Sandhya Raghuraman: Inspiring Inclusion and Connecting People Through The Arts

I am different. I am unique. I am me. And, so are you. My story is different from yours. Our stories, an evolving narrative of our experiences and values, define us, and unbeknownst to us, continue to shape us, our view of life and the world around us. Don’t get me wrong - the I in me, defines my identify and let me be honest - as humans, as individuals, we are opinionated, biased and judgmental. So, through our unique lens what is inclusion, being inclusive, mean? Central to the idea of inclusion is the belief that diversity is valued and we can all learn from one another. It means that we welcome and value everyone, regardless of differences. It means that everyone feels respected. And, being inclusive is even more so vital in the society we live in today - both in the physical and virtual spaces - global yet fragmented.

Inclusion comes from empathy. It comes from being a good listener. It comes from having an open mind with the willingness to entertain others opinions, not exclude them. The first step of being inclusive, to me, is to understand my limits/boundaries and then figure out how much I can allow to expand to include others - be it a person, a group, and their opinions, practices and perspectives. As an individual, I’m always curious about people’s stories - their struggles, strengths, successes and so on. And as hard it may seem, I try to do this with an open mind and heart, without being judgmental. I do have this habit of putting myself in their shoes, but I need to learn to not give advice based on what I hear, because that will be from my perspective. What “I” would have done or would do if I’m them, which I am not. Personal opinions aside, being that listener with empathy, and making the other person feel like they are valued and respected, is key to an inclusive mindset.

Inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) is important to support in any avenue of society, but particularly in the performing arts. I’m a founding board member of Garage Arts Project (GAP), a BIPOC, women-led, nonprofit organization and we strongly believe in providing a diverse, equitable and inclusive platform to promote arts and artists (performing and visual). Through our initiatives, we encourage and create opportunities for audience-artist interaction, and bring various cultural groups together. Quoting TM Krishna, from his book Reshaping Art, “Art is freedom, abandon, beauty, and catharsis. And it is an embrace.” It truly is. Art plays an important role in society, in the communities we live in - they shape public ideas about cultural identity and expose audiences to ideas, discussions and experiences they may not otherwise encounter. At Garage Arts Project, we strive to create and sustain an inclusive platform, bringing together diverse artists, art forms. It is a safe space to explore and experiment, to connect and collaborate, find commonalities and learn about differences. We have been in existence for around 4 years now and it has been a gratifying experience being a part of this organization, we have seen artists from different walks of life, different cultures come together to embrace and experience the transformative power of art. Our flagship festival, Bridges, represents the strength, diversity and vibrancy of a collective community, the fusion of creative energies that transcends individual representation and experience. It is enriching and very rewarding. I invite you all to come see what we do at

So, let us cultivate the inclusive mindset as individuals for those around to watch, learn from and emulate. When we learn to accept our differences and value our strengths, when we learn to celebrate diversity and embrace it, we make a commitment to inclusion, and to opportunity and change.

About Sandhya: A wanderlust at heart, Sandhya's spirit is at home in the outdoors - with the flowing river, the vast ocean and the lofty mountain peaks. She loves nature, travel, poetry and music. She considers dance as one of life's greatest joys and is a lifelong student of dance and arts, with over 30 years of learning and practicing Bharatanatyam.
A bioengineer by education, Sandhya works as a Sr. Licensing Associate at Houston Methodist Hospital, and lives with her husband, 2 human children and 1 fur child in Katy, TX.


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