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Destini T. Riley Receives Inaugural “Start Your Journey” Atharva Kharkar Memorial Award

Atharva Ross 1
Atharva Kharkar

An hon­orary mem­ber of the Stamps Class of 2021 (Stamps BA and Ross BBA), Atharva Kharkar was a beloved mem­ber of the Stamps School community.

Shortly after receiv­ing a leukemia diag­no­sis in June of 2019, Atharva passed away on July 6, 2019, before start­ing his junior year at Stamps. Want­ing to honor Atharva’s mem­ory and spirit was kept alive at Stamps, his par­ents Pra­fulla and Shiv­ani Kharkar cre­ated the Start of Your Jour­ney” Atharva Kharkar Memo­r­ial Award.

This award rec­og­nizes a stu­dent who is pas­sion­ate in their cre­ative voice and area of focus, inspi­ra­tional to those in their com­mu­nity, com­mit­ted and deter­mined to have a pos­i­tive impact, and is a tal­ented sto­ry­teller. These were char­ac­ter­is­tics that Atharva was known and loved for — and traits needed to start your jour­ney,” an inspi­ra­tional state­ment that Atharva used often.

Nom­i­nated by fac­ulty, staff, and/​or stu­dents, with con­fir­ma­tion by the Asso­ciate Dean of Aca­d­e­mic Pro­grams Brad Smith and Dean Guna Nadara­jan, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design is proud to announce the inau­gural recip­i­ent of the Atharva Kharkar Memo­r­ial Award: Des­tini T. Riley (BFA 21).

Destini portrait
Des­tini Riley

Des­tini Riley uses her cre­ative skills to spark change with crit­i­cal opti­mism, dogged tenac­ity, and a deep love for her com­mu­nity and her world. When her brother was incar­cer­ated, Riley chan­neled her cre­ative prac­tice to shine a light on the deeply trau­matic impacts of the prison indus­trial com­plex. Over the course of her time at Stamps, Riley’s short film, I, Des­tini, which explores the impact of incar­cer­a­tion on the fam­ily mem­bers left behind, was pro­filed in the New York Times Op-Docs, dual pre­miered at the Aspen Film Fes­ti­val, screened at the Full Frame Doc­u­men­tary Film Fes­ti­val, and is archived in the National Smith­son­ian Museum of African Amer­i­can History.

Wel­come to the Bull, Riley’s work in Please Stand By: The 2021 Stamps School Senior Exhi­bi­tion is a seven-foot, three-dimen­sional, mul­ti­me­dia mon­u­ment that can be engaged in diverse envi­ron­ments through the use of aug­mented real­ity. Grounded by the his­tory of Durham, NC, which in the early 1900s was the cap­i­tal of the Black mid­dle class in Amer­ica, this project presents cur­rent chal­lenges res­i­dents encounter such as racial ten­sions, crime, poverty, and gentrification.

Visit for full info on this project.

Riley is an active mem­ber of Stamps in Color and embarked on a trip to LA in 2019 with the group, which allowed her to meet and net­work with Stamps alums in the enter­tain­ment indus­try. She has been a tour guide for the Stamps under­grad­u­ate admis­sions team, served as a res­i­den­tial assis­tant and men­tor for the Stamps Pre-Col­lege pro­gram, and also served as a Stamps peer advi­sor for a year. Out­side of Stamps, Riley is a mem­ber of the Sigma Gamma Rho Soror­ity, Inc where she serves as the social media chair and treasurer.

One of Riley’s nom­i­na­tors, stu­dent Anthony Coffie II (Ross BBA 21), offered this reflec­tion: Atharva, my best friend, inspired me every day to pre­serve my val­ues (i.e., com­mu­nity, love, jus­tice) despite the chal­lenges I faced. Athar­va’s self­less­ness and inter­est in other peo­ple’s sto­ries lives through me.”

Des­tini is very much an embod­i­ment of these same prin­ci­ples. Like Atharva, she spends a lot of time work­ing (very hard), but she never fails to con­sider oth­ers in her work and endeav­ors. Very much like Atharva, Des­tini rep­re­sents her com­mu­ni­ties through self­less cre­ative expres­sion. I know Atharva would be happy with this deci­sion. Atharva will for­ever be in our thoughts and hearts as we do the Peo­ple’s work.”

Other Stamps stu­dents nom­i­nated for this inau­gural award include:

Learn more about Atharva Kharkar through his work in Please Stand By: The 2021 Stamps School Senior Exhibition.

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