Lunch and Learn: Empowering Creativity: Sculpture as Social Practice

 GautamLunch3On Thursday, January 26, 2017, the Desmond Tutu Center Tutu Fellow Gautam Rao, artist and Professor of Art at Butler University presented at our bi-monthly Lunch and Learn. In his presentation titled “Empowering Creativity: Sculpture as Social Practice” Professor Rao discussed the role that art can play in building community and fostering a platform for dialogue and understanding. Professor Rao presented work with an emphasis on typography, design, interactivity, play and the Indian-American experience.

Rao’s presentation contained several thought provoking phrases such as “what’s an introvert to do”, “why can’t we touch the art”, “how can I say what I feel”, and “artist’s role”. Professor Rao used these statements as jumping off points for his discussion of his personal and artistic past. Starting with his artistic development from his time in high school, Professor Rao’s presentation engaged the audience, composed of students, faculty, alumni and staff, in a timeline of self-discovery and self-understanding.

Professor Rao began the presentation with a conversation about how throughout his life he had to grow in Gautamlunch2his understanding of the role of an artist. Undergoing a self-healing process first, he began to realize as he learned to be an artist that he could use his artistic creativity to learn about himself. Through building spaces to empower others and their own creativity, Professor Rao used his own experiences of artistic development to help others understand themselves as well.

Displaying several of his own pieces, including paintings, drawings, and sculptures, Professor Rao demonstrated a raw environment in which artistic development mirrored the personal self-growth of the artist. Moving along a spectrum to more interactive pieces, Professor Rao changed the rules. Creating engagement pieces instead of more typical art to be hung on a wall, Professor Rao’s art pieces, such as rubber stamps or milk crate sculptures, were used by the public as a break off point to find their own artistic expression.

GautamLunch1In several instances, Professor Rao has created pieces the reflect on his own feelings towards social or political issues. He exemplified a part of himself through Hearvetica, a typology font Professor Rao created himself utilizing the design of hearing aids, by expanding upon the traditional stereotypical image of a hearing aid. He also created an exhibit of candles in the design of the word “CLIMATE”, and as the candles melted from being lit, Professor Rao was able to create something beautiful from such a terrible thing as climate change. The ability to discuss your own feelings through artistic expression is something Professor Rao seems to have taken to heart, both for himself and the viewers of his pieces.

At the end of the presentation, a discussion was held with the audience. Focused on the interactivity of many exhibits and the raw emotions visible in many pieces, the audience praised Professor Rao on his courage to create these pieces and go against the stereotype of “art”.

Our next two Lunch and Learns for the spring semester are March 30th with Fellow John Perkins and May 25th with Fellows Susan Adams and Brooke Kandel-Cisco

Works created by Professor Rao can be found at

By: Autumn Tyler

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