Deanna (2)

Deanna in her studio
Deanna in her studio

“The original idea started about 10 years ago and it came about when my daughter started writing and I couldn’t find a mentor for her. I was like, ‘If I can’t find one for her, there are probably other kids that don’t have a mentor either’ and I didn’t want her to lose the inspiration to keep writing, to do this long term, because she was really good, so I went ahead and decided to ask for help at Hallmark, where I work.

They helped me figure out how to do it with the help of volunteers. It started with about 12 volunteers from Walmart and about 25 students in KCK. I didn’t have any funding, so Irene Caudillo at El Centro in Kansas City, Kansas gave me space for free.

The Latino Arts Festival was born out of the mentoring program. What I wanted to do was to give the kids more experience on what it’s like to showcase and sell your art. Instead of starting in college or after college, why not start when you’re 15? It is all sponsored because it’s a no cost festival for the attendees and it is no cost for the artist. We give them a booth, table and chairs and all they have to do is come with their creativity. I want them to bring exposure to their art within their own community, so that way, no matter what they do with their life, they’ll always remember where they came from.

There are kids here from all walks of life. A lot of these kids come because they want to be somewhere where they’re seen, somewhere where they feel welcomed. And then when they come in they see that there are other kids like them, they see the diverse culture and they’re like, ‘Wow, this is my place.’ And they just have fun. They don’t have to worry about the cost. They just have to get here and they have an outlet for their creativity.”

— with Latino Foundation for the Arts.


Vidhi looking at camera with henna on hand
Vidhi looking at camera with henna on hand
This is Vidhi Heiland, although she goes by V. She is the owner of Essential Henna By V. This is part one of her story.

“Henna has always been part of my culture. My mom used to do it on me when I was younger, so when we moved here my friends were like, “Oh, you got Henna done, that’s so cool” and they would ask to come over and have my mom do Henna on them. Then one day she was just too busy so I decided to do it and that’s how I got started. I started doing Henna in fifth grade and that’s when I started practicing.

My dad’s uncle is the one who brought us out here to the United States, to Topeka. He came first and he brought the rest of his family and I started school in the third grade. The transition from leaving what I’ve always known and coming here and starting fresh—having no friends at all and the language barrier—was hard. I did speak a little English but it’s taken me a long time to come to a place where I have no accent and be able to talk fluently. The progression of those things was hard. I just did me for a while and built myself up.

When I first came here, kids made fun of my accent and also because my food was different than theirs. School was hard. What really helped me were my teachers. I wasn’t an A+ student, but I was a great student. I didn’t make a lot of friends at first. When I learned that my culture was setting me apart, what I did was try to find a medium place for myself. I took some things out of my Indian culture and took some things out of the American culture and mixed them together and kind made it all fit. To me, I’ve never been an American and I’ve never been an Indian. When I’m here I still feel displaced and when I visit India I don’t fit in either.

My real name is Vidhi, but I wanted to do something different for my business, so I started going by “V” just a couple of years ago. I guess that part of me when I was younger has not left me and I was still aiming to do something different and new. I always give myself a new identity, but the one thing I’ve always kept with me is Henna.”