The IDA B. WELLS Just Data Lab announces new Artist-In-Residence

Written by
The IDA B. WELLS Just Data Lab
Oct. 12, 2022

Chanika Svetvilas is an interdisciplinary artist and cultural worker whose practice focuses on mental health difference. Her work is an extension of her continued interest in using narratives as a way to challenge stereotypes in contemporary society and to create safe spaces. She has presented her work in a variety of spaces and contexts including the College Art Association Conference, the Society for Disability  Studies Annual Conference, and the Pacific International Conference on Disability and Diversity. She has exhibited at the Denver International Airport, the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Asian Arts Initiative, and the Wexner Center for the Arts among others. Her work has been published in Disability Studies Quarterly, Studying Disability, Arts, and Culture: An Introduction by Petra Kuppers, and A Body You Can Talk To: An Anthology of Contemporary Disability, edited by Tennison S. Black (forthcoming). Svetvilas was the co-founder of ThaiLinks, a collective that was based in New York City and promoted awareness about issues affecting the Thai American community. She also co-founded the biennial Thai Takes Film Festival. Svetvilas was born in Buffalo, NY to Thai immigrant parents. She earned her BS from Skidmore College and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College.

Her work can be viewed at and on Instagram.


“Anonymous was the Data” looks at mental health and healthcare needs of Asian American Pacific Islanders. It does this through a voluntary survey of AAPI who acknowledge within themselves a mental health difference. The survey questions explore the relationship between mental health difference and healthcare access. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Asian Americans ages 15-24 and Asian American women ages 64+. Racist and xenophobic violence and discrimination can have traumatic impact from generation to generation. Systemic barriers can include lack of access to health insurance and money for co-pays, lack of transportation, and lack of healthcare providers that understand their experience. Each data set collected from the survey will be mapped onto a physical characteristic such as a bubble or twist, which will then, using a 3D printer, be digitized to print as distorted prescription bottles. Collectively, these pieces will fit together as a puzzle and will be available for participants to assemble.

The data collected is individualized and handled with care and resources of support instead of generic clinical statistics. Svetvilas is working with an advisory committee and research assistants at the Ida B. Wells Lab. The project will culminate with an interactive installation at the Lewis Center for the Arts in September 2023 and will include a workshop, artist talk, and panel discussion.

You can follow this project on Instagram and its blog!


  • The Center for Health and Wellbeing
  • The Council on Science and Technology
  • The Department of Asian American Studies
  • The Effron Center for the Study of America
  • The Humanities Council
  • The Ida B Wells JUST Data Lab
  • The Keller Center
  • The Lewis Center for the Arts
  • The Office of Disability Services