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November 12, 2012
Design, Art & the Book
photo: Caroline Lacey
After graduating from the Corcoran as a fine arts major with a photography focus, Antje Kharchi developed one of DC’s first in-house desktop computer layout and typesetting departments at the design studio Wickham & Associates. Then, in 1989, she made a surprising decision—she left her design job to teach at her alma mater and started her own freelance business where she works on projects for The New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, several book publishers, and others.
“I was never trained as a teacher,” admits Kharchi. “I saw an urgency for Corcoran Graphic Design students to become familiar with this game-changing technology.” She has been helping to keep Corcoran design students familiar with changing design technologies and best practices ever since.
For the past six years Kharchi has taught an additional course as well: a yearly study abroad trip to Ladakh, India. After a chance visit to the eastern Himalayas with a friend in October of 2002 that Kharchi calls “the best decision I ever made,” she made it her mission to go for her sabbatical and “stick my nose into absolutely everything.” It was during this year of traveling through India, Nepal, and Bhutan and subsequent trips that Kharchi realized she wanted to bring Corcoran students there. “The goal was always to take young students and expose them to a culture completely different from their own, so that they could come home and see their own culture in a different way, and, hopefully, not be afraid to feed their curiosities anywhere else in the world.”
It is a physically demanding journey. “When I first came here,” she recalls, “I always stayed in really cheap places and traveled by bus, and I wanted the students to experience that too, both to keep costs down and to really expose them to the culture.” (More information on the Corcoran's Study Away opportunities)
Kharchi looks forward each year to the day students bundle into vans for the trip across the Himalayas. On a particularly busy mountain road, local tourists hoping for a glimpse of snow and an escape from the summer heat “cause these epic traffic jams like nothing you will ever see,” recalls Kharchi. “Cars will be stopped in every direction for hours. Nobody gets angry or impatient. Everybody has such a great time, people-watching and striking up conversations with strangers. There are even food vendors who show up out of seemingly nowhere who don’t miss any opportunity to sell their wares to a captive audience, in the true Indian entrepreneurial spirit.”
When she is not traveling, Kharchi lives in Arlington with her husband Kamal and two dogs, Peanut and Bärchen.