Alumni Stories: “Where Are They Now?”
“I Crave It”
A little over a decade ago, Garima Sood left Boston and moved to Montreal, Canada for college. Ever since then, she’s been searching for a community like the one she experienced while at Artists For Humanity.
Now she feels closer than ever before to building that type of community.
Sood, who is in her final year of completing her second bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, said that there is a very special dynamic that plays out at AFH. Because the organization requires teen artists to make art collaboratively and in proximity to one another, the teens and mentors connect in a special way.
“If you’re able to talk to the people around you while you’re making, you engage at a totally different level. The proximity with people allows that engagement to be so rich and meaningful,” she explained.
The AFH community was crucial to Sood when she was a teenager, especially because she was very much in the minority at her high school. She grew up in Delhi, India, and immigrated to Brookline, Massachusetts with her mother as a young teenager. At her high school in Brookline, most of the students were white and relatively wealthy. There were only two other Indian students in her grade.
At AFH, however, Sood felt represented because there were many other immigrants and people of color.
“I didn’t have to explain myself too much. I could just say something and be completely understood. To me, it felt like home,” she said.
Sood spent two years in the Painting Studio where she said she gained the confidence to express herself through the art form; she’s a hobbyist painter to this day. Co-Founder Rob Gibbs also taught her how to spray paint, which she said was her party trick and helped her build an eye for design.
After graduating high school, Sood worked in the Painting Studio as a Mentor, where she continued to create in a communal setting. She explained, “It was a space where you could express yourself and have other people hear you. We were developing that culture of allowing people to speak and hear each other.”
Sood then left Boston to attend Concordia University in Montreal, Canada where she began a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art. Montreal reminded her of her time in Brookline and left her missing the AFH community.
“I craved a space like AFH where it was so communal and you didn’t have to explain your situation to people; they just got it. I haven’t had it since then, and to this day, I crave it,” she said.
She also became disillusioned with the Fine Arts program at her university and switched her major to Political Science. It was largely because she couldn’t imagine where an art degree was going to take her, and a Political Science degree felt more practical.
“If you grow up in a system that brainwashes you into thinking [art is] not a viable way to experience success, I think that’s always something that informs your decision making,” Sood said.
After college, she returned to her hometown of Dehli, India and worked for an anti-child labor organization. Next, she took a job in Vancouver, Canada as an outreach worker serving the homeless community, working to increase access to mental health services, harm reduction, and housing supports.
Eventually, she realized that she missed working with her hands. She began a second bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design, and is now close to completing the degree. She has also been working as a design researcher in health design for the past few years.
Most recently, she has begun working as part of a residency program through the sustainability lab at her University, on a project that she hopes will allow her to build a community, similar to the one she had at AFH.
The idea for the project struck when Sood began experimenting with food waste — compost, fruit pulp, peels — to see what she could make. As she produced paper, leather, and pottery, she felt “awe struck” by how something considered waste could be transformed.
Through her project, Sood is connecting with different businesses and farms to find ways to exchange and redirect waste.
Additionally, in collaboration with other designers she is planning workshops where participants will learn how to turn waste into useful objects — for example, making fruit pulp into paper. The hope is that participants will also speak and engage with one another throughout the process, begin to form connections and better understand their relationship to food and waste systems.
Sood said that her time at AFH has been instrumental in driving her towards this project. She explained, “I’m thinking more about holding onto that feeling of what it means to be surrounded by people in a studio, people who get you, and this act of making together. I’m trying really hard to foster those same feelings here.”
Written by Lena Novins-Montague.