Breaking Cultural Stigmatization and Redefining Career Paths in the Arts

As the warm sun descended beyond the horizon and the first chords of music filled the air, Staging Success reaffirmed its commitment to empowering aspiring artists. Through its most recent “Serenades & Sunsets” event, the nonprofit led by high school senior and 2023-24 International Thespian Officer (ITO) Sid Gunasekaran showcased an evening of artistry, inspiration, and scholarship awards. Here Sid shares how his efforts aim to break down societal barriers for young artists. 

Q. What led you to create Staging Success?

Sid Gunasekaran: You know, I’ve had the privilege to dabble in different worlds—business ventures like Dallas Shoe Plug and, of course, the arts. Each experience was a stepping stone that led me to appreciate the transformative power of creativity. But I noticed that in minority communities, particularly in my South Asian culture, pursuing the arts is often stigmatized. There’s this emphasis on conventional career paths like engineering or medicine, which led me to recognize a void that needed filling. That’s how Staging Success was born. 

Q. Can you elaborate on the stigmatization in your culture around the arts? 

Sid Gunasekaran: Certainly. In many South Asian communities, the arts are often viewed as a “lesser” career or something that should be relegated to hobby status. People forget that the arts are not just about self-expression they’re also a pathway to countless opportunities. Take me, for instance; I’m a high school senior interested in business. But it’s my background in the arts that has given me the unique perspective and skill set to succeed in whatever endeavor I choose. I want Staging Success to break down these societal barriers and reshape how our culture perceives the arts. 

A student performing on stage at Staging Success an event celebrating the arts

Q. So how does “Serenades & Sunsets” play into this mission?

Sid Gunasekaran: “Serenades & Sunsets” was a multi-faceted event that served as a microcosm of what we aim to achieve. We had young artists from diverse backgrounds who were not just given a platform but were also provided with scholarships. The event itself was enveloped in a rich atmosphere that celebrated their talents, making it a transformative experience. The setting sun that evening symbolized the end of an era of narrow thinking about the arts and the rise of new opportunities. 

Q. Can you tell us about the role of business in your endeavors?

Sid Gunasekaran: Business is not separate but rather integral to fulfilling our mission at Staging Success. My business experience has taught me strategy, structure, and most importantly, how to bring resources together. We are in the planning stages of launching four more events this year, serving to expand our reach, get more artists involved, and ultimately generate more resources for scholarships and mentoring programs. 

Q. What would be your message to aspiring artists and skeptics within your culture?

Sid Gunasekaran: To the artists, I say, let your art speak for you. Prove the skeptics wrong and pave your own path. To the skeptics, it’s time to realize that art is not just a form of expression but also a form of empowerment. By limiting our views on what is ‘acceptable,’ we not only stifle creativity but also close doors to endless possibilities. 

 Te debut event collected voluntary donations, all of which are slated to benefit the Educational Theatre Foundation. A blend of advocacy and art, “Serenades and Sunsets” sets a precedent for Staging Success’ plans for the 2023-2024 season, which Sid promises will be equally impactful and ambitious.

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