Graduate of the month: Ms. Gantuya (Gana) Badamgarav
Gantuya Badamgarav, or Gana to his family and friends, loved the arts, music and mathematics from an early age. However, growing up in a rural provincial capital in 1970s Mongolia did not offer many artistic opportunities. Thus, Gana followed his interest in mathematics and earned him Bachelor’s Degree in Economic Planning from St. Petersburg University of Finance and Economics, Russia and MA in Macroeconomic Policy from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts as a 2005-2006 Fulbright student. How, then, did she become one of the leading figures of the contemporary Mongolian art scene?
“The social state of mind and the obscurity of the political system in my country struck me as very heavy. It was hard to imagine working for the government as an economist and achieving something good” Gana says, but she saw a way forward. “I wanted to bring positive change to society through art.”
Following her Fulbright experience, Gana worked as an economic analyst and consultant in international organizations such as the Asian Development Bank, the United States Agency for International Development and companies such as Max Group and Tavan Bogd Group. Yet her love for art kept calling her and she eventually left her successful career in economics and business to found Art Space 976+ (formerly 976 Gallery).
Her experience has actually helped Gana transform Art Space 976+ into a cultural hub, hosting back-to-back exhibitions, performances, and open discussions with leading contemporary artists. However, soon after opening the gallery, Gana realized that the Mongolian contemporary art scene needed much more support and she established the non-governmental organization Mongolian Contemporary Art Support Association (MCASA) to promote art in Mongolia and help Mongolian artists achieve worldwide recognition. Through MCASA, Gana has brought people and organizations together to channel their passion and resources towards increasing the international visibility of Mongolian art. In 2015, MCASA launched and commissioned Mongolia’s first-ever pavilion at La Biennale and continued to bring Mongolian art to the world stage in 2017 and 2019.
Gana has collaborated with the US Embassy on many different projects and exhibitions. she portrayed social, political and environmental numbers of the exhibition Lost Children of Heaven 1 and 2, worked with other artists to interpret the process and results of “The Archeology of the Tarvagatai Valley”, a collaboration between the Institute of Archeology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and Yale University under the U.S. Department of State-sponsored STRAX program addressed local community issues by engaging underserved youth, artists, and community members through the US Department of State and ZERO1 sponsored American Arts Incubator Program.
Since 2008, Gana has also started working for protect the rights of people with disabilities. As a founding member of the Mongolian State Alumni Association (MASA), a member of MASA’s Board of Directors and its Vice President, Gana worked on MASA’s BidChadna project. The project, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF), is a special database that helps skilled individuals and entrepreneurs with reduced mobility sell and promote their services and products and find a use. BidChadna was later established as a non-governmental organization to promote equal opportunity, disability rights and employment. Disability rights became a cause close and close to Gana’s heart after her sister, Otgontuya, was in a car accident in 2001 that caused reduced mobility. Currently, Gana is a member of another AEIF-funded project, “Crossroads”, a storytelling platform that highlights the individual experiences of women and girls with disabilities across Mongolia to encourage public discourse on the rights of people with disabilities. Gana hopes the project will amplify these important voices to drive change among Mongolian policy makers and civil society.
With her unique background that combines economics with arts and disability rights, Gana continues to explore her passions and advocate for contemporary arts and people with disabilities in Mongolia.