LEADERS' SPOTLIGHT: Anya Shukla & Kathryn Lau
Updated: Jul 12
[What we loved about Anya and Kathryn is how they applied to be featured as co-founders, giving one another equal credit and respect in their efforts to change the world. Read their comments below about leadership.]
Age / Grade / School
17/Seniors/Lakeside School (Seattle)
Tell us about your organization, its mission, and your role.
We co-founded The Colorization Collective, an organization that supports teen artists of color, in June 2019. The Collective works to assist teen artists of color by providing participants with resources, opportunities, and a community of peers and mentors who look like them. In doing so, we hope to create and promote diversity in the art world through inclusive and accessible means. The Collective runs three main projects: a web-series; online content, such as interviews, reviews, and social media features; and a mentorship and performance opportunity. The two of us, specifically, direct the organization and team members, manage projects, and seek out collaborations with other artistic groups.
By taking the time to spotlight successful teens of color, The Collective’s projects show their interviewees and viewers of color that they do deserve to be part of an artistic space. They are good enough. “I never thought of myself as an artist before your video,” a
web-series interviewee noted. “Before, I didn’t feel important. But you took the time to make a video about me… and it made me feel important that you cared and wanted to feature me. It made me think, ‘I could go into the arts in the future’... You made me feel seen.”
What are some of the biggest challenges your organization faces in its operations, and how did you overcome them?
We are both Asian, and our current leadership team (which consists entirely of teens of color) is mostly Asian as well. However, we want to ensure that our organization’s leadership accurately reflects the diversity of the arts scene. We believe our work would be strengthened by representation from a variety of communities, and so are working to bring on individuals with a range of backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences - for instance, by reaching out to various organizations in the community that serve non-Asian people of color and asking for leadership team nominations.
Is there anything you would have done differently when starting up or running your organization?
When we founded The Collective, we thought we each had to go through the process alone - we divided up responsibilities and didn’t communicate with each other about our progress. This approach hurt our organization, as we couldn’t brainstorm innovative solutions to potential problems or find new ways to expand our reach. However, over these last few months, we recognized the demerits of our previous leadership style and decided to take a more collaborative approach to The Collective: whenever we face a problem, we talk it over; we share outreach strategies; we bounce ideas off of one another. Our new approach has led to a stronger organization - for example, it was only after an hour of brainstorming that we came up with the idea to feature teens of color on our social media pages, as well as in our web-series, thereby doubling the number of teens we can feature in a year.
What does leadership mean to you? Describe how you lead.
We both work to lead by example: we stay on top of deadlines, practice self-accountability, and strive to produce high-quality products throughout our various projects. As well, a key aspect of our leadership style is our communication with our team members: we schedule team-wide meetings to hear their perspective on various initiatives and ask them to share any resources or ideas that may strengthen our work. For example, when one of our team members saw that we lacked mental health resources for POC on our website’s Black Lives Matter resources page, she reached out to us with relevant information, which we then added to the site. To that end, we lead by creating an environment where everyone on our team has a say in our work, as we believe that approach will allow The Collective to thrive.
What would you say to girls or young women who are interested in making a difference or considering leadership?
Use what you’re passionate about to give back! We’re interested in art, so we decided to use our skills to help artists. But that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. If you love soccer, coach little kids; if sustainability is your area of interest, petition for recycling bins to your school. There are many ways to enact positive change, and no one is better than the others. What’s important is that you do good in the world :) As well, never let anyone tell you that you are "less than" because of your age. Just because you're young doesn't mean you don't have the skills, passion, and drive to make a difference.
Who inspires you?
We are constantly inspired by the artists we interview and feature. Many of our interviewees face financial or cultural barriers to the arts, yet remain determined to continue creating artwork and sharing their creativity with others. We always ask what advice our interviewees would give to other teen artists of color, and the answers they give, ranging from “don’t let others dictate what you make” to “I want to be a model for the next generation," fuel our determination to continue our work in the community.
Where can we learn more about The Colorization Collective?
YouTube: The Colorization Collective
More about you (bio):
Anya Shukla is a senior at Lakeside School and has been an artist for as long as she can remember. A proponent of racial equity in the arts, she co-founded The Collective to create space for teen artists of color who, like her, may feel underrepresented in the art community. Anya is also the incoming President of the TeenTix’s leadership board, as well as a participant in many community service-and-writing-related extracurriculars.
Kathryn Lau is a senior at Lakeside School who has spent more of her time on stage or in rehearsal than not. She has danced with artists from all over the country, and more recently finished the Seattle Children's Theatre's Young Actor's Institute with Anya. As a co-founder of The Collective, Kat wants to find a way to make the arts inclusive for all audiences regardless of race and strives to have equal, authentic representation in the arts community.