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The Kaur Foundation and honor artist, advocate, and author K.P. Singh

The arts, culture, community spirit, and pride were on display at a recent gathering in The Sikh Heritage Gallery at the National Natural History Museum, Smithsonian Institution (SI) in Washington, D.C. The occasion was the installation of three original drawings of famous Sikh historic shrines and pilgrimage centers in India: Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar, Sri Bangla Sahib, New Delhi, Sri Keshgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib by India-born, Indiana artist Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh at the Gallery. The present exhibit at The Sikh Heritage Gallery titled, “Sikhs ~ Legacy of the Punjab” has been a major attraction, and for millions of visitors a first introduction to Sikh faith, cultural heritage, and contemporary creativity for the last three and a half years. The three KP Singh drawings installed at The Gallery entrance lead the viewer on a journey of a young faith, its history, and spirit. The drawings are on loan to SI from the collections.


Artist K.P. Singh, members of his family, representatives of The Kaur Foundation (Ms. Mirin Kaur, Founder and husband, Tejbir Singh) and (Bicky Singh, Founder, CEO & President of Future Computing Solutions, Inc.), representatives of the media, and others in attendance were warmly welcomed by Dr. Paul Taylor, Director, Asian Cultural History Program ~ Curator of Asian, European, and Middle Eastern Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution.

It is hard not to be proud and emotional as one walks past the beautiful images, sacred and historic artifacts and icons of the Sikh faith on display at one of the most prestigious Museums in U.S. and for the world to see. Following a tour through The Sikh Heritage Gallery on the main floor of the Museum all guests were invited to the office of Dr. Paul Taylor for a private reception. A spirited discussion about the future Sikh exhibits at the Smithsonian followed. Dr. Taylor shared his deep knowledge and understanding of Sikh arts, heritage, and treasures and offered some illuminating insights into the need and urgency of preserving these treasures and sacred artifacts with the latest advanced techniques available today.


On Saturday, a special reception in honor of Kanwal Prakash “KP” Singh took place at the residence of Awtar and Birendar Singh, parents of Mirin Kaur, in Potomac, Maryland. The Smithsonian reception on Friday and the Dinner Reception on Saturday “to celebrate the debut of the Architectural Drawings, ‘The Spirit of Elegance of Famous Gurudwaras in India,’ were an elegant and moving affair. The gathering in Potomac was a warm, friendly celebration of our contributions to life and spirit in many ways, and a marvelous opportunity to reflect about our future as the recent pioneers in new lands.

The reception setting, a sprawling mansion with beautifully maintained terraced Moghul-style gardens in the back complete with lights, sculptures, and a fountain. The tables were set in black and white and centered with magenta flowers in tall glass vases for 125 guests. The guests who were able to join included Washington area dignitaries, business leaders, patrons of the arts, officials of the Indian Embassy, Smithsonian, Justice Department, other prominent citizens, and family and friends. The guests represented many ethnicities, professions, and faith communities and some had traveled long distances to join in the festivities. Many of the guests were dressed in regal Indian and Punjabi outfits.

The charming hostesses, Sardarni Awtar Kaur and daughter Mirin Kaur, personally and warmly greeted each guest. An exhibit of K.P. Singh artwork featured in the 2007 Interfaith Calendar was set up on the deck overlooking the terraced garden for guests to enjoy and as an introduction to KP’s art, his artistic style, and creative interpretations.


The evening program began with a welcome by Mirin Kaur, the principal organizer of the Reception and a leader in the Sikh American community. Sardar Raminder Jassal (Deputy Ambassador - Indian Embassy, Washington) in his introduction of the honored guest, K.P. Singh praised the work and elegant drawings of the artist and his commitment to draw attention to sacred and significant architecture through his artwork and advocacy. The artist’s iconic masterpiece, “Cathedrals of Spirit” particularly caught Ambassador Jassal’s attention. He expressed some frustration that artistic and architectural treasures, some historic sites in Punjab are being neglected and in danger of being destroyed and replaced with unimaginative structures by shortsighted expediency and ignorance of the heritage value of the originals to future generations. He remembered seeing a Hindu temple in Bolivia, others in places far removed from their origin, built by pioneers to maintain their spiritual connection with their native lands. Strengthening such cultural and spiritual associations with our past must remain a passion for our generation. In appreciation, Ambassador Jassal was presented with a signed copy of the book: The Art and Spirit of K.P. Singh ~ Selected Drawings and Writings.

