Teacher Feature

Meet Neha Misra

Teacher Feature is a new way to share more with the Knowledge Commons Community about some of our own - the teachers of Knowledge Commons DC! 

How did you get involved in Knowledge Commons D.C./How did you find out about us?

I started as a student, and I began serially attending classes the first season! I took everything from Poetry in the Metro to Bookmaking. Since the first season I have evolved from a student, to a facilitator, and then to a teacher. I found out about Knowledge Commons DC, as I am a volunteer and performer at Bloombars, where I saw a flier. I am a sucker for what Knowledge Commons DC stands for, which to me is connecting people in a mindful way. 


How did you end up teaching your class? 

I began taking photographs of public art around D.C. obsessively for about one year. The idea that beauty and art can be restricted to museums in such a place as D.C. is prevalent, but art isn’t just what is put in a frame. Art is real social media, and is made by the people who make up the city. I actually asked my friends, “Have you seen public art around?” And most of them had no clue where all of the art was! I realized then I wanted to do the class. I signed up to teach, and asked students one week before the class to capture art however they wanted. It was a sort of crowdsourcing of public art in D.C., because people came from different parts of the city,  and had seen things I hadn’t seen before. After coming with the art we did a free writing exercise, to attempt to discover more about art when one is conscious and in the moment.                                                                           



 What inspired you to teach/had you ever taught before?

My favorite class at Knowledge Commons DC inspired me to teach. It was called Open Eyes/Open Voices. It was taught by a wonderful teacher, Caleen Jennings, and ultimately became the inspiration for my own class. What I learned from the class was about how to live more creatively and be mindful. I actually even talk about my life in terms of Before Caleen’s class and after Caleen’s class – it really opened up the window so to say.


 What advice would you give to people thinking about teaching?

Everybody does have something to teach. It doesn’t have to be something very, very, technical. I like to make classes interactive, and my favorite classes are dialogue oriented, but that is more about class design. Take classes and see what other people are doing!


 If you could take a free class in anything taught by anyone what would it be? 

I wish there had been a Photoshop class first season. This season there was a Photoshop class, but I couldn’t attend. I would also love to take a travel stories class. People who live in D.C. come from so many different places; it would be great to have people sharing something small from where they are coming from, or where they have been. We should take advantage of being in a multicultural area like D.C.


What led you to start the Tumblr?

The Tumblr was a way to share my public art photos, but I hope it will become more of a dialogue space with comments. I would love to have a form where people can submit photos and locations. I see it as an online museum of D.C. public art. And with the beauty of crowdsourcing in mind, I want this particular space to be open to all.


What is your favorite public art piece around DC?

My favorite is Marilyn Monroe in Adams Morgan. I see her so soften different times and the day; it makes me wonder what is Marilyn thinking there on the wall!



How many photos do you currently have?

I have about forty photos, but I would love to collect more internationally. I’m from India, and in Chennai small alleyways were often ignored or mistreated, so artists began making beautiful murals on these side walls. They came up with a way to make people care about alley walls! Photos of such art are souvenirs that you take back with you that make you conscious of beauty outside of a museum.


The public art scene in D.C. is always changing, and includes much older murals alongside wheat pasted items that will inevitably go away; do you think of this project in any way as a sort of archiving of public art outside of murals, as much of the art here is ephemeral?

I don’t think of this project as restricted to murals at all, even a doodle children make on the sidewalk with chalk can be art. To me art is anything that moves you, it can just be a beautiful leaf fallen on the ground. Things change, and the landscape keeps moving just like human beings do.


Lastly, what is your day job?

            I am an Economist by training and a Collaboration Officer at Solar Sister, a s
ocial enterprise combining the breakthrough potential of portable solar technology with a deliberately woman-centered direct sales network to bring light, hope and opportunity to even the most remote communities in rural Africa. In my own words its sort of like we train women to become the Avon ladies of solar power.

Erika Rydberg, a D.C. transplant from the northernly lands of Boston, got involved with Knowledge Commons DC after an awesome experience in a Brookline, Mass., community skillshare during her college days. By day she works at a library and by night she can be found performing poetry, listening to music, or cooking copious amounts of vegetarian food.