Artist Talk: Althea Rao

Artist Talk: Althea Rao


Interdisciplinary artist Mengxi “Althea” Rao calls herself a cultural facilitator. She creates social engagement models to facilitate open and playful conversations around topics that are traditionally associated with shame and negativity, such as inherited privilege, mental illness, gender and sexuality. Her works empower individuals and help them find reconciliation with their cultures and selves. “Humans exist in the physical realm but my art does not.” Mediums Althea has explored include but are not restricted to: film and video, projection mapping, physical computing, contact improvisation, light sculpture, public space activation, rituals, and choir singing. She has lived and worked in China, Japan and the US, and studied journalism and filmmaking. Raos work will be on view at Union market during the festival 


Discovering your Platform and Wo/Mxning It
Pannel Discussion 
Sunday, June 23, 1:00-1:45pm
Smithsonian’s Arts + Industries Building

Join Althea Rao at the Smithsonian Arts and Industry Building to talk about her work for By the People, and how she has discovered art as a fluid but powerful platform to facilitate conversations around gender equity and social justice. Two guest speakers will be joining the conversation, sharing their experiences of breaking the rules and establishing new standards as who they are, from the grounds they stand on, through the platforms they have discovered. What is your platform? What are you doing well? What can you do better?

Guest Speaker

Jennifer Mandelblatt (she/her/hers) is a Co-Founder and the Executive Director of Platform. In this role, she serves as the facilitator for the Directors Team, focuses on Platform’s growth and expansion; fosters a national community of young leaders;  leads trainings on effective advocacy across the country; and organizes lobbying initiatives. She received her B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations with a minor in Inequality Studies from Cornell University in May 2017, just months before the team relaunched Platform.

Shavini Fernando, founder of OxiWear, is a video game,VR & web designer and developer. She holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Portsmouth in the UK, an MBA from Edith Cowan University  in Australia, and an MA in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University. She is currently completing an Executive Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship through Stanford University.

Having been diagnosed with severe Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) due to Eisenmenger’s Syndrome, Shavini has experienced multiple situations in which her heart has stopped as a result of a sudden drop in oxygen levels, necessitating self-CPR to revive her heart. After several near-death experiences, she invented Oxiwear as a tool for herself and the larger PH community. Her invention and new venture has led her to win awards from Ted Leonsis, Citiventures, and Georgetown University, which awarded her the Exceptional Masters Student Award for 2019. She was also awarded the DC FemTech Award in 2019, recognizing her as one of 49 influential individuals in Code, Data and Design.