Snapshot: Art Without Limits

Negin Singh, on her UCI education, her expanding arts collective, and bringing music to the masses

Featured on the White House’s “Women Working to Do Good” blog, Singh is fast becoming a standout arts and events producer in SoCal. In addition to Brokechella, the “music fest for the rest of us” taking place April 19 in downtown L.A., the 27‑year‑old oversees an annual film festival, art installations, stage shows, and acting workshops. She hopes to someday host an event similar to Burning Man.

Born in Chicago, Singh lived in dozens of homes throughout the world—including some in India, Texas, and Dubai—before her family settled in Irvine, where she attended high school and college.

“My dad’s Indian and my mom’s Persian. We moved a lot because they were adventurous and started businesses everywhere. They created the first Persian-American beauty pageant in L.A. They ran a rice business, supermarkets—my dad never freaked out if something didn’t work. He always had a Plan B. That was a major influence on me.”

At UC Irvine she majored in theater, planning to win an Oscar by age 22. She also formed her arts collective, then called Ahimsa, and discovered that producing was what she really wanted to do.

“After college, we got more serious about it and incorporated. We changed the name to Cartel— it stands for Collaborative Arts L.A.—because we wanted a word that meant a group of people who are so powerful you have to notice them, but for good reasons. Plus, the name Ahimsa was cool but no one could spell it and we were once accidentally introduced as the Ahmanson!”

With a core logistics team of 11 and an artistic ensemble of more than 100, Cartel has been growing exponentially the past four years. “All of this started in Orange County, so although we’re now based in L.A., we try to incorporate O.C. when we can. We have an annual Living Room Tour, a play series that takes place in people’s homes instead of in theaters, and we often have at least one showing in O.C. We also work with media partners in the area for Brokechella.”

The popular music festival showcasing rising acts in various genres has been held annually since the group’s creation, but this year she expects to draw more than 5,000 people to the four-stage event.

“I’m at the point where I’m actually making a living off of doing what I love. There’s nothing better than being in a room with brilliant people and collaborating. I feel like I’m really on my way.”


Photograph by Kyle Monk
This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue.