Artistic Activism: Freshman sells paintings to raise major funds


Submitted by Shreya Poladia

Shreya Poladia and business partner, Claire Song, hold their donation check to Austin Pets Alive, a nonprofit organization devoted to saving animals. Poladia and Song hosted the ArtnBake summer camp in July 2022 and donated all proceeds to the shelter.

Aisha Rashid, Editor

Freshman Shreya Poladia strokes her paintbrush gently across the canvas. The acrylic colors compliment each other perfectly, marking the final touch of her painting. While this may be a common hobby for many, Shreya dedicates her artistic abilities to a greater cause.

Poladia has had a strong devotion to art since the age of five, but ever since the pandemic, she has challenged herself, as an artist, by creating her own art gallery website- Shreya’s Atelier. Poladia hosts annual charity auctions and lends her knowledge of art to others, trying to leave a positive impact on society and herself.

“Art is no longer limited to just drawing and painting on a canvas,” Poladia said. “There [are] so many other opportunities to use artistic skills, like in graphic design, fashion design, animation illustrat[ion], video game design and more.”

Many of Poladia’s paintings are based on her fascination with nature, including a variety of flowers, animals, birds and silhouettes of places she’s visited. Her greatest inspiration however, comes from her older brother, Raj, who has down syndrome and autism.

“The inception of ‘Art for a Cause’ came during the pandemic when I saw my brother struggling with social distancing,” Poladia said.

Because Raj was having difficulties managing the lockdown, Shreya decided to help him cope by teaching him how to paint and creating her online gallery with him.

“‘Charity Begins at Home’ was my first virtual art show and it was dedicated to my brother, Raj” Poladia said. “And, other people with disabilities who struggled to keep up with the new normal. I continue doing that every year and raise awareness for causes that are important to me.” 

In Poladia’s first auction, she sold over 60 paintings online and donated all profits to the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas. With the $2,100 that she raised, she was able to assist more than 800 families with affected members. This initial show ignited her passion for social justice and Poladia has continued to use her art as activism ever since.

“I want to use art as a community and raise awareness for different causes that are important to me,” Poladia said.

Every year, Poladia researches topics that she’s passionate about and meets with different nonprofits regarding her chosen issues. She talks to them about her ideas and how they want to help. Together, they devise a plan to raise awareness and fundraise using her art. Poladia also uses social media to promote her events.

“This year I’m doing an art show to help “Safe in Austin,” a rescue ranch that helps neglected, abused and abandoned animals help people with disabilities,” Poladia said. 

For the past three years, Poladia has taught kids of ages seven to ten and neurotypical people, like kids with autism, down syndrome, dyslexia and ADHD. In addition, she’s worked with adults and taught them basic painting techniques through workshops. 

“I’ve had a lot of really amazing opportunities to volunteer and teach art to a group of home-schooled kids in a co-operative program,” Poladia said. “As well as teach private lessons and do summer camps for kids and adults.”

Through art lessons, Poladia taught others vital art skills and learned a lot from the entrepreneurship aspect of it. She learned marketing, time management, budgeting and collaboration skills to ensure her business would thrive.

“It’s been really humbling to teach and learn art,” Poladia said. “The teaching opportunity helped me learn how to be patient, engage with kids, manage a classroom and leadership [skills]. It’s also helped me a lot personally and I’ve seen that it has a power to bring people together.”