Everywhere in the house, there is color.
On the front steps, a folk-art creature welcomes you. In the living room – animals, landscapes, both real and imagined, friends and family, dreams. Everywhere, color.
Chaitra and Ram Vedullapalli believe that if you are lucky enough to have a gift, you should use it to help others, however you can.
Their son, Chirag, certainly has a gift, and its products adorn every wall of their home on the outskirts of Sammamish. His gift is painting, but it is matched by his tremendous enthusiasm to give and do what he can for other people.
Through a philanthropic organization he helped create, Chirag has used his art to raise thousands of dollars for The Seattle Children’s Hospital, and has plans to expand his fundraising through broader connections with other local artists. All at the grand old age of nine.
Chirag is one of three nominees for the SAMMI Awards of Distinction Trevor Price Award, which honors young people in Sammamish whose initiative and caring sets an example for their peers. The city is blessed to have so many remarkable children, each year, considered for this great award.
When The Reporter met with Chirag at this home last week, it didn’t take very long to see that he is indeed a worthy nominee.
Though his artistic energy is clearly evident, what particularly strikes you is his energy for giving. Though he is proud of his paintings and sculptures, what he can make seems less important to him than who he made it for. Like the great artists he admires, Chirag knows that the work is only as important as the enjoyment it brings to those who see it. It is a profound concept for one so young – a natural propensity to consider the happiness of others ahead of yourself.
“I love being able to share something I have painted, and to make other people happy,” he said. His room is littered with paintings in various stages of completion – all for other people. A gift, a portrait, something for his favorite teacher. Just recently he painted a picture of a heart, one side covered in darkness, the other in light – a gift for a family friend whose husband had died.
Since he started painting at the age of three, the requests for a Chirag original have been growing. Even at that young age, he had an artistic understanding that often comes much later in life, such as the ability to represent perspective, and to express himself with great emotion.
“When he was about five, it got to the point where the requests for commissions were demanding a lot of his time,” said Chirag’s mom, Chaitra. “There was too much pressure. He was only five and he couldn’t produce them as fast as they were demanded.”
It was then the family began to discuss the idea of channeling this demand into something good – raising money for charity. At first, Chirag began donating the money he made from his paintings to the children’s hospital. But then he thought, “wouldn’t it be great if my friends could be doing some paintings too?”
That’s when the Vedullapalli’s launched Creative Children for Charity, which sees dozens of young artists – some Chirag’s classmates at Fall City Elementary, some friends from the neighborhood – coming together to paint and share resources. The completed works are then offered for sale at group exhibitions, such as the Sammamish Art Fair.
Those who have followed Chirag’s career so far are amazed at the diversity of style he has mastered. Though animals are clearly a favorite subject, the young artist’s style transforms as fluidly as his want. It is a trait that Chirag admires in one of his favorite artists, Pablo Picasso, who often appeared to be in fact dozens of different artists all in the one studio. From wall to wall, Chirag’s work leaps from realism to abstraction, to both the intricate and the expressionist.
For Chaitra, the fundraising aspect is just one of the ideas behind Creative Children for Charity. She says that growing up in India, many young people did not have the resources to paint or sculpt, and loves being able to offer children the opportunity to explore art, to share ideas, and be inspired by their friends and the things they see around them.
In the past year, Creative Children for Charity has organized a number of painting parties, where up to 50 children come together to make a mess, make art, and play. The program is about enabling children to be creative and have fun, while also nurturing a spirit of social consciousness, to realize that they can make a difference.
“We hope to eventually hold an event with 1,000 children all painting together,” Chaitra said.
It is a lofty goal, but already Chirag’s great enthusiasm for art is catching on. Just as he is inspired by his artistic mentors, such as Fall City Elementary art teacher Miska Salemann, so too is Chirag inspiring others to pick up a brush. Already his younger brother, Neal, is following in his footsteps.
To learn more about Chirag and Creative Children for Charity, visit http://meylah.com/blog/159.