Henna Artist Jeena Kar

Name: Jeena Kar
Age: 22
Year: First-year graduate student
Field of Study: Arts in medicine

Her Campus: What inspired you to begin designing your henna art and paintings?
Jeena Kar: “Art is big in my culture, so it was something I was always exposed to while growing up. I remember being interested in art, always painting and drawing. I began to love henna art, especially because it was an interesting way to learn more about my culture, and my parents encouraged me to pursue henna over other forms of art. I got a lot of practice and really enjoyed what I was doing.”

HC: When did you realize you wanted to contribute your artwork to philanthropy?
JK: “It was about two years ago. I used to volunteer my artwork with some cultural awareness fairs, but I never considered making my own philanthropy page until about a year and a half ago. I was going through some stuff in my life, and I wanted to focus my energy in a way that would develop me as an artist. It is all very therapeutic to me.”

HC: What has been the most memorable philanthropic event you have donated art to?
JK: “I have done Henna Crowns, an event in which I draw henna on the heads of women cancer patients. That was remarkable. One of the women cried after I finished. She told me that she felt beautiful for the first time since she lost her hair. Another event, which was a little different, was Project Downtown. They provide hot meals for the homeless every weekend, and they were doing an art auction to raise money for the program. Someone in the group contacted me, asking if I would be willing to donate some paintings. I could not believe it. Somebody actually wanted my art and considered it professional. That was really special to me, because it was the first time I felt that my art was not just a hobby. They probably do not even know how important that was for me, but I got super excited. I worked really hard on the paintings, and people ended up bidding up to $800 per piece. It finally dawned on me that I was talented, and it encouraged me to continue making money for philanthropies with my art.”

HC: What goes through your mind when you are designing henna art on cancer patients?
JK: “I really try to be present with the patients. It is so much more that just drawing on them because sometimes they just need someone to talk with them and have that presence. It is hard because the process is meditative, so as with meditating, you have to try to bring your mind back and focus only on the person and her experiences. I try to tailor my thoughts only to that person.”

HC: How has your organization Design by Jeena influenced your view of the future?
JK: “I definitely know that no matter where my career goes I will incorporate art into it. I am going into medicine, so when you think of a doctor, you do not necessarily think of art. However, through my program I have learned that art and medicine can be intertwined. Art can always be a part of my life, and it does not have to be just a hobby. I intend to use Design by Jeena to incorporate art into the field of medicine throughout my career.”

HC: What is the greatest impact you want your artwork to have on the public?
JK: “Oh, that’s a tough one. Well, I am going to be starting a $500 scholarship for any UF student who wants to do some arts-based philanthropies. I will give him or her the opportunity to have the startup money and encouragement to do art philanthropy. I hope it will impact the Gainesville community by leaving someone to sustain the arts and encouraging creativity, because I feel that a lot of people have the ability to do things with art, but they just do not have the right encouragement or money to begin. I am leaving next year, so I want to leave someone with the responsibility of continuing my work. The application is ready to go, so I hope someone takes advantage of the opportunity. The first part of the scholarship will be $250 to start with, and once the student finishes all the arts-based philanthropic tasks, he or she will receive the second part of the scholarship money to continue work in the future. I want to mentor the student so that he or she may follow in my footsteps and make a difference.”

HC: How do you want your artwork to become recognized around the world?
JK: “Around the world… hopefully one day I will get there. I want my artwork to be known as ethnic art because I feel that all my pieces have a distinctive connection to my Indian cultural identity. Ultimately, art is the purest form of one’s identity, and I want my art to exemplify my Indian culture and its devotion to art in all its forms.”

Photos courtesy of Jeena Kar and Sarah Resta