Alumni Profile: Piya (Mazumdar) Samant MS ’05, MBA ’14, Visual Artist

Department(s):

Alumni

WPI graduate and local artist Piya Samant MS ’05, MBA ’14 has an upcoming exhibition at the JMAC in Worcester from December 7-21, with an opening reception on Friday, December 16th. "Saffron Notes" features oil paintings of South Asian women, portraying them in their ephemeral moments of solitude, beauty, and thoughts of self-worth, free from societal burdens.

Learn more about Piya's art at her website. 

Q: Tell us about your WPI experience. Are there any lessons learned at WPI that you continue to apply to your life today?

A: WPI was my home away from home when I moved to the US from India for grad school. At WPI, I had a transformative experience, academically and personally. It had the perfect student to faculty ratio for one-on-one interactions with faculty, and active class engagement. In my time at WPI as a grad student and then as an employee, I made valuable connections and formed lifelong friendships. 

As a full-time practicing artist, technical and business skills learned at WPI helped bring my art out of the studio and into galleries, museums,  collectors’ homes, and online. The less romantic yet equally important aspect of being a practicing artist is art business. 

A few of many non-art skills required to stay afloat in the art world include: creating a business plan, project and deadline management, finding a target market / collector / gallery, grant writing, web development, budget, leadership and social skills, and marketing. Lessons learned at WPI have been key in making a seamless transition from tech to the art world. They continue to help me stay on track.

Q: What led you to transition from a career in technology to a full-time art practice?

A: I was trained in Technology, Business, and Management and spent the majority of my adult life working in tech so the transition to becoming a full-time artist was a big leap of faith. As a self-taught artist, it can be challenging at times to navigate the art world alongside formally trained artists. In an effort to grow, I am constantly learning and evolving my techniques. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible circle of people in my professional and personal life who have encouraged me to chase my passion and offered opportunities for my growth as a full-time visual artist.

Q: What do you hope people will take away from your exhibit? 

A: For centuries, western artists have celebrated women by portraying them as beautiful, powerful, and sometimes as nobility. Few parallels exist for South Asian women because we often think of them as playing their assigned roles in society. They have been captured as doting mothers, loyal wives, goddesses in temples, and homemakers performing chores. Seldom does the art world see them as a muse and capture their beauty for who they are, independent of their role in society.

Over the past year, I’ve worked on a series of twelve paintings called the Saffron Notes collection. This collection portrays South Asian women in their ephemeral moments of solitude, beauty, and thoughts of self-worth, free from societal burdens. The exhibit at JMAC Worcester showcases this collection of paintings portraying subjects from the East with inspiration drawn from Western artists. 

This project is made possible due to a 2021 arts grant awarded to me by Worcester Arts Council in collaboration with Mass Cultural Council. 

Q: Why would you encourage the WPI community to visit?

A: Visual Art history in the mainstream (museums, famous galleries, representation in movies, and admired by art critics) is not representative of women of color as subject matter, and has minimal representation of BIPOC women artists especially South Asian. The 'Saffron Notes' project aims to introduce Eastern culture, specifically South Asian women not in isolation but interwoven with the already established styles and techniques of Western Visual Art. 

I encourage the WPI as well as the greater Worcester community to experience this storytelling via visual art. 

WHAT: Opening Reception of Art Exhibit ‘Saffron Notes’
WHEN: FRIDAY | DECEMBER 16, 2022 | 6-10 PM
WHERE: The JMAC, 20 Franklin St, Worcester MA.
There will be refreshments, and a cash bar. This event is free and open to the public. Kid-friendly event.
Exhibition runs : December 7 - 21, 2022.
Free Tickets Available Here