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Board of Directors

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Sampada Agarwal

Chair, Board of Directors

Sampada Kodagali Agarwal has been serving on the Leela Foundation Board since June 2023 and is currently the acting Chair. She lives in Morrisville, NC, and is an IT professional with more than 20 years of working experience in the Investment Banking domain. 

 

Sampada is also a passionate visual artist, who has spent more than 18 years exploring traditional folk and tribal art styles from India. She is also a Certified Zentangle Teacher. Much of her work is influenced by these two diverse styles of art. Her work has been accepted in a number of exhibitions/shows and she is part of various community outreach and philanthropic causes. Her latest foray has been in the area of painting large scale murals. 

 

She brings this passion for the visual arts to Leela Foundation, finding ways and means to celebrate the similarities as well as differences in an effort to bridge the gap between people from diverse cultural and geographical backgrounds. She created the Leela Art Club and offered online art lessons (especially during Covid times) that were received quite positively. She successfully conducted a community art exhibition under the banner of Leela Foundation in 2023. Now it has become an annual event for the Foundation, conducted in September each year. These two initiatives have certainly satisfied one of the missions of Leela Foundation - to link the community and the arts through performance, education, and outreach.

 

Along with visual arts, Sampada loves to sing, especially Gujarati garbas and old Bollywood songs. She also loves to learn/experiment with new recipes/cuisines, cook with/for friends, watch thought-provoking movies, hike, play badminton and board games, and is an avid yoga practitioner.

 

More information about her art endeavors available here - https://linktr.ee/ansimit.

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Mini Ranganathan

Board of Director

Mini Ranganathan serves as a dedicated Board of Director at Leela Foundation since 2024. She is an Information Services professional with 20 years of combined experience in higher education, project management, and business solutions delivery. Currently employed as an IT Project Manager at Wake County Government, Mini's approach to stakeholder interactions emphasizes empathy, trust, respect, and effective communication.

Mini's dedication to personal and professional development is evident through her leadership role as President of the 'We are Wake Toastmasters Club'. Beyond her professional endeavors, Mini actively engages in community service, serving as a volunteer coordinator for youth enrichment programs and participating in cultural initiatives. Her upbringing in Kerala, India, has fostered a deep passion for the arts, reflected in her involvement in traditional dance forms and Indian classical music. She enjoys creative writing, engaging conversations, emceeing for cultural and professional events and curating Indian classical dance and music.

 

As a Board of Director at Leela Foundation, Mini brings a wealth of experience, leadership, and a passion for community engagement. She has an unwavering commitment to the foundation's mission of promoting cultural initiatives and supporting enrichment programs in the arts to ‘educate, enthrall, and enliven’ the community.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/miniranganathan/

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Shirish Devasthali

Board of Director

Shirish has been serving on the Board since early 2024. He lives in Fayetteville NC where he worked as a Medical Oncologist/ Hematologist  from 1990 to 2019, Since retirement, he has kept himself occupied with the arts. He loves to sing Marathi and Hindi songs. He is a student of music, learning to play the tabla and piano as well as Hindustani vocals. He does pottery and stained glass- hobbies he has picked up over the last several years. He enjoys gardening and cooking and challenges himself to try making new dishes. 

Shirish values his Indian heritage and supports programs introducing the culture to America. It is his wish to promote the artistic programs brought by the Leela Foundation to the Triangle region.

Shirish is blessed with three grown children and four grandchildren.

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Sid Thakur

Board of Director

Sid Thakur, Ph.D., is a Cary, NC-based computer scientist and passionate paper-cutting artist. He obtained his doctorate in computer science, with a focus on data visualization and cognitive science, from Indiana University, Bloomington. His artistic journey began after discovering a paper-cutting article about an artist from Jaipur, India. This sparked a curiosity that evolved into a lifelong hobby and a significant creative outlet. Sid’s website, www.SidsPapercuts.com, showcases his original, unique handmade paper artworks crafted using precision tools like craft knives and scissors.

