Saramati Narasimhan was Thought Notebook Journal issue five’s Artist To Watch. We loved her organization Art For A Cause so much that we decided to make it issue five’s social change organization chosen as a part of our Thoughtful Project. Her nonprofit organization organizes public events, commissions art, and participates in community outreach programs benefiting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Saramati donates 100% of money made and donated to this research hospital through her graffiti, henna, tattoo designs, sketches, cartoons, and more. Saramati is one that has turned something positive out of a negative. After battling a personal condition, it was heavy on her heart to give back in some way and provide to the greater good of society. She still wonders what would have happened if she never picked up her pencil to sketch again in that hospital. It was an unbelievable chain of events that led to Art For A Cause being born. We are privileged to tell her story and support her organization with 10% of all sales of Thought Notebook Journal issue five.
You had an epiphany one day that gave you inspiration to start Art For A Cause. What was it?
Art For A Cause was born from a hospital bed. Over five years ago, my entire world flipped upside down. I went from being a very physically active full-time student to being bed ridden within the span of a month. I was diagnosed with a chronic pain disorder, and I went from biking 20 miles a day to having someone roll me over in bed. To pass the time in the hospital and work through what I was going through, I began to sketch. To my surprise, the other patients started asking to buy the art I was creating, and that is when I had my epiphany. I could never ask cancer patients to pay for what was bringing me so much comfort, and I knew I wanted to help other young people like me who had found themselves in unexpected health situations. This is how Art For A Cause was born–drawing from my bed. Art For A Cause has given me the small opportunity to repay all the affection I was shown by my family, friends, and random people who showed so much compassion to me. Despite the tremendous difficulty and struggle of my condition, these circumstances have led me to where I am truly meant to be. It has transformed me into the person I am today. Starting Art For A Cause really has changed my life for the better.
Why St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital? Is there an affiliation or likeness towards this hospital? Do you have children of your own?
Some of my favorite interactions have been with former patients of the hospital. During my public events, I am always humbled when former patients and family members of survivors have come to thank me. While doing henna for them, they have shared amazing stories of survival and appreciation for the second chance they were given by St. Jude's Children's hospital. Hearing their stories and the stories of their loved ones have been some of the most memorable moments of this entire process.
Have you had the ability to see or meet any of the children you have helped due to the proceeds from Art For A Cause?
One large factor of why I felt so strongly about supporting St. Jude’s Children’s hospital was because I have met children who were patients there during my visits to the hospital. They showed more maturity, charisma, and bravery than I have seen in adults, including myself. They were really my inspiration and still are today.
What is the “Cause” in the name Art For A Cause?
The name of this organization has always been a source of pride for me. I left the ‘Cause’ open ended for a reason, because I feel that there are many causes in this organization. The first and primary is supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Every penny earned through art has been sent to this hospital, and the over-arching aim of Art For A Cause is to raise funds for those patients. The secondary cause is spreading happiness in the general public through art. I love doing public events because I know my participants, at least for a moment, are given a chance to enjoy the art they are exposed to, and relax. Not only is the art financially helping the patients at the hospital, it also brings joy into the lives of people who purchase the art or attend the events. I was shown so much kindness while I was battling my condition that it felt wrong not giving back in some way. Therefore, the most personal ‘Cause’ is the impact Art For A Cause has had on me personally. The organization has given me a chance to make something beautiful out of my pain, and every piece of artwork I make has helped me fight my disease and give me hope.
What kind of events do you organize through Art For A Cause?
When I rejoined the University of Miami after leaving due to my illness, Art For A Cause started growing in ways that I could not imagine. There was a variety of public events that helped spread the word about the organization and a large number of collaborators who have heard about what I was doing and contacted me. In one of the henna events I organized, volunteers and I set up a booth and provided people with unique henna based on their requests. I also have collaborated with other local charity organizations to help promote art to children, raise awareness for other causes, and just help the community in any way we can. My favorite event was also the largest one I organized in collaboration with many other University of Miami organizations and local artists. It was an evening of art for sale, dance, and live music performances. More people than I ever could have imagine attended. Seeing everyone come together to help diseased children was the most moving moment of my time running Art For A Cause. Working with other artists, whether they are visual artists, dancers, or musicians, is an amazing experience. They donate their time and inspiration, and I am forever grateful for all of their help. The combined man power fosters real creativity and allows us reach more people than I could have ever imagined on my own.
You create various types of artwork, from graffiti to cartoons. Which one is your favorite?
My favorite type of artwork is henna. My Mom taught me how to do henna and it has always held a special place with me for that reason. When I am drawing a henna tattoo on someone, I have the ability to talk with them and learn about the person supporting Art For A Cause through their purchase. There is something very personal about being able to make a piece of art on the person who requested it. One of my favorite moments doing henna was when I met a cancer survivor from St. Jude Children’s Hospital who heard about what I was doing. Seeing a survivor from that hospital and being able to make a piece for her personally was truly inspirational.
Art has transformed your life in many ways. What has been the biggest transformation yet?
My diagnosis has been the largest point of transformation for me. I had sketched before I had gotten sick, but I never had explored it further. Art had been in my peripheries before I developed my chronic pain condition, but now I cannot imagine my life without it. It provides me with a means to cope with my condition, to express what I am feeling, and to give back to the community. I do not honestly think I would have started Art For A Cause if I had not gone through what I did; I cannot fathom living without art now. I now attend Vanderbilt University, and bringing Art for A Cause to this new city has been a wonderful experience. I look forward to seeing how Art for A Cause will grow in future years."
What continues to fuel your spirit as you fight a chronic pain disorder and run a truly inspiration social change organization?
Helping others through art morphed a terrible moment in my life into something beautiful. I am inspired by all the other patients out there who walk amongst us and are fighting so bravely. I am inspired by the amazing potential of people to perform acts of kindness for strangers, and I am inspired by my family and friends who have made me who I am today. I am forever grateful to them, because I know I owe them everything. Additionally, all of the events Art For A Cause runs, or participates in, are made possible by the generosity of people looking to do a good deed. I am so thankful and inspired by all the volunteers and participants who have truly made Art For A Cause what it is today.
Support Art For A Cause by purchasing Thought Notebook Journal Issue 5. 10% of all sales gets donated to the organization.