Squirrel Hill-based Friends of Aseema has helped assemble a group of VIPs –– including singer Nick Jonas, Fred Rogers’ wife Joanne, Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, director Danny Boyle and Homewood art star Vanessa German — for an online art auction that will provide education and medical care to children in Mumbai slums.

The Beauty Without Boundaries auction runs through Oct. 25 and benefits India’s Aseema Charitable Trust. Young artists ages 10 to 17 from Aseema schools in India submitted beautiful work ranging from watercolor landscapes and pen and ink drawings to mixed media pieces. Some were created during the Covid-19 lockdown.

So what’s the connection between Mumbai and Pittsburgh? Meet Christine Biancheria.

Before serving as a partner in a Pittsburgh law firm for 22 years, Biancheria did a fellowship with the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva. There, she entered into the orbit of Dilbur Parakh. Years later, after her friend and partner in her law firm died, Biancheria was at a crossroads. She looked up old colleagues online. She discovered that Parakh had started the Aseema project and –long story short — she visited her in India to learn more.

“I just thought, ‘This is extraordinary,’” Biancheria tells NEXTpittsburgh. “What they do with these kids who have virtually nothing — I’ve never seen anything better in my life.”


Aseema, which means “limitless” in Sanskrit and reflects a belief in every child’s potential, operates four schools in the Mumbai slums, where many subsist on the equivalent of $2 per day per family, Biancheria says.

“They have an outstanding art program,” Biancheria says. “The children make art that really does shock people when they see the quality of the art, and the ages. Because of Covid-19, some of the children are in lockdown in tiny slum homes and have even made the art without having a teacher present to help. We thought it might show what extremely poor children can do.”

Bidding for the art begins in tiers of $300, $400 and $500. The art auction is sponsored and hosted by Artpreneur. A number of celebrities, artists and business icons are donating 15-minute online conversations with the highest bidders. They include Jonas and Chopra, along with Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle and Dr. Shashi Tharoor, the former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

“Danny Boyle, director of ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ is involved because he had some children who were in the film that lived in the slums,” explains Biancheria. “He put them in the Aseema schools and helped Aseema acquire their third school.” Other celebrities were brought on through personal connections.

The slums of Mumbai.

The auction features 21 original pieces as well as limited-edition prints. They can be viewed online via the Aseema / Friends of Aseema Showroom on Artrepreneur.

“We are delighted to be able to bring the depth and technology of Artrepreneur to support such a worthy cause,” says Grace Cho, founder and CEO of Artrepreneur. “Covid-19 has generated more pressing needs around the world, but especially for the poorest among us. Artrepreneur holds the belief that every artist — no matter how young or old — can achieve success when they have access to the right resources.”

For questions regarding the auction, contact support@Artrepreneur.com.

Justin Vellucci

A former news reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, Justin Vellucci currently freelances for a number of Pittsburgh publications and works as a staff writer for the music magazines PopMatters and Spectrum Culture. He has been contributing to NEXTpittsburgh since January 2020. He lives in Greenfield.