 

Primarily self-taught, Sid has honed his paper-cutting techniques through keen observation, a steady hand, and constant experimentation. His artwork prominently features symmetry, reinforced through repetition, and explores abstract and geometric patterns. Themes in his work reflect a deep engagement with nature, science fiction, climate change, and the rich mythologies of India, his country of origin. Sid has exhibited his work in various art galleries and museums and actively participates in workshops at schools, local events, and regional libraries.

As a Board of Director at Leela Foundation, Sid is driven to enrich the lives of North Carolinans with exposure to accomplished artists and opportunities to learn from Master Artists who practice traditional Indian visual and performing arts. Sid also leads the Community of Indian American Visual Artists (CIVA), a collective of local artists in North Carolina's Triangle area. Through his art and leadership, Sid continues to inspire and influence both the local and broader artistic community.

https://linktr.ee/sid_t

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Abha Varma

Board of Director

2024 Board Member

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Mehul Desai

Board of Director

2024 Board Member

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Ananth Velayudham

Board of Director

2024 Board Member

Board of Advisors

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Alan Buck

Board of Advisor

I am currently the Director of the Digital Communication Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Prior to Meredith, I taught digital storytelling and television broadcasting classes at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Campbell University. When not teaching, I work with organizations to produce for them quality media content. I have over 20 years of multimedia production and project management experience. I have developed web-based delivery of video, social media and other interactive content for domestic and international clients. Before transitioning to academia, I worked for CBS, WB, and Fox affiliates as a News Videographer and Director of Promotions. During my time in television, I interviewed more than one United States President, and I covered the Masters Golf Tournament, NCAA Athletics, Hurricane Floyd, 9/11, and many other events. Recently, I was hired by the Meridian International Center of Washington, D.C. to produce election related videos for the Foreign Press Service, a division of the US State Department, to be shown internationally. I also won a Georgia Associated Press Award for video, and in December 2020 was awarded a Fulbright Award to become a Fulbright Specialist.

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Kruti Desai

Board of Advisor

Kruti Desai has been serving on the Leela Foundation as a Board of Advisor since Jan 2024. Along with being a Preschool Owner, she is also a self-taught artist and a photographer.  Her passion is all types of art forms, and she has been immersed in it all her life. Her work has been a part of local art galleries and photography shows and have won prizes. She believes there should be no boundaries when it comes to art, and likes to think outside the box. She also believes that art is everywhere around us, we just need to look at things from a different perspective and that’s what she tries to capture in her photos. She strongly supports woman empowerment and her art reflects that.
 
Raised in India, she moved to the U.S. to further her education. A graduate of San Jose State University, she holds her Masters in Molecular biology & Microbiology. Kruti considers Durham her home, where she lives with her husband, son, and parents.
 
As a Board of Advisor at Leela Foundation, Kruti hopes to bring to the NC audience, collaborations between the rich Indian heritage with other visual and preforming arts forms around the world.

 

Board Alumni
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Smitha Prasad

Chair

Smitha K. Prasad is a US-based Carnatic vocalist. A senior disciple of the renowned musician, Vidushi  Vasanthamadhavi, Smitha performs regularly in the US and in India. She has been named a 2013 Regional Artist by the United Arts Council in North Carolina- the first Carnatic musician to have achieved this distinction. Smitha has been involved in various art initiatives and is a frequent speaker about the arts. A trained Bharatanatyam dancer, Smitha is on the faculty of Leela School of Dance where she directs the "Music for Dancers" program.

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Mutuk Karpakakunjaram

Board Member

Mutuk Karpakakunjaram joined Leela Foundation as a board member since its inception in 2020.  Mutuk is a technology entrepreneur and Founder of a tech startup based in Durham, NC. Mutuk has led large technology organizations in Fortune 100 companies such as IBM, Lenovo, Disney. Mutuk is passionate about music and dance and have been volunteering at Leela School of Dance for over five years. Mutuk brings his leadership and technology skills to support Leela Foundation grow and scale. Born and raised in India, Mutuk lives in Cary, NC for over 20 years with his wife and a daughter and a son. Mutuk holds an undergrad degree in Mathematics from India and a Masters in Business Administration from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Arun Kumar

Board Member

Arun Kumar was a Board of Director of Leela Foundation.

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