Dr. Paul Taylor’s introduction of K.P. Singh was equally passionate about his appreciation of the elegance of three drawings from the collection and their placement at the entrance to The Sikh Heritage Gallery. He enthusiastically spoke of the significance of the sacred shrines as captured in pen and ink drawings. He spoke of changes at the Gallery, the prospect of the entire exhibit moving to other museums, and discussed the possibility of future projects with Punjabi and Sikh heritage themes at The Smithsonian. In appreciation, Dr. Taylor was presented with an embroidered Punjabi Kurta Pajama.


KP Singh in his gracious response thanked Ambassador Raminder Jassal and Dr. Paul Taylor for their presence, very generous introductions, and for their reminder about the place of arts, historic and sacred architecture, and artistic and cultural heritage in the life and spirit of a community. KP acknowledged the contributions of all sponsors who were responsible for creating an occasion in his honor.

Touching on a few highlights from his prepared remarks (see attached), KP emphasized that, “This evening is not about me; it is about us, our world, our time, our place. As the youngest pioneers, each time we cross a formidable threshold, take a courageous stand on principle, successfully interface with other wisdoms, talents, and experiences, and our diversity heralds an invitation, not a threat, neglect, or disregard as the great new frontier of opportunity, we proudly rejoice and celebrate these as our uncommon blessings.”

KP spoke of the all-embracing Sikh spirit, commandments, faith-mandated identity, and Sikh history, righteous defiance, and universal ideals. He quoted scriptures to reinforce his personal understanding and commitment to honor his faith and sanctity of all faiths. He said, “unafraid of odds, Sikhs dare to excel among the best in the fascinating and fierce global Holla Mohallas of our times with our eyes firmly trained on the big prize and always remembering each victory as a triumph for our SutGuru.” KP talked about the Sikh Americans, “seeking a rightful place in every major Courtyard, assuring a voice in every honored Chamber, and being answers to prayers and messengers of hope to others.” We must fulfill our “faith mandate to learn and serve and dispel darkness of ignorance, prejudice, and unfounded stereotypes against us and others” in a spirit of solidarity and in a universal common cause as Americans, as world citizens.

KP passionately spoke of “arts as a universal language, a window to the human soul and urged to explore what we can do for preservation and advancement of the arts, and enlighten and bridge human civilization through the transforming power of our magnificent arts.” He added, “One folksy lyric and beat of Bhangra music can send the whole world dancing and a drawing like the ‘Cathedrals of Spirit’ can thread our spiritual world in Light and Hope.”

KP talked about stepping out of our comfort zones, narrow frames of reference, learning from each other, our celebrated heroes, and outstanding teachers, and “making rightful places for young talents, our significant values, and vital interests within civic and cultural frameworks where we live.” We must be open to growth to face our challenges, to adjust to life and expectations here. We too, like other immigrant communities before us, will secure our place and realize our own great potential and destiny in time. We must fully engage, respect the laws, serve in faith, and remember that “Our faith and cultures must remain our non-negotiable sacred rights; as our gift to the richness and excellence of the nation.” As anchors of our soul, our faith, culture, and the arts are a boundless source of our inherited strengths and wisdom.

KP thanked all the guests present at the Reception. He especially thanked the hosts, his wife, Janice, sons, Jay and Rob, and several members of his extended family. He passionately added, “Seize every opportunity to create, innovate, lead, blaze new trails, respond to the urgency of saving our planet, building a peaceful world” and “honoring, serving, celebrating our shared hopes as One God’s Family, ‘One Race, One Brotherhood’ under the mighty heavens ‘With Good will toward All” as we petition in our daily Ardas (prayer).” He looked back at his own journey and added, “The All-Knowing, Wonderful Lord will take us from there to yet unimagined victories and undreamed-of blessings.”

A delicious North Indian catered dinner followed, and visiting, exchanging of ideas, and making new friends among the guests continued late into the evening.


