SPIFPA — From the Pains of Grief to an Arts Foundation

Vasu Gutti
Oct 28, 1981 to May 21, 2004

Editor: Drs. Varaprasada Rao and Parvathi Gutti, well-known here for over 40 years, have been patrons of the Indian performing arts in many capacities. This write up is based on information available from the Guttis and other published sources.

The Srinivasa Prasad International Foundation for Performing Arts (SPIFPA), founded in 2005 as a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization, is familiar to most art lovers in our area. SPIFPA was established in memory of the Guttis’ beloved son ‘Vasu’ (Srinivasa Prasad Gutti) to fulfill his dream. Vasu loved Indian performing arts and had a passion and vision to propagate them among North American youth.

Starting from childhood, Vasu learned Kuchipudi and Karnatic music from legends: late Guru Padmabhushan Vempati Chinna Satyam, Kalarathna A.B. Bala Kondala Rao and Dr. Kamala Rajupet, late Padmasri Pemmaraju Surya Rao, Mandapaka Sarada, late Nedunoori Krishnamurthy and late Nookala Chinasatyam. He earned several awards for his talents both here and in India.

Vasu excelled in his studies. He received the Westinghouse Family Scholarship and the Chairman’s Award in Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). He was to begin his medical program in 2004 at CWRU with a full scholarship. He was kind and gentle, always ready to help others. Unfortunately, on Memorial Day, May 31, 2004, Vasu died in a ghastly, freak auto accident while he was returning after his recital at the Chicago Tyagaraja Festival.

Since 2005, SPIFPA has been organizing cultural festivals featuring Indian classical music and dance every other year in Vasu’s memory. Further, providing permanent footings to its efforts, it established endowments in India and USA at 1) Sidhendra Kalakshetram, Kuchipudi AP; 2) Potti Sriramulu Telugu University, Hyderabad; 3) The Music Academy, Chennai; 4) Sangeeta Sanmandali, Vijayawada, AP, and 5) Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, Ohio. It also sponsors annually, the Spirit of Youth Festival in Vasu’s memory at the Chennai Music Academy.

In Pittsburgh, SPIFPA as the lead sponsor of Dhirana, the annual national intercollegiate competition in Indian classical dance organized by the University of Pittsburgh’s Indian classical dance team Nrityamala. judges and presents awards (a citation and $500 gift) to the top two teams.

Recently the SPIFPA board approved initiation of the “SPIFPA Advanced Student Fellowship award” for a student producing a “White Paper” on a South Asian performing art of their choice. The two-year project with a significant stipend will document the origins of the art form, the patrons and gurus that contributed to its evolution in India, and the challenges it faced in transplanting the art form in North America. 

At the Valley School of Ligonier in Pennsylvania, Vasu was the valedictorian in his graduating year. Recognizing Vasu’s achievements and his passion to promote the arts, the board of directors at the school in 2020 approved to naming stage of the auditorium as the “Vasu Gutti Performing Arts Stage” with his portrait displayed. Every year, the school will host a visiting South Asian artist to perform at the school. This is a significant recognition for the Indian community here. A $1000 honorarium from SPIFPA is under consideration for the artist.

Over the years has SPIFPA partnered with the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County (CFWC) and the Pittsburgh Foundation to promote South Asian performing arts. 

In the cultural festivals SPIFPA organizes, accomplished teachers and artists are recognized, and promising students are encouraged to preserve and propagate the arts forms. Here are the artistes SPIFPA has honored and recognized since 2010:

 â—    Lifetime Achievement Award:  Rathna Papa and Revathi Satyu, both from Houston, TX) — Commemorative Plaque & $1000 honorarium.

 â—    Ambassador Performing Artist Award: Jaya Mani (Pittsburgh PA), Sithalakshmi Madhavan (Pittsburgh PA), Sasikala Penumathi (Atlanta GA), Kamala Reddy Rajupet (Pittsburgh PA), Anuradha Nehru (Washington DC), Mythili Prakash (Los Angeles, CA), and Manu Narayan (Hollywood CA) — Commemorative Plaque and $1000 honorariums).

●   Youth Artist: Madhav Iyengar (Pittsburgh PA), Pallavi Mulukutla (Pittsburgh PA), Sarang Mulukutla (Pittsburgh PA), and Sundararajan Venkataraghava (Philadelphia PA) — Commemorative Plaque and a $500 gift.

●   Child Artist: Sia Iyer (Pittsburgh PA) — Commemorative Plaque and $500 gift).

SPIFPA will continue to conduct cultural festivals and special events to inspire accomplished artists and youth. SPIFPA appreciates the support and participation of all art lovers in its efforts to promote South Asian performing arts among North American youth.  For additional details, please contact  724-309-7340 or spifpaorg@gmail.com.  END


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