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Hyphen Podcast: Where Are All The South Asian-American Artists?

artists, brown girl
2 min read

by Parth Shah

I hate waking up for work. And I have it pretty easy, I can get to the office around 9 AM. I have friends who are at their desks click-clacking away well before 8 o’ clock.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like my job. But if you asked me a year ago when I was a senior in college what I would be doing after graduation, I wouldn’t have said I would be working.

I wanted to spend the year after graduation in India. Not because I wanted to do some “Eat Pray Love” bullshit. But because I wanted to be a backup dancer in Bollywood.

I wanted to be one of those dancers in the crowd performing behind the heroes and heroines. I mean, I love to dance. I would’ve been fine if they shoved me all the way in the back and if my face was never even made it on camera.  Just the idea of spending a year in India having this unusual gap year sounded so exciting to me.

But I chickened out.

When spring of my senior year rolled around, most of my friends had accepted job offers. They were talking about the places they were moving to and how excited they were to launch their careers. I couldn’t fight the FOMO. I was scared that if I took a gap year, I’d be throwing my career aspirations down the drain.

The third episode of Hyphen is all about artists. Back in 2014, an artist collective called BFAMFAPhD did an analysis of  census data from 2012. They found that there are about 1.4 million Americans whose primary paycheck comes from making some type of art.

Nearly 80 percent of those artists are white. Asians are the race with the fewest artists; they make up only four percent of professional artists in the country.

This episode we’ll dive deeper and meet some South Asian American performance artists that aren’t included in that four percent.


HyphenParth Shah is the founder and host of Hyphen, a podcast about identity. When he’s not editing audio you can probably find him sipping bubble tea and listening to Bollywood mixtapes. Parth is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, NC and is currently completing a reporting fellowship at a public radio station in Wisconsin.
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