Art Education is the need of the day, in order to channelize the creativity of young adults by mentoring them through their unique journeys !

Anika Gupta Goenka, our next pathbreaker, Creative Director at Art Lounge, an omni-channel art supply store in Mumbai, oversees marketing, social media and collaborations.

Anika talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about her work in art, from designing kidswear through her own brand, to teaching teaching final year students at Ecole Intuit Lab, a French design and visual communication school.

For students, if art is your career choice, find your niche and excel in it !

Anika, what were your growing years like?

I grew up in Mumbai, attended Cathedral School and studied the ICSE. My interest in art began when I was 4, I accompanied my elder sister to art class. She was my inspiration to explore this field from a young age. My art teacher took us to art galleries and introduced us to different art forms from around the world that gave us exposure that was not a part of the ICSE curriculum. That’s a reason for not taking up Art as a subject at any point because I was taking more progressive art classes outside school. I felt the ICSE curriculum was limiting in its approach and I knew I could tackle art on my own. I was very passionate about giving back to the community as well, and hence began volunteering at age 13 through an in-school program. I assisted my art teacher in hosting art workshops too. My sister got into NIFT for fashion; I was heavily influenced by her. But since I loved working with children, I knew I wanted to do childrens’ design after graduating. My father comes from a long line of businessmen and my mum comes from a strong creative line- she’s an excellent crafter, inherited from my equally talented maternal grandmother. 

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I applied to RISD, SAIC, Parsons, Central St Martin’s and NIFT Mumbai. I got into all, but chose Parsons because I could specialize in kidswear. Plus, being in New York City was a definite bonus. I graduated top of my class as Designer of the Year. I got hired by a luxury kidswear brand, Bonnie Young, and began to work in Manhattan itself. After working with them for a year in the midst of the American financial crisis, I felt my prospects were better in India. I also felt there was underlying racism within the hiring process, little to no medical assistance for foreigners and no emotional support. I returned home to launch my own brand of kidswear. Due to many factors, I began teaching design side-by-side at Raffles and later ISDI. I also began my own counseling practice and as that grew, I paused the design brand for a bit so I could work with young adults on their creative journeys. 

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?

As a child I loved dressing up, and making clothes for my Barbie dolls. I loved color, patterns and textures. I felt children were not judgmental and I generally loved being around them and working with/for them

In terms of creativity, my sister and my art teacher were my mentors. 

As I won a few art competitions at school, I was entrusted with creating murals, designing costumes for school plays and other creative decisions.

I explored my creativity in art class, visited museums and traveled with family around the world to understand different cultures, and read a lot on art history and design history

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

I was already interning at the company that hired me right after graduation. I was hired as an assistant designer at Bonnie Young, where I was responsible for liaising with factories, creating technical illustrations, sourcing fabric and creating print layouts. As mentioned, I left after a year and decided to come back to India to launch my own brand, Scribbles by Anika. My father had an office space that he set me up with and I called every single person I knew. I researched factory contacts, visited local tailors to see the process, and visited fabric markets. I gave myself 6 months to research everything, after which I launched my first collection. In 2010, childrenswear was not greatly explored within the Indian market. It was either Westside or an unorganized sector of women who worked from home. 

After working on my own brand for 2 years, I went through a drastic health issue which forced me to work in a less hectic environment. I took up design teaching as an alternative till my health issues got resolved. I first started at Raffles Design Institute by cold emailing them my resume. I taught various design subjects including fashion illustration, color theory, history of fashion. Being an alumnus of Parsons, I knew ISDI Parsons was in the process of setting up. They invited me along with a host of other alumni to set up the curriculum and be the first set of teachers there. Through this process, many students approached me to discuss my experience with design colleges, help them with portfolios and for general career advice. I officially re-launched Scribbles by Anika as an art and design counseling practice specializing in creative portfolios. I got married soon after, to someone who owns an art supply store. I had been helping him with content for his social media and developing product lines. This helped me to connect with artists to run art workshops at our space at Kala Ghoda. Throughout this period, I was freelancing in graphic design, for friends and family who trusted me to do their logos, wedding cards, pitch decks, stationery etc. I did not market my services at all, people asked me by word of mouth. 

How did you get your first break? 

I was already interning at the company that hired me right after graduation.So I guess that was my 1st break after graduating from Parsons.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: Finding quality fabric suppliers – I went to every single fabric market from Mangaldas to Dadar, Bandra shops and Bhuleshwar shops. I tried to get their wholesaler contacts. A couple of friends in the business put me in touch with fabric stores as well. I visited expositions in China to source. 

Challenge 2 – Finding time to balance being a new mother with teaching/designing. I had a supportive husband and very helpful in-laws. Creating a comprehensive schedule helped.

Where do you work now? 

I’m currently teaching final year students at Ecole Intuit Lab. I’m the Creative Director at Art Lounge, an art supply store. I’m also mentoring students via my counseling practice.

I help students with their portfolios, and overall presentation skills. I help Art Lounge with their marketing, product development.

What are the skills required in your role? How did you acquire them?

You need to be constantly creative. I studied art and design voraciously, as well as read about design regularly to pass on ideas to students. 

How is a typical day at work?

Once my son is at school, I start by reading the news from the art and design world. I then have a meeting with my Art Lounge team to discuss the projects for the day (reels, upcoming workshops, design work) and touch base with the partners to discuss big picture ideas. I then do one creative project with my son. I then touch base with my students to check up on their work in progress. On the days that I teach at college or work out of the studio or office, those days are different. 

Because I work across different creative ventures, I love the challenging nature. It’s like exercising the creative part of your brain daily. I am happy that I can come up with creative ideas immediately. 

How does your work benefit society?

I’m helping the art community. I also mentor a young girl via the Lighthouse Mentorship programme. We have supported them for years now. Through Art Lounge, we have also supported the Dharavi Art Project, worked with Andheri West Shit Posting to send supplies to children suffering from COVID during the first wave. I’ve worked with Flying Tricycle Workshops to host classes for cancer children at Tata Memorial Hospital. We have run an online symposium, Artmosphere, which raised scholarship funds for 4 art students. 

Can you tell us about a memorable project that you worked on?

Organising Artmosphere which was an exhaustive 3 day online workshop was especially fulfilling because I got to raise funds, speak to artists and push myself beyond my capabilities. Winning Designer of the Year was also extraordinary. I was the only Indian in the fashion department during my 4 years at Parsons who won that award, and ended up being one winner out of 3 in a batch of over 300 people. 

Your advice to students?

Procrastination is just an excuse. Reading about your field is as important as practicing it. Speaking up whether it’s on social media or in a blog or on YouTube is important. Find a niche within the industry and excel at it. 

Future Plans?

Hoping to work full-time at an IB school teaching Visual Art, as well as doing workshops, artist meets, collaborations at Art Lounge. Writing an art curriculum for some schools in North India.