Dr. Daniel A. Felicetti and his wife, Barbara, were also in attendance. Dr. Felicetti is a Past President of Marian College in Indianapolis and Capital University, Columbus, Ohio; he is currently serving as the founder of Higher Education Leadership Projects, an Annapolis, Maryland based consulting practice designed to advance the missions of non-profit associations.

Felicetti described the event as "...a marvelous tribute to his close friend and colleague, artist-author K.P. Singh, as well as vivid testimony to the Smithsonian’s deep commitment to multi-ethnic contributions to the arts." He was most impressed by the warmth and graciousness of the evening's hosts; the extraordinary mix of prominent guests invited by The Kaur Foundation; and the groundbreaking nature of a celebration that represented the Smithsonian's first acknowledgment of Sikh contributions to our global culture. "Most of all," he added, "this gathering showcased the spirit of K.P. Singh's passionate belief in the viability of growing a common spiritual union of humankind by reveling in the enlightenment of religious roots that emanate from every corner of our world."

Bicky Singh was, “greatly impressed by the beautiful receptions organized by Dr. Paul Taylor and Mirin Kaur and the presence of so many distinguished guests at the reception in honor of KP Singh.” Bicky represents a new generation of daring entrepreneurs and philanthropists in the U.S. He sees value in elevating the Sikh-American community profile through the arts, creative involvements, and constructive programs.

Mirin Kaur, Founder of The Kaur Foundation and co-sponsor of the elegant reception wrote:
“K.P. Singh’s middle name is ‘Prakash’ which means light or illumination – surely, those who named him had a hint of how this naming would play out! The radiant intensity of his spirit is catching, the rendering of his architectural drawings unique in the story they tell, and his message of unity and inclusiveness of being one people – across cultural spectrums weaving a rich tapestry of ideas and ideals – inspirational.”

“It was an honor and pleasure to celebrate Mr. Kanwal Prakash Singh among a group so diverse, distinguished and openly welcoming, both at the Smithsonian and the Kaur Foundation dinner reception. The evening was telling – as a young community we are on our way, with the support of those who have settled before us, to coming of age in this land that is our home.”
Expressing regret at his inability to attend, U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar from Indiana said, “Thank you for giving me an invitation to a dinner reception on August 4 celebrating your remarkable debut of architectural drawings at The Smithsonian Museum.”
Rama Deva, Arts Patron & Former Publisher The Indic magazine eloquently offered, “Standing in front of an oversized round Mediterranean style garden fountain spouting water from all directions -- the perfect setting for an aesthete -- K.P. (Kanwal Prakash) delivered his uplifting remarks that immediately established him as not only a great artist but as an even greater humanitarian. In his opening remarks, he invoked the Guru Granth Sahib for blessings and spoke proudly of the Sikh religion and heritage and about universal ideas and ideals. He spoke of his passion for historic preservation, cultural diversity and the importance of the arts to life and the human spirit, and shared how he had dedicated his past 40 years to using art for advocacy and to advance the cause and spirit of humanity. In that spirit, he urged the ‘new Americans’ to be an integral part of the community at large.”

She further added, “Some of K.P.’s drawings were on display that evening but the one that appeared to be most representative of his persona was the one with interfaith sketches. Here on one board was sketched the Sikh gurdwara, the Hindu temple, the Islamic mosque, the Christian church among others. This interfaith message echoed in his closing remarks, ‘This evening is not about me; it is about us, our world, our time, our place.’”

“I had the privilege of meeting and knowing K.P. Singh almost thirty years ago and now see K.P.’s life’s work expressed in his uplifting inspirational and unifying message.”
John Paul Ketels, a partner in Clifford Chance US LLP, offered this thought, “It was a wonderful event and a special tribute to K.P. as a fine American artist, to the Sikh-American community, and to Sikhism as so beautifully displayed at the Smithsonian’s current exhibit (‘Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab’).”

He further added, “We have watched and admired K.P.’s success over the years as an artist, humanitarian, architect, writer, and community leader in Indianapolis. It is fitting that K.P. the man and his work should be honored as you thoroughly and graciously did last Saturday evening.”

Event report compiled by:

Rabindra P. Singh with support, assistance, and comments from several attendees and sponsors.
Indianapolis, Indiana USA


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