Judy Frater is Somaiya Kala Vidya’s Founder Director. An Ashoka Fellow, Frater was founder and Director of Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya. Under her eight- year tenure, Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya rose to international prominence for its unique approach to education of artisans. Frater was awarded the Sir Misha Black Medal for Design Education in 2009, and the Crafts Council of India Kamla award in 2010 for her work. In her native USA, she was Associate Curator of the Textile Museum in Washington DC. In 2005, she published Threads of Identity: Embroidery and Adornment of the Nomadic Rabaris.
Somaiya Kala Vidya aims to preserve and promote traditions of artisans of Gujarat, and in particular those of Kutch District. The institute thinks globally and works locally, enabling its artisan students to do what they do best- and do it more successfully. Somaiya Kala Vidya intends to bring education that is generally understood as “higher” or specialized, but which is directly relevant, to people skilled through traditional knowledge. Working through local language and existing traditions, by understanding and drawing from their salient features, the institute raises the value of traditional crafts in India, and the level of competence and of education among the chronically under educated and under privileged.
The institute is associated with Somaiya Vidyavihar, a 50-year old, highly esteemed educational institution encompassing over 30 different educational institutes, extending from elementary level to Ph. D, and covering diverse areas including medicine, engineering, the arts and sciences, religion, vocational studies, education, and languages. The Vidyavihar serves over 30,000 students and employs 1,500 faculty.