework. That SACHI has found a place in the program agenda of museum and university settings on a consistent basis is something we are particularly proud of.

“Public Notice 3:  From Vivekananda to Kallat.” Madhuvanti Ghose. Sunday May 18, 2 p.m.  Samsung Hall, Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco. Free after museum admission.

“The Not-so-Hidden Secrets of Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita.” Prasad Vepa. Friday May 23, 2 p.m. Education Classroom, Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco. $15, limited seating. RSVP