Creating a Vocation: Portrait of an “Artivist”


Kayhan Irani

Here’s an equation that even math-phobes like me can appreciate:  Artist + Activist = “Artivist”

“Artivist” is the self-styled vocation that Kayhan Irani of New York City has created for herself, and it’s a compelling mix of artistic vision, commitment to social change, a good soul, and hard work.  At a time when many are asking how we can create work that is consistent with our values, Kayhan’s example is one worth considering.

For example, “We’ve Come Undone” is Kayhan’s one-woman play in which she portrays the challenges facing immigrant women in post-9/11 America.  In 2004, Kayhan brought “We’ve Come Undone” to Suffolk University Law School, and she played to a full audience drawn from the Greater Boston community.  Especially at a time when anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sympathies ran strong and public support for the Iraq War remained at a high level, this was a brave and creative performance of heart and mind.

That same weekend, Kayhan also hosted a “Theatre of the Oppressed” workshop the day before, inviting those of us who are (definitely!) not professional performers to engage in improvisional acting scenes drawn from daily life.  Her presence throughout was warm, engaging, and educational.

Not everyone will agree with Kayhan’s worldview, but my point in introducing her work is not to advance a certain political outlook.  Rather, it’s to show how an individual can create meaningful work, consistent with her values and beliefs, in a way that makes a difference.

For more about Kayhan’s work, visit her Artivista website at:

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