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Assemble Art sale benefits neighbors in Nepal

By Haldan Kirsch
On January 24, 2013

  • A piece from Assemble Art Sale done by Brian Strong. Haldan Kirsch / The Duquesne Duke
  • Volunteers and participants of Assemble’s Saturday Crafternoon build clay bowls and other crafts Saturday. Haldan Kirsch / The Duquesne Duke

Art from Pittsburgh is helping our neighbors. In Nepal.

The Rukmini Foundation held their first fundraising effort of the year over the weekend by hosting an art sale at the Assemble art venue in Garfield. Several local and fledgling artists put their works up for sale to benefit the foundation. The proceeds of the event will go towards the education of young girls in Nepal, according to foundation co-founder Bibhuti Aryal.

Aryal moved to Pittsburgh in 1989 after being born and raised in Nepal. He began the foundation with his brother Nabin after returning to Nepal to visit with family and seeing how bad conditions were for the young girls growing up there. The Rukmini Foundation is an up-and-coming non-profit which has been in existence since October 2011.

"Empowering underprivileged girls through education," Aryal said. "If I didn't do it, I didn't know who else would do it."

The sale demonstrated a large variety of artistic works and mediums such as spray painted canvases, street art inspired skateboard decks, photography and pop art.  

The two-day event raised more than $1,500, though Aryal says it's "more about awareness than funds."

"We have random people from the street who are excited about what we're doing," Aryal said.

One of the artists on display was Anup Aryal, an artist originally from Nepal and friend of the founder's. Anup had moved to Pittsburgh in 1988 with his family who hoped he would obtain a better education than he could in Nepal.

"Art was something that was not affordable to us [in Nepal]," Anup said.

After he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in business, Anup took a formal art class in his spare time and discovered a passion for it.

"[My work is] very much experimental. I don't know much about colors, I don't know much about drawing," Anup said.

Another artist whose works were on sale was Lauren Shuty, an English-as-a-second-language teacher and photographer who visited Nepal twice and saw the need for the Rukmini Foundation's cause first hand.

"I believe very strongly in what they're doing," Shuty said. "It's not revolutionary. They're just trying to help these girls."  

Shuty's works were a series of photographs she took when visiting Nepal in 2001-2002 while studying photojournalism and again in the summer of 2012.

"It's a very simple approach, a very reasonable approach," Shuty said. "They're starting small. It's very reasonable to help 10 girls."

Another local artist displaying his work was Dave Powleck. Powleck's work was a mixture of street art inspired paint on canvas and skateboard decks. Powleck explored the concept of a walking dead carnival through his displayed works.

One work that resonated deeply with the foundation's message showed a woman split down the middle with both sides of her representing differing paths in her life. According to Powleck, the difference between these two lives is whether anyone cared for her, or not.

Aryal hopes that the even increased public awareness not only for the Rukmini Foundation, but also for Assemble Art Venue and the artists. For many of the artists on display this was their first public showing and they were more than happy to support the foundation's cause.

The use of the venue made sense, according to Anup, as both the foundation and venue shared a common goal of strengthening communities.

Assemble is an art venue located in Garfield on Penn Avenue that looks to benefit the Pittsburgh community by hosting events such as this as well as organizing youth art programs. One of these programs is "Saturday Crafternoons," a free craft workshop for kids every Saturday.

According to Jessica Gold, Assemble's youth outreach coordinator, local artists and crafters volunteer their time to help give kids a chance to play with arts and crafts.

"Give a kid some craft supplies and a little instruction and they can enjoy themselves all afternoon," Gold said.

This was the first fundraising event of the year by the foundation and was considered a "great success" by Aryal who hopes for even more exposure in the future.

"Whether you're poor half-way around the world or poor here, it's the same struggle," Anup said.

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