Art for Social Impact: Thanisa Durongkaveroj ’18

March 11, 2019
Andrea Wang ’19
young woman outside standing alongside a railing overlooking a lake
Thanisa Durongkaveroj in Bangkok, Thailand Photo credit: Courtesy of Thanisa Durongkaveroj

A double-degree graduate in piano and studio art, Thanisa Durongkaveroj ’18 has enjoyed a variety of eclectic postgraduate opportunities, ranging from documentary producer to university music lecturer. Her post-Oberlin endeavors have leveraged her wide-ranging creative skills for social impact.

How did your experiences at Oberlin inform your job search?

Going into Oberlin, I knew I wanted to work in education, but I was also interested in other areas and wasn’t really sure how they would come together. Oberlin’s environment of caring encouraged me to further explore my interest in impactful work; some of my best memories from Oberlin are my conversations with peers about how to make the world a better place.

In my fourth year, I took a semester off from piano to learn how to communicate better using other forms of art. The idea of using artistic means to make social impact started to materialize in different projects of mine since. The following summer, I received the XARTS Grant from Oberlin to produce a documentary titled The Peanut Sauce Project, which explored the Thai education system through a cross-cultural lens.

What are some of the best things about your work?

What I liked about being a producer for Young เก๋า (“Young Classic”) is that the series encouraged the elderly to rethink retirement and discover new hobbies, advocating for a kind of cultural transformation. However, I wanted to close the distance with people I was helping. At my current position as a music teacher at a K-12 school, I love working directly with students and sharing my enthusiasm to encourage students’ interest in music. I am also a visiting lecturer at a conservatory—the Princess Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music—where I encourage students to think beyond performance and consider sociopolitical context, interdisciplinary approaches, and the potential of art as a communication tool, which is deeply personal to me.

Thanisa working on the set of Young เก๋า (“Young Classic”).
Thanisa working on the set of Young เก๋า (“Young Classic”), a series showcasing creative post-retirement lifestyles.
Photo courtesy of Panorama Worldwide

What is your advice for current students figuring things out?

Set goals for yourself. They will shift over time, but at least it gives you some direction. Coming to the real world hasn’t been easy. I knew I wanted to move back to Thailand and do something with social impact, but it’s taken some time for me to try different things and narrow down my focus.

I chose Thailand partly because there are a lot of opportunities for me to make an impact. In college, it’s important to figure out what you care about and why. The values I learned at Oberlin are going to stick with me for the rest of my life.

View Thanisa’s work: documentaries, musical performances, and multimedia projects

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