Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Long Beach, CA, Tanya Selvaratnam is an Emmy-nominated and Webby-winning producer, artist, and activist. To see a list of some of the public figures, organizations, and companies with whom Tanya has collaborated over the past twenty years, please visit this link.
For nine years, she was the Communications and Special Projects Officer for the Rubell Family Collection, one of the most significant collections of contemporary art in the world. She is the Senior Producer for Art Not War and co-founder of Humanity for Progress (formerly Humanity for Hillary). She was also the founder of Filmmakers for Hillary, a collective of more than 100 creatives around the country to generate shareable content during the 2016 campaign.
Tanya is the author of THE BIG LIE: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock; and her writing has appeared in Vogue, CNN News, Bust, Huffington Post, The Stranger, PAPER, Pop and Politics, the Toronto Review, Art Basel Magazine, the Journal of Law and Politics, xoJane, and Women’s eNews. Currently, she is co-writing It Happened on Mulberry Street: Stories from a Manhattan Psychic with world-renowned psychic Frank Andrews. She has been a fellow at Yaddo and Blue Mountain Center.
In her various roles, she has been quoted in publications including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, Slate, Artforum, i-D/Vice, The Globe and Mail (Canada), and New York. She has been a featured guest on television on CNN’s Sanjay Gupta Show, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show, Al Jazeera America’s The Stream, ABC/KTU’s AM Northwest, NBC-CT, among others; and on the radio on NPR’s To the Point with Warren Olney, Sirius XM’s The Judith Regan Show, WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show, CBS Radio News with Dan Raviv, and CBS/WBZ’s Women’s Watch, among others. She has been profiled in Cosmo, Redbook, Metro, New York, More, Details, Anthem, Jane, Village Voice, Guest of a Guest, and PAPER.
Tanya has participated in many panels and conferences around the world, from Kobe, Japan to Hanover, Germany to Los Angeles, California. She has spoken on a variety of subjects, including public health policies regarding women, humanitarian relief work, and the future of theater. Tanya was a youth organizer on the steering committee of the NGO Forum/Fourth World Conference on Women in China in 1995 and subsequently assistant-edited the monograph of papers presented there. Twenty years later, Tanya served on a think tank for the NGO Committee on the Status of Women to help put together commemorative events, including a day-long gathering on International Women’s Day in March 2015 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Tanya also was an organizer for the World Health Organization’s Kobe Conference on Women and Tobacco in 1999, which laid the groundwork for public health policy and legislation around the world.
As a producer, Tanya has worked on films, live events, and exhibitions. She has also created branded content for clients like Mercedes-Benz and Baccarat. In 2016, she produced a number of PSAs for Humanity for Hillary and Filmmakers for Hillary, including Laura Dawn’s #ITrustHer featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov, Liz Garbus’s #NotOkay featuring survivors of sexual assault, Lisa Cortes’s Girl, Just Vote! featuring Gabourey Sidibe, and Chiara Clemente’s #NoRegrets featuring Helen Mirren. In addition, she produced the film debut of Laura Dawn, Dangerous Curves, a short documentary about the first and only transgender race car driver, Terri O’Connell, which premiered at DOC NYC.
Previously, Tanya was the managing producer for MoveOn.org’s Online Presidential Forum, also directed by Dawn and featuring interviews with Senator Bernie Sanders and Governor Martin O’Malley. Other films include a music video for Pink Martini and the Von Trapps; Catherine Gund’s Born to Fly, a documentary about daredevil choreographer Elizabeth Streb (SXSW; Film Forum/NY; PBS Independent Lens; Emmy nomination); Mickalene Thomas’s Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman (HBO; Audience Award, Black Star Film Festival); HERE Arts Center’s MADE HERE (with lead funding from the Rockefeller Foundation); Chiara Clemente’s Beginnings (Webby Award for Best Documentary Series); and Jennifer Rubell’s Posing (Stephen Friedman Gallery, London). Past films include Catherine Gund’s What’s on Your Plate? (Berlin Film Festival; Discovery Channel’s Planet Green); Chiara Clemente’s Our City Dreams (Locarno Film Festival; Sundance Channel; Film Forum/NY); Gabri Christa’s Domino (Black Filmmakers Foundation Lab); and Jed Weintrob’s The F Word (Tribeca Film Festival; Independent Film Channel) and On_Line (Sundance Film Festival; STARZ).
Tanya’s live events include gala benefits for Yaddo honoring Laurie Anderson (2015), The Wooster Group (2007), and Performance Space 122 honoring Claire Danes (2015); the theater piece World of Wires (The Kitchen premiere; international tour to France and Poland; Obie Award, 2012); and Carrie Mae Weems: Live from the Guggenheim (in collaboration with the production team of The OFFICE).
As a theater artist, most recently she was in a workshop at the Public Theater of a new play on race and surveillance by Jackie Sibblies Drury and directed by Sarah Benson of Soho Rep. In the 2015/2016 season, her collaborations included Mike Iveson Jr.’s Sorry Robot (PS122/New Ohio Theater), Sibyl Kempson’s Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag (Abrons Art Center), Jeff Weiss and Richard Martinez’s And That’s How the Rent Gets Paid (directed by Brooke O’Harra, The Kitchen), Brooke O’Harra’s I’m Bleeding All Over the Place (La Mama), Sibyl Kempson’s 12 Shouts to the Ten Forgotten Heavens (The Whitney Museum), and Andrew Ondrejcak’s Elijah Green (The Kitchen). In April 2015, she received an award for Elijah Green from the MAP Fund supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Tanya also co-directed Carrie Mae Weems’s Grace Notes: Reflections for Now, a meditation on race and black lives lost in recent years, at Yale Rep.
Tanya has performed in shows by The Wooster Group (House/Lights, Obie Award, Best Production), The Builders Association (Super Vision; Alladeen, Obie Award, Outstanding Production), and many others; appeared in films and installations by Carrie Mae Weems, Pedro Reyes, Thomas Dozol, John Malpede, Sharon Hayes, Andrea Geyer, David Michalek, Candice Breitz, and Jennifer Reeves; and been a guest actor at New Dramatists, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Voice & Vision Theater, and the Institute on Arts and Civic Dialogue (founded by Anna Deavere Smith). Tanya has played on stages at prestigious venues around the world, such as New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music and Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center; London’s Barbican Theatre; and the Institute of Contemporary Art and American Repertory Theater in Massachusetts.
As an activist, Tanya has worked for the World Health Organization, Ms. Foundation, Emily’s List, Gays Against Guns, and NGO Forum/Fourth World Conference on Women in China; served on the boards of the Third Wave Foundation, Boom Arts, The Wooster Group, and Groundswell Community Mural Project; and organized tsunami relief and book drive benefits for her native Sri Lanka. In addition, she is an advisor to The DO School, a Germany-based and internationally focused creative educational organization that offers learning experiences to generate global impact. Tanya has been a reader or panelist for New York State Council on the Arts, the MAP Fund of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Yaddo, among others. She received her graduate and undergraduate degrees in Chinese language and history from Harvard University. Her masters thesis on the interplay of law and practice in women’s lives in China was published in the Journal of Law and Politics.
Tanya lives on the Lower Eastside of New York City and in the West Hills of Portland, Oregon.
Photo by Amber Mahoney, Dress by Mara Hoffmann